Timing is Everything

Hey, I remembered that it’s my day to blog (and Andi also reminded me, thank goodness). Writing things down is good.

So, as I sit home on this sick day, taking my Zithromax like a good girl and trying not to cough up a lung onto my dogs (seriously, who gets a cold in August?), I’ve been pondering the idea of timing when it comes to writing. Not the timing in a story, but the actual timing of the writing itself. I know many writers and I know many of them whose favorite times to write vary greatly. Some prefer mornings (me), some write in the afternoons, and some would prefer to write into the wee hours. But what about the time of year? Does that make a difference to anybody? I remember Catherine Friend saying to me once that she was looking forward to a “quiet winter of writing.” My friend Rachel Spangler, however, skiis and sleds and toboggans and does all kinds of stuff in the snow, so her winters are certainly far from quiet. Logically, it follows that different writers write better at different times of the year.

You’d think after seven novels and eleven years in this business, I’d run out of things to learn about myself, but no. The discoveries are endless, apparently. I’ve been working on my next novel, “96 Hours,” since February (I actually started writing the next novel in January, but got the idea for “96 Hours” in February and it wouldn’t leave me alone, so I sort of switched horses mid-stream, which I’ve never done before). I was sure I’d be close to  finished with it by the end of May. That may have been wishful thinking, so then it was the end of June. Then the end of August. Guess what? Still not done. It’s been driving me kind of crazy because I’ve never missed a deadline before. Granted, I have a very awesome publisher who gives me the time I need, so it was really a self-imposed deadline, but still. I’ve been rather frustrated with myself. Then, two weeks ago, I finally figured it out.

I’ve never written fresh work in the summer before. All of my books have been written in the fall/winter/spring. I edit in the summer. I work on ideas in the summer. But I’ve never actually worked on a new book in the summer. Why? I’m too freaking busy, that’s why! The summer is crazy here. I live in upstate New York where you take as much advantage of nice weather as you can. You go places, you do things, you visit people, you work in the yard, you get outside. You do not sit in front of a computer and work, especially on evenings or weekends. I think that’s been my problem. Too much on my plate, which causes me stress, which stops the flow of creative juice. So…I’ve had to learn to relax, to not push, and to trust that the novel will get finished. I’ve had to stop beating myself up over how long it’s taking, and that’s helped tremendously.

This morning, I’m happy to say that “96 Hours” is moving along nicely and I’m sure part of that is because I’ve stopped bellyaching about why it’s taking so long. What about you guys? What time of the year do you write best? Is there a season that you avoid when it comes to writing? Discuss.


  1. Boy you hit a nerve! I am an early morning writer (the day job kind of requires that) but for the summer, my wife has been home (a teacher) and screwing up my routine. I like to be locked away in a room by myself to write, but I can’t lock the door and keep her out. It’s her office I’m using, so I moan that I can’t write with someone in the room. Then, on vacation, with her reading Atonement across the rented living room from me, I wrote 2,600 words. The most ever. What a fabulous day. So I complain about things I don’t have the right to complain about.

    But I digress. Time of year…I always say I look forward to winter for writing because I won’t feel obligated to get outside. But somehow that damn driveway won’t shovel itself and last winter I think it snowed every freakin’ weekend.

    Then, it’s too cold, and I moan that I can’t wait for spring to write, but then there’s so much yard work to do. So summer, I say. Just wait. But then it’s too hot and I can’t wait for fall…

    You get the idea.

    Luckily, none of this has stopped me.


  2. Hey, Georgia! Hope you’re feeling better way soon.

    I’m not a fan of winter my own self, but I will say that snowboarding is okay.

    Anyway, I write every day unless I don’t. I’m pretty good at listening to what my body says, and sometimes, it just doesn’t feel like buckling down. It’d rather watch the SyFy channel or some sports or take a walk or cook something or just do something unrelated to writing. It likes movies. A lot. But anyway, some days, I don’t write. But most days, I do. I adjust it according to my schedule. Lately, it has to adjust around the day job. So I take an hour at night (at least) to do it. I’m an afternoon/late night person. So that works out.

    When I’m traveling, I might not write as much. But that’s okay, because I’ve given myself permission to not write. I learned not to force myself to do it because that only stresses me out and then I can’t write anything. So I’ll check in with myself, and if I truly do not want to write one night or two, I don’t. And I don’t worry about it. I don’t stew or freak or have angst. I just take a break. And then I come back to it refreshed because I was away from it for a bit.

    Thanks for the thoughts and seriously, take care of yourself.


  3. Andi –

    I love that you’ve learned not to force the writing. I think I’m getting there, too, but I also know it panics a lot of writers if they don’t write once every 24 hours. It’s very easy for me to shout, “I must write every day!” and then proceed to beat myself up when I can’t manage a single meaningful word. As I get older (and more familiar with my own process), I understand that, quite simply, it’ll come. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it’ll come and it’ll be good. My muse is fickle and I think she likes to go out drinking and gallavanting while I’m working on a novel. She disappears for days on end.

    I’m feeling much better, by the way. Thanks for the well wishes. 🙂



  4. Y’all are all way to well adjusted for me. I do writer better in the winter though, despite all the skiing. My wife is a professor and we live by the academic calendar. When she’s in school the whole family has to adhere to a routine and writing gets scheduled in to that routine. I write when I’m told to write or I know I won’t get another chance. In the summer we go where we want when we want and I always think I’m going to have all this time to write with Susie off work, but with Susie off work we also go to the zoo, and the farm, and Illinois, and the lake. That writing time I think will come later never does. So I guess, I’m like my toddler, scheduling is the only thing that keeps me from having a melt down at the end of the day.


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