Ever since I can remember I have loved the coming of spring. I don’t suit winter. I quite enjoy snow, in moderation, and find the rare cold, crisp, sunny days as exhilarating as the next person, but it’s the interminable darkness that really gets to me. The darkness that sets in before you get a chance to get outside at the end of a hard day’s work and hangs around for way longer than it’s welcome after you’ve dragged yourself out of bed in the morning, fighting your body’s desire to hibernate.
For years I thought I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder – I didn’t just dislike those months of darkness, they consumed me like the fog that rolls in over the sea. Even the anticipation of the shorter days that set in as early as the summer solstice was enough to instil that sense of dread that would just get worse and worse as the seasons closed in.
Now that I’m not operating on someone else’s timetable I’m not so sure. There’s no doubt that living by the sea helps too, and spending most of my time with a little person who sees the world without a trace of my weariness. Despite not having slept for more than two hours at a stretch for the past fifteen months, despite the challenge of juggling nearly-new motherhood with writing a second novel and trying to find a publisher for the first, despite the fact that this winter it has rained for days and days on end, I don’t need spring anywhere near as badly as I have before.
That’s not to say it’s not exciting. The snowdrops pushing through the sodden ground, the bare branches beginning to burst with buds, the daffodils that have suddenly taken over our neglected garden in an explosion of yellow. And alongside all these things the seeds of new ideas that are taking root inside my writer’s brain.
I seem to be settling into a pattern with my writing, one which I hope is sustainable and suits my rhythms. In the autumn, as the days begin to close in, I lose myself in researching and planning a new novel. By January, typically my lowest point, I’m ready to bring the plan to life, spending long chunks of time writing, letting my characters take the story where it needs to go. This year, as with last, I’ve set myself the deadline of Easter to complete the first draft. I’m on track to achieve that: I’m about two thirds of the way through with another month to go, and as the story gathers pace and urgency it’s all I can do to pull myself away from the keyboard when motherhood calls. Once that first draft’s done I’ll let it sit for a while before going back to it with fresh eyes, handing it over at the same time to a trusted few initial readers. With their ideas and mine I’ll then attempt the redraft in the height of summery optimism, hopefully having something I’m happy with as summer draws to a close.
Alongside all that redrafting, though, the seeds of the next project need to be germinating, shooting up into the light so that I can work out how to help them grow in the next phase of their development. And with that in mind I had begun to panic a couple of weeks ago: the end of the current novel was in sight, but I had no idea what I was going to work on next. I have several ideas for new novels in the Lili Badger series, a couple of distinct directions in which things could go. But I don’t want to start working on those until I know whether the original has legs. I love it, and would enjoy nothing more than to lose myself in Lili’s world again, but however much I try I can’t justify it to myself. I need something new.
In the midst of my panic, I went for a walk. Just the usual walk into town, taking the long way round by the pool, allowing myself to tread more slowly than I normally would so Arthur could soak up his surroundings. I began to notice the dedications on the benches, stopped to read them. And without me even noticing the seeds began to embed themselves.
By the time I got home I had two reasonably formed ideas for new novels. Both with their heart in Brixham, and both with stories which spread out across place and time in their mapping of life and love and death. Both have strong female characters at their core – something which I am beginning to realise is emerging as a pattern in my work. I haven’t decided which one I’ll run with yet. I hope I’ll write them both, in time. But now the seeds have been sown I’ll leave them for a while, trusting that they will germinate in my mind as I bring my current project to its conclusion, ready for me to nurture when I can shift my attention to them more closely as spring turns into summer.
Thank you to Sara at ‘Mum Turned Mom’ for inspiring this post with her prompt: “Spring is the time of plans and projects” (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina).