What a Rare Snowy Day Taught Me About Writing
When they said it would snow this weekend, I laughed.
“Sure,” I told myself. “It hardly ever snows here. Most of the time it doesn’t even get cold enough for the pipes to freeze. It’s not gonna snow.”
I was wrong.
As I write this now, my yard continues to pile over with the chilly white stuff.
We’re amazed by things that aren’t normal.
Today is the perfect day for snow here. I don’t have anywhere to go, and even if I did there isn’t enough snow to slow me down one iota.
When there’s a lot of snow, we freak out. We run to the stores to grab all the bread and sandwich meat we can. And since you need to wash it down with something, we grab a gallon or two of milk and maybe some beer.
That seems silly because maybe once every ten years we get enough snow to stay housebound more than 24 hours. Only once in my adult life did the power go off — and stay off — for more than a few hours. We really have nothing at all to worry about here.
If you’re used to being covered up with snow every day of the winter, you probably don’t give it a second thought. Snow is like Christmas to us. We get it once a year, if that often. Since the temperatures have been in the sixties day after day all through January, I didn’t expect to see a single snowflake this year.
Then a front came in and opened the door to the winter wonderland I see before me.
When you see something that grabs your attention, what do you do? You pause. You take it all in. You might even take pictures so you don’t forget it.
When was the last time you did that with a draft you wrote?
Writing is amazing if you think about it.
Words are powerful.
- Tell stories
- Paint pictures
- Transfer feelings
- Move someone to action
Arrange them well and you can change the world. Deliver them to the right people and you’ll get them talking. Keep them to yourself and your talent will die without blessing a single soul.
You don’t have to wait until snow falls to write regularly. You don’t have to wait for someone to die to get serious. You can make writing an amazing experience today.
You just have to capture the amazing with mundane methods.
Snow is amazing because it’s rare.
There are certain conditions that have to happen for it to snow anywhere.
- Cold air
- Ground cool enough to let the snow pile up.
- A camera to take 10,000 photos of your dog romping in it when she goes out to do her business.
People say it’s rare when the Muse shows up.
Sure, if you WAIT for it.
You don’t have to wait. You can summon her (or him) any time you want. The process might be a bit messy, but you can do it.
When you were a kid, you didn’t mind getting dirty. You made and ate mud pies. You rolled snowballs and threw them at your friends. You built snow people if enough of the white stuff fell. There were no limits because you didn’t see any.
Okay, so what can you do to attract the Muse like you had a giant magnet?
The key to becoming a productive writer is …
To write. Often. Every day if you can.
Of course, you know that.
One thing that blocks us is thinking every word we write has to be perfect. They don’t. A host of writers say your first draft is your worst draft. That may be true in terms of beauty, but in terms of value — there’s gold in that heap of dirt.
Honestly, that kind of thinking does more harm than good. If you think your work is crap before it hits the page, you won’t be thrilled about it. It’s like defeating yourself before you play.
You don’t shoot your own foot before the starting gun kicks off the marathon. Don’t kill your creativity by seeing it as crap.
Snow can pile up fast. Create the right conditions and you’ll pile up words faster than you ever dreamed.
The time is now.
If I want to remember what the snow in my yard looks like, I’ve got to photograph it while it’s on the ground.
Sure, I could rent a big snow machine and fake it.
That’s what free writing can do for you. It allows you to relive an amazing moment by recreating it.
Free writing is a lot like playing in the snow. You’ve got nowhere to go. You can roll in it if you want. And after you’re done, you can change clothes and take a shower.
Take time now to scribble down some words.
- Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes.
- Turn off everything that could possibly distract you.
- Use a prompt if you want to get your creative juices flowing.
- Set some silly rules that only apply to this writing session. (Optional)
- Don’t stop writing while the timer is counting. Only stop when you run out of time.
When you’re done, it’s like you dusted your yard with snow. Leave it there for a while. You’re not objective enough to edit yet. You’ve got to warm up to it. Read it if you want, but don’t judge. Just enjoy your draft for what it is.
It might be prettier than you expected it to be.
The next day.
Whether we still have snow on the ground tomorrow depends on how warm it gets today.
Snow on the road melts faster because there is more heat there. Tires create friction as they glide over the pavement. Heat builds in black asphalt and stays there. It has to be well below freezing for anything to stick there.
Eventually, the clouds part and make way for the sun’s rays. Snow loses this battle because it can’t fight back. Snowflakes, while beautiful, are dead.
Your words can’t do anything without their creator, either.
Taking time off is like parting the clouds in your brain. Then the light of knowledge and reason can shine down, burn off the dross, and magnify what’s left.
Editing was a big struggle for me when I let fear run my life. My inner coward bugged me with these questions:
- What if someone doesn’t like my writing?
- What if they think I’m a fraud?
- What if they think I’m stupid?
- What if I do it wrong?
- What if I share what I believe and people tell me I’m lying?
- What if nobody reads or cares?
You can torture yourself with those thoughts forever if you’re not careful.
You don’t have to be perfect. Every snowflake is different. Together they all make a beautiful winter blanket. Your contribution makes the world a better place than it would be if we missed your story, your insights, and your untapped genius.
So what if you offend someone? You probably can’t please them anyway.
So what if someone disagrees? You can’t appeal to everyone. Everyone doesn’t like mysteries. They don’t all have pets. And your neighbor’s view of common sense might be nonsense to you.
Quit worrying about it.
Write what you’d want to read. There are enough people like you that will appreciate what you have to say. Do your work for them.
Your primary goal is to be effective. Leave perfection to other wishful thinkers.
Disclaimer: They’re not perfect, either.
Like playing in the snow every day
Set aside time every day to cough up some messy first drafts.
You’ll have fun.
You’ll flex your creative muscles.
You’ll enjoy the wonder of exploring the limitless world of imagination.
And you’ll find you really don’t need to summon the Muse because …
YOU are the Muse.
How free does that make you feel?
I hope you create and capture your own genius moments every day you can. If you’ve got something amazing you want me (and the others who read this) to see, please put a link to it in the responses.
Happy Writing! I hope you rediscover the joy you might have lost putting words together.