Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Writing, Rain or Shine

Summer vacation is drawing to a close, and my kidlings are getting ready to go back to school. We've had a lovely summer with lots of clear skies and sunshine. Here's a picture that I took in June of the Seattle skyline. I remember it was a gorgeous day, so when I went looking for this photo today I was surprised to find clouds in the picture.

I'm from Southern California. I love it there, but I love it here, too. I even love the rain, most of the time. It's beautiful and not usually a drenching rain, but it feels like a constant once we turn the corner from summer. Do you know people here don't reschedule most activities if it's raining? It would be impractical. I was surprised the first time I saw kids at a local elementary school playing outside at recess when it was raining. Little League games don't usually get rained out unless there's lightning or the fields are too muddy. This kind of thinking reminds me of the persistence required for writing.

I work at my computer each day, and the story unfolds, bit by bit. I often can't wait to get going, and I long to get more of the story out of my head and onto the page. Then there are the times when it feels more like work, and I need to push myself to put in the time and move forward. These are the days that I have to make sure my story doesn't get rained out.

The Seattle Mariners play at Safeco Field, a stadium with a retractable roof. This guarantees that they can play, rain or shine. Regardless of whether you love or hate the Mariners, they have the right idea: we need to get our butts in our chairs to write, rain or shine.

In 2002, I took a fabulous class,
The Art of Fiction, taught by David Guterson. I wanted to absorb the guy's intelligence and abilities through something like osmosis, just by breathing oxygen from the same room for the eight or so weeks that it lasted. The class was one of the best I've ever taken. One of the many nuggets of wisdom that he offered (which I'm paraphrasing): when you're putting aside your writing at the end of the day, don't let your stopping point be right before a tough spot; that will make it harder to start up the next day. I learned so much from his class and that's just one tidbit, but I think it's like an object in a side mirror, being larger than it appears. Isn't it so much easier to slip back into your story when you're having fun and not feeling tortured? Or rained on?

I remember hearing two authors offer examples of how they get themselves into a writing mood. I wish I could remember who they were so I could identify them--I remember what they said quite well. One said he reads a few pages of something that is beautifully written by an author he admires. This inspires him. The other said he goes to the computer at the same time each day, and it's like he has an appointment with his characters. Something about it being habitual makes his characters come to him and gets his writing juices flowing at the same time, every day.

As for me, I try and follow all three examples of how to make it easy to jump back into my story whether the forecast in my mind says sunny and clear or stormy with a risk of flash floods.

Do you have any tips to offer that can get us through the rainy season? How do you get yourself motivated when you wake up feeling less than inspired?


FictionGroupie said...

Oh, how I love the rain. It used to rain all the time back home (New Orleans), now I'm stuck in dry old Dallas. I think me and Seattle would get along. Dreary weather comforts me, lol.

I like the tip about not stopping at a tough spot. I've done that before and it does take more effort to get back to it.

What has helped me is telling myself that I just need to write. It doesn't have to be perfect the first time, but if I start typing, something will come to me in time. Plus, I have to have something to post for my WIP Wednesday each week, lol.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Seattle really is beautiful, and we have an awesome SCBWI. I'd love to see New Orleans at some point.

As I was writing my post, I was thinking about how rainy weather is actually ideal writing weather, but you know--it made for a good metaphor. ;)

Yeah, taking a "just do it" attitude helps me too. Great tip. Also, too funny about needing something for WIP Wednesday! Hee!

Lazy Writer said...

I seem to write the best in the fall. I'm not sure why that is, but it's true. Also, music inspires me every time to write. I love it!

Strange Fiction said...

I try to encorporate all three of your tips--sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.

I used to live on Vancouver Island so I can relate, rejoice, and commiserate with your rainy weather!

As to inspiration and motivation--your post reminded me of a spur-of-the-moment adventure that landed me in Seattle--great memory that I really should sit down and document. Thanks!

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Susan, I love the fall. And the spring. And the summer. Winter...I really like. I guess I have a thick skin (your topic today) when it comes to critiques, but not weather. ;) Music, huh? You just gave me an idea for a post. Thanks!

Strange, the weather up here is definitely interesting, as you know. It's so beautiful here, isn't it? The plants are uber green, and the rain makes everything feel so fresh. I'm happy my post reminded you of a nice memory you can document. :)

Cindy said...

Rain often inspires me to write. But you're right, we need to do so rain or shine. For me, the longer I put of writing (if I'm at a tough spot), the harder it is to get back into it.

I try to think a lot about scenes and where I want to begin when I sit down at the computer again as I'm doing mundane tasks. The dishes, cooking, etc. I pick up in my head where I left of before and have fun moving my characters into the next scene. This way when I get back to the computer, I have somewhere to start.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Good point, Cindy. I sometimes get ideas and work plot issues out while doing dishes or folding laundry. Isn't it funny that there are benefits to mundane tasks outside of the whole cleanliness aspect? ;) Seriously, maybe it's a good idea to fold those towels or sort socks if we're having trouble finding a place to start.

Thanks for visiting!

FictionGroupie said...

You have a little gift over at my blog. :)

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Thanks, Roni! My first blog award! :)