It seems, as I get older, I both enjoy the seasons and despise them.
I like the way the light starts to shift in early autumn–it makes me see the late summer greening that happens in Texas in a different way. It’s a melancholy wistfulness that takes over me…remembering times from my childhood when I spent these days playing in the woods and romping through fields after school and all weekend long. When a day somehow stretched beyond itself.
One day it will seem like “fall has arrived” and the next will seem like “it’s spring again.” We will get a good chill in the air, overcast days with damp, blustery breezes, and the heavier blankets come out and windows get opened at night. I can start making soup and chili again (with a pan of hot cornbread to go with it, yum yum)…and then along comes an Indian Summer and everything gets put away/shut again…I can’t drink enough iced tea to stay cool. Of course, living in Central Texas, the changes here aren’t as pronounced as they are in more northern regions, and we usually always have cycles of warm/cool as opposed to straight cold through to March.
The pecans have started falling, and I have taken the kids gathering. East/Central Austin is densely populated by big, well-established pecan trees, so they are free for the picking on school grounds, at several parks, in parking lots, and all over the streets and sidewalks. One time we went picking pecans, we were all layered in hoodies and jeans, but the next time we were in shorts and flip-flops and the boys wanted to take their shirts off because it was so hot. It is an odd, shifting dance, this, a Texas autumn.
And I do look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, so there are the coming festivities. Peppermint mochas and pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks. Shopping will become a passtime, the gift-giving a happy/fun/excitement that shines in everyone’s faces. All of those gathered pecans will be made into pies, cakes, candies, and such.
So…what’s not to like?
The obvious passing of time. The shortened, dark days. Being cold. Having to wear so many dang clothes that it necessarily multiplies the laundry chores. Dry skin. The unrequited craving for a beach trip that would allow me to actually get in the water. Wishing the drab, dreary brown could be green again. Hearing those less-than-joyous opinions/attitudes during the holidays–nobody can be happy all the time, sure–but those people who are actively harsh on the cheer of the season…oh, they wear me down, and I just want it all to be over…back to “normal.”
But the real thing is the dark. I love the night, but I don’t want it starting at 5:30…that’s still daytime. I feel…pressured…to get all of my daytime stuff done before the sun sets, because after the sun sets, that’s when I need to think about writing and being creative. If I still have to deal with chores and errands and cooking and cleaning and going to the grocery store and sports practices…blah, blah, blah…how do I set to paper all the background thoughts that are whirring away in my mind? It is a constant sense of “do it” stacked on top of “not right now” that happens every day for almost half of the year. During the Spring/Summer months, I can do all of my “life stuff” before the sun sets and THEN it’s time to write. It’s nice and clear cut. In the Fall/Winter, it gets all messy in my head.
So. How to unmussify? I have thought about this long and hard, and I have decided it must be managed. No more excuses like “it’s cold and dark, I have to do the dishes, and the laundry, etc., and now I’m too tired, and it’s time for bed.” That’s pretty lame. And I know what I am going to do:
Make a plan!
1. Enjoy the good parts of the seasons changing. Hooray for Peppermint Mochas!
2. Make time for your vocation everyday, no matter the season, no matter the day.
3. Stop making excuses and get down to the nitty gritty! Roll up your sleeves (or put on your pajamas), and get to freaking work already.
AND so, it comes time to think about a writing prompt. I think a good one, given my personal discontent with the shortening days, is to include the details of the season in the setting of a scene. Capturing all the sense details…sights, scents, sounds, tastes, how things feel to the touch…specific to the season will really “solidify” and paint the scene/setting in which your characters are operating. Also, consider a feature of characterization: How does your character feel about long days? Snow? Holidays? The only caveat I will put next to this exercise is to make sure you are “showing” and not “telling,” and don’t let too many details bog down the flow of your writing.