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Friday, September 3, 2010

SEASONS IN A WRITING LIFE

By Margaret Birth



During my life, I have been the daughter of a university professor and a public school teacher, a student myself, the wife of a graduate student and after my husband graduated the wife of a university professor, the mother of students—usually at least two of these in tandem. Is it any wonder, then, that I often think of “seasons” in terms of the school year?

Right now, we’re in back-to-school season. What does this mean for my writing? All it takes is the reminder that this is the season for purchasing new school supplies and for students and teachers buckling down to business again, and I seem to do the same thing: I stock up on paper and pens and printer cartridges and notebooks for those special elements of research that I like to keep organized together, and I redouble my efforts to produce and submit. This is especially important for me after the summer season, during which I typically slack off a bit since I like to stay flexible for visits with family and special outings with my husband. A few years back I decided to give myself permission to be more lax with my writing during the summer because I had been fighting a losing battle to push myself, with my writing, with my usual school year schedule even while I gave my family all the time that I could while it was convenient for them. Now, I just make it convenient for me too, because I know that we’ll all get back to being busy bees come the autumn.

I’ve experienced other seasons in my writing life. Those other “seasons” are more subtle and hard to define. The recent funeral of an elderly church friend reminded me of this. He had grown up during the Great Depression, served in the Army and won a Purple Heart after participating in several major battles in World War II, gotten a job in an insurance company, married a wonderful lady, had children, retired, had grandchildren—had had all of these important “seasons” in his life, with their own special focuses. Several years ago, when my children were little, I had bemoaned to fellow writer Barbara Daly that the only writing projects I could seem to complete were poems and short stories—but I felt like I should be writing novels because whenever I told people that I was a writer, they would ask, “Oh, have you written any books I might know about?” No one wanted to hear about poems published in erudite literary journals or confession stories that I’d published anonymously. Barbara, the dear and wise lady, suggested to me that my “season in life” for writing longer fiction might come once my children were older, and that life can feel much more pleasant when you learn to treasure the season that you’re presently experiencing—and she was one hundred percent right . . . about all of it.

Currently, I’m in a season that allows me the luxury of completing projects of all lengths, while working in a flurry of activity for about six hours a day during about nine or ten months out of the year, and less at other times. The funny thing, though, is that now that I have the time and the ability to concentrate long enough to complete a novel, I’m not only writing novels but am still fitting in poetry, and short stories, and short articles like this. I find that I thrive on the variety of creativity.

So . . . in what season of your writing life do you find yourself?♥



Margaret Birth is a Christian writer who has been widely published in short fiction, short nonfiction, and poetry, both in the U.S. and abroad; in addition to working as a freelance writer, she's spent over a decade freelancing for multiple publishers as a manuscript reader, proofreader, and copy editor. It's all of this experience on both sides of the publishing desk that has inspired her column, "The Write Stuff," which has appeared regularly in RWANYC's newsletter, Keynotes, for the past ten years.



5 comments:

  1. Very insightful, Margaret-I have not ever thought of how life's different "seasons" tie together. My season of writing is, if I'm to go by "school years", I guess elementary school. My entire first career - that of a performer and singer - did provide me opportunities for writing a wholly different genre, that of plays ("Dear Albatross" being the play I am proudest of, though it remains in a drawer and not on stage. Now, I've completed kindergarten and am learning how to play well with others in the publishing world, getting the basics down and, with luck, will be moving on to middle school soon!

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  2. Wonderful post Margaret. I and is a stop and start season, one that I have to be patient with myself because family is pulling me in lots of directions. Thanks for this post.

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  3. Margaret - Your post speaks to me. Just this week I decided I was in the season of the "short story". Thanks for your thoughts!

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  4. Hi Margaret--September is always a month of beginnings for me, probably because I was born as a Libra. Elizabeth Knowles Palladino

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  5. Lovely post Margaret. I definitely notice that summer drop off you're talking about. And now as we gear up for school, I too, must gear up as deadline is looming!!!

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