Well, here I am, in an old cottage in a thick woods, along the shore of a beautiful lake, in southwest Michigan. And I can honestly say that being back is all good! Last weekend was a marathon of getting here, hauling stuff from two vehicles, opening the cottage up, and getting everything “under roof.”
The muscle aches and weariness that resulted after each day’s efforts were evidence of the work involved in making the place livable once again. But now that everything has been completed, those aches and pains were good ones. Of course, these first few days have been filled with plenty of wind and rain and cooler temperatures than preferred, and it seems as though it’s taking much longer for those aches and pains to go away. (It couldn’t be age-related, could it?)
Now the stage is set for my writing routine to help me accomplish goals I have set for the summer: 1.) finish The Bet, my current novel WIP which was my NaNoWriMo project; 2.) keep my blogs up to date; 3.) work on the various short stories that have been lurking about for quite some time; 4.) get my writing ready for publication by summer’s end. Whew! Have I set myself up for disappointment? Time will tell.
However, each of these goals seems very reachable as I open another summer at the lake. Anyone who writes seriously has his or her own writing routines, and I’m certainly no different, especially when I’m on the verge of getting some piece finished. Although it was a very eventful winter, I didn’t quite do the amount of writing I probably should have or would have liked to do. No excuses, other than several weeks were spent learning and applying the wonderful writing program called Scrivener. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s a terrific tool that has me becoming more and more organized, structured, and competent in achieving writing satisfaction as never before.
Now that the winter blues have taken flight, it’s time for some really good quality atmosphere in which to write and read. I am a lucky guy in that we move for the summer to southwest Michigan at the end of May, and there is no better setting during the week to work on my writing. To say the least, the surroundings are quaint—rustic?—and far from the hustle and bustle of city life and the roar or Interstates.
My perfect writing routine? It all begins with the coffee. I’m usually out of bed by 7 a.m. and have the coffee going soon thereafter. If it’s a nice morning (no howling winds, cold temperatures, or pouring rain), I’ll open all of the curtains and windows to let in the good, fresh Michigan air. The wife usually sleeps in until later in the morning in the upstairs bedroom, so there is no way I can disturb her slumber.
Next, I’ll go out onto the screened-in porch overlooking the lake, take in the morning that is coming to life, and get the MacBook fired up on the round table facing the lake and check any e-mail that may have arrived over night. After that, I’ll read over what I wrote during my previous writing session and use that as my starting point.
And, of course, at this point I enjoy that first wonderful sip of strong, hot coffee. It seems to be the fuel that gets me started, and nothing seems insurmountable when there’s good coffee to have along for the journey! If it’s a morning of rain or less-than-pleasant temperatures, I’ll simply set up my writing “workshop” inside on the old dining room table. I get lots of good writing done on mornings such as this, but I do prefer to be out in the air on the porch watching the lake go by while I write.
There are usually plenty of hummingbirds who come calling and pause for a sip at the feeders on the corner of the porch roof or over in the low dogwood tree next to the steps leading down to the landing by the lake. I have a terrific view of a large portion of this end of the lake, and there are usually fishermen or other early morning boaters out and about on summer mornings.
I don’t really set a time limit for my writing, other than I do much better early in the morning. I do set a word count of 2,000. This is very easy to keep track of in Scrivener. When finished, I read over what I have produced that morning and then shut the writing down until the next writing day.
While writing, I enjoy the various genres of music available on iTunes radio. Some mornings, I’ll have easy listening music; other times it will be jazz, particularly Bossa Nova or smooth jazz. Or I’ll simply select some mood music from my own iTunes library. With the right music, I’m alone in my tiny niche in the world, creating my characters and places and plots and conflicts and the rest of what makes a story. It definitely enhances my wonderful setting and atmosphere in the cottage.
Although I tell myself that I’m going to write every day, reality gets in the way, and I more often than not end up writing only three weekdays out of five —very seldom on weekends. Since I usually have chores (weekly trip to laundromat in Dowagiac, grocery store, general maintenance of cottage, etc.), I’ll do them on those non-writing mornings. Since we usually have company on weekends, writing time is really not planned then. The days when I’m not writing, however, I’m finding time to read and think about the next writing session waiting for me.
On mornings such as today (June 1)—gray, windy, sweatshirt temperatures—I am definitely in the mood to get to work on my current writing project(s). Of course, there are many mornings when it’s just too nice to pass up that early cruise around the lake on our intrepid pontoon! Times such as these, writing takes a backseat!
I find that writing atmosphere and setting is vital to being a productive writer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bright, sunny day or a rainy, dreary day—lots can be accomplished if we feel motivated and free of distractions. My summer cottage is just this sort of place. Now, another cup of coffee, an hour of unplanned weekend writing, and I’ll be that much closer to being finished with my novel, The Bet. And the gray morning has suddenly become sunny and bright! All is well…CortlandWriter