Wednesday 12 September 2012

Autumn: my most productive time of year

Autumn walks always focus the mind. The Butley River, November 2004.
Although The Only Genuine Jones is the first book I've made a serious attempt at publishing, I have been writing for many years and have come to understand my habits very well. I started in the late '90s with a clunky old Apple laptop and tended to write by hand at first, later typing up my notes. I listened to classical music while writing and made use of the social networking of the era: the Forward Motion online community of writers which survives almost unchanged to this day, a startling digital relic from a different age. I wrote chaotically. I hated routine in my writing and needed variety to remain productive. Most of all, I was a seasonal creature who found summer heat oppressive and came back to life in the autumn. In later years I was fond of writing in a garden summer house and a lot of my best work was produced after dark, with fewer visual stimuli to distract me.

In many ways, my habits have not changed. I still make use of online support groups for writers, although in the Web 2.0 world this is now a broader category including the UK Kindle Users Forum,, and a variety of Twitter hashtags including #amwriting and #indieauthor. I no longer use an Apple computer for my writing but my philosophy is unchanged: most of my rough draft material is composed in a simple, distraction-free environment (my trusty Palm m500) and then refined on a desktop computer. I still use a variety of classical music for mood modification purposes while writing (a very powerful tool actually, and possibly a subject for a future blog post!) I still hate routine and thrive on variety.

Most of all, though, I remain just as seasonal as I ever was and the start of September is the signal for me to shake off my summer sluggishness and really get down to work.

The old iMac G3. I wrote hundreds of
thousands of words on this machine between
2002 and 2010--and it's still going strong!
Why is autumn such a powerful stimulant for my writing? A number of reasons, I suspect. My creativity and productivity seems to be tied to the world around me, and as someone who loves the changing aspects of nature throughout the year I am inspired by the better light of autumn, the richer colours, the promise of winter just round the corner. The magic hours of sunrise and sunset become more accessible. I think back to past years when I have done good work between September and December, and this makes me more likely to be productive this time round.

Particularly good years were 2003 (in which I wrote three novels between August and the New Year), 2004 (total rewrite of a 120,000 word manuscript in a single month), and 2010 (half of OGJ's first draft completed that autumn).

This year I have two simple goals: publish The Only Genuine Jones in digital form, and write the bulk of Alpine Dawn's first draft. Self-publishing is proving to be a great source of motivation as I know success or failure is largely dependent on my own efforts, so let's hope it's another productive autumn.

What is your most productive time of year?

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