‘Tis the Season: The Seasons of a Writer
Ask any artist about their work-life balance and you’ll most likely get a great big belly laugh in response. Family, friends, finance, spirituality, creativity, errands, exercise… It’s impossible to give equal attention to everything on a day-to-day basis — especially when there’s a project in the works (and there’s always a project in the works).
Once writers surrender to this truth the process becomes a lot smoother. Because, while daily balance is like finding the Holy Grail, there are seasonal patterns an artist goes through that just might balance out the imbalance when it’s all said and done. Here are four common seasons that many writers cycle through and why they’re so darn important.
The Writer’s Cave – Season of Isolation
Ah, the isolation… A close relationship with a writer comes with a level of understanding: there will be weeks (sometimes months) when these people are just not available. They’ve gone to the dark side and will return when the deed is done.
During this time the writer hopes to have enough food in the fridge to survive – can’t risk going to the grocery store and throwing off the flow. Dress code ranges from bathrobe to pajamas. Oftentimes men don’t shave and women leave their makeup behind. It’s raw, it’s precious, and it’s extremely private. Phone off, head down, creative antenna up.
Picasso nailed it when he said, “without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” We need mental space for our creativity to come out and play. Collaboration is a beautiful, necessary part of the process but it’s crucial to explore our own instincts and urges or they’ll never be fully realized. The irony is, when we’re alone and tapped into that thing that we’re all striving to tap into, we never feel alone. It’s one of the most fulfilling experiences an artist can have.
The Deadline – Season of Panic
Not to be confused with the writer’s cave, deadline time usually feels 10 percent creative and 90 percent panic. “Will I meet my deadline? Will they like it? I’m a genius! I can barely read and write.” Imposter syndrome comes knocking and a lot of emotional energy is expelled just trying to convince ourselves we can actually do it.
This period feels the most isolating for many because no one can completely relate to our concerns. You’ll want to vent, confide in and get sympathy from your close relationships, but as soon as you say something like, “I’m trying to decide if this character’s spirit animal really is a jungle cat or if I should scrap all of chapter eight and write her as the flamingo she’s grown to be.” You’ll get a few crickets, and then have to leave the dinner table early to figure out chapter eight all by your lonesome.
Necessary? Absolutely. Something magical happens right after a project is finished: all that worry drains from the body and there’s peace. There’s pride in the completion and relief that you survived. This season is quite possibly one of the most unpleasant parts of the writing process but it instantly separates the women from the girls. So if you come out on the other side without developing a drug habit, you’ve won at life. And while the next deadline might not be easier, your muscle for it will be stronger. Every. Single. Time.
The Promoter – Season of Celebrity
This is the shaking hands and kissing babies season. Your project is launching and you know its success rides on how much you put it out there – so you hold your breath and dive underwater. Depending on your personality, this could either be a heaven or a total hell. Since many writers claim to be introverts, it’s not looking good for the majority.
You’ll meet a lot of people, gain new fans, and possibly feel a little unnatural as you talk about your book and hand out business cards. You’ll catch yourself wondering how long this season will last because all you want to do is go home and put on fuzzy socks. The bright side? This season can manifest exciting things. You meet people you’d never meet at home, put faces to email addresses, and run into old contacts you haven’t seen in years. You’ll remember that you’re actually attractive with your hair done and bathrobe off and there’s a part of you that starts to enjoy these social events. You’ll get some lovely photos for your website and think, “Wow, I look like a successful writer.” And while you try to meet as many people as possible, you know that sometimes it just takes one connection to get you to that next step. Simply put, the possibilities are worth putting a comb through your hair and driving across town.
The Fresh Air – Season of Fulfillment
In this season, you’re like a gopher popping its head up from the ground. The daylight is blinding but the fresh air feels delightful. You miss your friends and family desperately and feel like you’ve been so busy writing about life that you haven’t gone out there and lived. You set up one-on-one time with loved ones, plan a trip, and finally go to that place everyone hangs out at called the ‘grocery store.’
As diligent entrepreneurs, it’s easy to work a weekend here and a weekend there. Creativity might hit us hard one night and before we know it, it’s been twelve hours of grind. While putting our butts in a chair and words on a page is important, we must remember there’s a whole world out there – one full of inspiration. You can spend an entire day at home crafting a new character or bump into her at a museum. Life is meant to be lived, not just written about.
Each season contains necessary elements for growth in several areas of our life. That’s why this process is so diverse (and because hanging out in one season too long could drive anyone crazy). So if you’re struggling with balance, accept that you’re probably in a season – one that should be enjoyed because as soon as you get comfortable with the weather, it will change.
David L. Hancock, Founder