Do the Longer Nights Affect My Writing?
By Jeff Salter
We’re talking about how the seasonal shift to daylight savings time may affect our writing. I can’t swear that it’s related to the longer periods of darkness, but I do think I write a bit more during the colder months.
On one hand it’s sorta logical, since – with fewer daylight hours – I’m even less likely to be out-of-doors [therefore, I’m more likely inside at my keyboard]. But in my case, I think it could relate more to what some people call the Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). The theory goes that less exposure to sunlight (among other changes caused by winter) may cause some people to exhibit some degree of depression… or (in lesser symptoms) to lack the enthusiasm and energy they might manifest during the rest of the year. [Of course, that’s not to say that depressed people necessarily write better… even though anecdotal evidence could suggest such].
This may be a tenuous link – and I probably could not substantiate it with science – but I think I write “better” and write “more” when I’m more isolated and more introspective. Certainly the cold hard winter months tend to isolate me more (from other people and events) and with such isolation may indeed come a bit more time for introspection. Who knows?
What I do know is that among my most productive times – in terms of output, creativity, and the quality of my written expression – was during the winter I spent inside the Arctic Circle, stationed at Thule Air Base, in the northwest ‘corner’ of Greenland. Beginning in December 1972 and lasting until early April 1973, I wrote a ton of poetry — and some of it was pretty durn good stuff.
You see, in the Arctic, there’s a period during the dead of winter in which the sun never rises above the horizon. It used to be called Arctic Night, but I think they use a different term these days. But for the better part of some 10-12 weeks, you live without ANY sunshine at all — 24 hours a day of total darkness. [To counter that, the Arctic also has about the same period during the summer months in which the sun never falls below the horizon… so you have the so-called Midnight Sun… 24 hours a day.]
Compared to those extremes during my year in the Arctic, this business about “shorter” days in Kentucky winters is a piece of cake!
My weather analysis falls apart, however, when I think of three other extremely productive writing periods in my life so far. In the WARM months of 1991, I wrote over 90 poems… and in the warm months of 2006, I wrote some 180 poems.
In my fiction writing, my single most productive period was from mid-August 2009 to mid-August 2011. During those 24 months, I completed four novels [Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold, Scratching the Seven-Month Itch, Rescued By That New Guy In Town, and The Overnighter’s Secrets]. That, too, is a bit misleading, however… because during that period I had no contracts yet, was not doing multiple in-depth edits (other than my normal draft revisions), and was not affected by any external deadlines. So I had a lot more time to devote to the raw process of writing.
What about you? Do you have a “season” that’s more creative than others? Is it related to daylight, to temperature, to solitude? Or to something else?
For a bit more about my Arctic Experiences, check out this previous post:
[JLS # 304]