But it's these moments of contemplation about seasonal change that usually remind me of the relentless marching of time. It's already halfway through the year, and what have I achieved? When I start the year, I'm always over-optimistic about how much I'll get done. Oh, yes, I'll get that novel finished and send it off to the publisher, or even more ambitious: will get another novel on the drawing board.
So what have I achieved so far this year? Well, I did send off a novel in March, and I'm now on the sixth chapter of a fifteen chapter project. In my idealistic schedule, I write a chapter a week. Realistic schedule? One chapter every two weeks, and that's keeping a mighty fine pace.
I wrapped up chapter five last night at about midnight. I could have written for hours more. That's the problem with my progress, I suppose. Time doesn't stand still when the words are flowing. During the working week, it's even worse, with consecutive days when I don't get near the laptop. What happens to all the creative energy in that time? How do I stop it all leaking into the nothingness abyss of forgotten ideas? I know I'm not alone in this. Most writers' lives are crammed with other obligations, just like me.
It's during these non-writing times that wonderful revelations can strike - a new twist to the plot, or a great idea about how to 'stage' a difficult scene - I hold on to the thought in a variety of ways. Writing it down immediately is the most reliable way, but a pen and paper is not always handy - especially when I'm in dreamland. The idea is always so clear, so obvious and perfect that I think I wouldn't forget it in a million years. But if I haven't written it down, I arrive at the keyboard with the gem floating amongst other debris in the abyss. I can spend hours hoping to re-generate it, or just get on with it and pick an alternative route.
The best thing I can do to keep the novel alive when I don't have time to write is to invite the story into my life. The characters keep me company constantly, sometimes speaking to me... or to each other. As I go about my business, I see them in their world, and I learn new things about them all the time. Quite an amazing experience, and one that confirms that I am a writer, and not just pretending. In this way, the story continues to develop, organically, on an almost subconscious level. The act of placing my fingers on the keyboard completes the process, releasing the ideas for further tweaking. Some of these actually make it onto the page.
But that's not all. Partly to allay the fear that I'll never be able to think up another novel, I find myself constantly looking ahead to the next novel. Already, I'm auditioning characters and a situation for the next project. Like seeds in the ground over winter, the characters need a home to germinate and develop into three-dimensional beings. They can't just 'come to be' one day and be thrown on to the page the next. I've tried it before and the result is generally flat and lifeless.
So as my garden sleeps, gathering strength for the regeneration phase, so the creative process keeps rolling on. My sleeping beauties, nurtured through their winter sleep will hopefully emerge as robust and graceful creations when the time is right.
Well, that's just me being optimistic. Fingers crossed.