Depending on where you live, the fall or spring equinox is one of four seasonal changes that can be used as a status check in your writing. The upcoming equinox falls on September 23 this year and is the balance between an equally long day and night, a point where the seasons change and either summer is waiting or winter is just around the corner. For the creative types, the equinox is an excellent point in the year to review and renew.
Our ancestors were tied to these points in the calendar, measured using the length of days and nights. The turning points in the calender were often celebrated with special festivals, indicative of the time of year. Always, these festivals were a way to prepare for what was coming and say goodbye to what had just passed.
Where I am in the northern hemisphere, the days are starting to get shorter and the nights longer, everything slowly cooling down into the darker, rainier days of winter. I love winter in the Pacific Northwest. I love the rain, the wind, the cool days, and even the darkness. At the point of winter solstice, the sun rises around 8 a.m. and goes down at 4 p.m., and I am okay with this as the cozier it is within my home, the more inclined I am to write… and the more inspired I tend to be.
For me, then, the fall equinox is preparation time for my most productive season. I spend summer gathering my ideas and inspirations (when I am not being lazy), and I attempt to utilize and put those things into a resemblance of order during September.
A clean desk or a messy desk, there is chaos lurking in the corners of my writing as the leaves begin to fall. I have ideas and thoughts lying about in all sorts of nooks and crannies. The last month or so I have been on a World War I kick, so now my ideas and thoughts and inspirations are contained on sticky notes, brightly colored and peeking out of the four or five books I have on the subject.
Those sticky notes are in no order what-so-ever, just a haphazard attempt at not forgetting the points I thought of while reading the text. Gathering those sticky notes is essential, as is gathering any ideas no matter how you might put them down. Perhaps you write on napkins, or in a small notebook, or a journal; whatever the case may be, take the time to go back and list them out, put them together, create a bit of order to the chaos.
Freewriting is a method leftover from my university days. The concept of putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and just writing is a lovely, and productive way, to work through what you are thinking at the beginning of a project. Even if the equinox falls while you are in the middle of a project, taking a step back and flowing through a freewrite can clarify and crystallize concepts that you might be missing out on.
The biggest thing to remember… for those of us out there that judge ourselves… is that freewriting only works if you don’t judge. I use loose notebook paper for freewriting because it is easy to crumple up and throw in the bin. The idea of freewriting is merely to work through ideas, blocks, or scale blank walls. It just is, and if you allow it to be sloppy and entirely unusable, it will yield the most productive of results.
No one wants to clean, and that includes me. Why should I clean things when I could be writing or reading the latest book I picked up? But, alas, cleaning does help the creative process and taking the time during these two points in the year allows it to not seem like too much of a hardship. And, when I say clean, I don’t mean take your house apart and put it all back together, rather just the particular area you use for writing.
Purge the books from your desk that you might not be using, stacking or otherwise displaying the ones that you will use or are using in your project. Make sure your drawer of pens, or cup of pens, only contains ones that work and that you like writing with. If there is loose paper, make sure it doesn’t contain brilliant ideas, but then put it in the bin. Also a good area to clean up is your journals (keeping only the ones you are using), and also doing a systems check on your computer.
I don’t often recommend products, but an essential program I use to keep my computer happy is System Mechanic. I don’t know what I would do without it and I always defrag and clean up memory, registry etc. at this time of year so when I sit down to write I won’t start the process by staring at a frozen screen.
Really, using the equinox is just my attempt to create order out of the sometimes crazy roller coaster that is my writing life. When you are juggling writing, family, and jobs it can be overwhelming and we can get lost in the nitty gritty and the mundane. Taking a scheduled time out, something that is guaranteed to come every year, allows us to move away from that day-to-day movement and step back. Whether the equinox point of the year works for you or not, every writer can benefit from taking a moment to review and renew.