I love living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the fall. I love the dusky purple mists that cling to the chopped cornfields before sunrise. I love the pink sunsets that light up the skies at night, mirrored on the glassy surfaces of the coves. I love sitting on the dock at the end of the day, listening to the acorns plop into the water.
I love watching the monarchs flap their fire-colored wings over the marshes. I love watching the rows of impossibly tall sunflowers stretch toward the fading sunlight. I love the sound of the first flocks of Canada geese arriving, their calls filling the crisp autumn air.
I live in a town at the end of a thin finger of land, almost completely surrounded by water. There are several marinas, a beautiful waterfront park, and a ferry that runs several times a day, connecting us to another tiny town across the river. There are public benches nestled between private houses at the end of every block where you can sit and soak up the view.
All around this tiny town, gardens are bursting with riotous, end-of-summer blooms. Overgrown moon vines and morning glories crawl over picket fences. Climbing roses snake up the sides of tool sheds. Mums and pansies grace almost every front porch and window box—the final splash of color before the dark, barren months of winter settle in.
I used to dread winter—those long cold months that forced everyone inside. But I have recently developed a surprising fondness for winter. I actually look forward to it now. I actually think I might need it.
Last year, at this time, I was driving cross-country, heading back to Maryland from San Diego, where I had spent a year soaking in the ocean, beaches, sunshine, surfers, and margaritas. But amidst all that fun in the sun, something strange happened...my creativity died.
People often ask me what inspires me to write. I think a lot of things inspire me—talking to people, watching movies, reading books, traveling, living life—but I never realized how much inspiration I drew from my environment. From nature. From the subtle day to day shifts in the trees and the plants and the flowers. I never realized how much I needed weather. How much I needed rain. How much I needed seasons. How much I needed change.
The more time I spent in San Diego, the harder it was for me to focus. When every day was beautiful, it was impossible to stay inside. It was impossible to get anything done. I felt like I needed to be outside, having fun, making new friends. I felt like I needed to be playing in the ocean, riding my bike, learning to surf.
Not sitting at a desk, hunkered over a computer, forcing words onto the page. Not curled up on the couch in my apartment, editing the chapters I’d written the day before. Not laying in bed in my pajamas until noon, researching professions and real-life situations on the Internet to make my scenes feel more authentic.
Writing is a solitary endeavor. To finish a book, I have to spend LONG stretches of time alone, inside, in front of my computer. Which is why I think I need winter. I need rainy days. I need dark moody days that give me an excuse to stay inside. They make me feel justified, a little less crazy. Because everybody else is inside, too.
I think Stephen King might be onto something living up there in that cold, dark state of Maine. I’ve toyed with the idea of renting a cottage up there for a year, just to see how much writing I could get done. But, then again, those are some seriously long winters. And I fear my stories might turn a bit dark… :)
It’s all about balance. So, for now, I’ll happily sink into autumn and let its cozy arms wrap around me as the storyline of Wind Chime Summer continues to unfold. I’ll take walks around my pretty town. I’ll watch the parade of sailboats cruise up and down the channels. I’ll wave to the watermen behind the wheels of their workboats. I’ll catch the yellow leaves in my hands as they fall from the branches of the trees, knowing that winter is right around the corner. And when that dark curtain closes in and everyone disappears into their homes and shut the doors, I will be snuggled up under a blanket in my pajamas writing. And I won’t feel badly about it at all.