To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. —George Santayana
Outside, in my yard, fall is starting to appear: a cool breeze, a yellow leaf amidst the green, a fading flower. But inside, at my desk, it’s spring. I’m experimenting with my Idea Garden, dropping seeds into the soil to see what might take root.
In the physical realm, the creative process is cyclical: in spring, tender shoots of new plants appear. In summer, they grow until fall, when they’re ready to harvest. In winter, the earth rests.
In our writing lives, the creative process is also cyclical: we play around with ideas and watch which ones take root, then we cultivate and grow those ideas until we’re ready to truly reap the fruits of those ideas. Finally, we rest and plan, and prune.
Writers often try to do everything all at once. They want to get an idea and go straight to harvesting it, working on their pruning along the way. But growth requires patience. That’s why I like to think of each period of creativity as a season, and I try to concentrate on only doing the right work in the right season.
The Creative Seasons
Here are the Creative Seasons and a few activities to do in each:
- Experiment with new ideas.
- Stare out a window.
- Watch, hear, or see some art.
- Play with writing prompts.
- Come up with characters.
- Visualize settings.
- Brainstorm events.
- Develop those ideas.
- Write character backstories.
- Explore character relationships.
- Work with voice: write sample dialog and even chapters.
- Put events in order.
- Create a full outline.
- Harvest those ideas and start cooking them
- Draft a full manuscript.
- Revise minimally (if you need to go back and add or cut a scene or character so that the story makes sense, then do so).
- Once the full draft is written, read it over for clarity.
- Plan and prune.
- Send the manuscript to a trusted reader or two (if you do this).
- Leave the manuscript alone for a while.
- Consider parts of the manuscript that are confusing or redundant.
Your Creative Calendar might not correspond to your actual yearly calendar. In fact, it’s very unlikely to do so. You might have a very quick creative calendar, going through all four seasons in a matter of months. Or you may have a longer calendar, moving through seasons slowly. Some of your seasons may be longer than others.
And you may be in one season with one project and in a different season with another.
I use Bookflow in every season—I use the prompts and the character cards in the spring. In summer, I’m using the outlining features. In fall, I’m burning through a draft. And in winter, I’m using the drag-and-drop features to re-order my scenes, adding where I need to and making cuts elsewhere.
Remember: You don’t have to do everything all at once. It’s impossible to write a book all in a single go. Consider your Creative Season and what kind of work would be useful to you just now. And then—get to it!