My secret writing device: escapism.
Today, I am going to give you a piece of writing advice that I'm almost embarrassed to share with you.
First, know that I live for hot weather. I love sunshine, and my love is unconditional and all-encompassing. Give me summer heat waves, oppressive humidity, and a scary UV index — you will not hear me complain! As long as I'm squinting, sweating, and pouring myself a glass of water, I am happy and productive.
But when it's cold, windy, damp, or rainy — or (god help me) all of the above at once — I can be graceless, whiny, and intolerant. I'm not proud of this trait. For those of you who have been around me when I'm cold: I’m sorry.
A few years ago, I was working on what would become part of Radiant Shimmering Light in San Francisco.
"The coldest winter I've ever experienced," Mark Twain famously stated, "was a summer in San Francisco."
It was FREEZING there! This sounds wimpy, but I didn't know California could be this cold! S-s-sh-shivering, damp and forlorn, I checked in with my hometown friends for some misery-loves-company — but they were having unseasonably gorgeous weather in Toronto. Wah.
So what's this got to do with writing?
Every day, I turned on my space heater, slipped on thick socks, and sat at my little San Francisco desk to write about a hot, muggy summer in southern Indiana.
The setting made me feel better. If I'm going to write a scene that will become real for my reader, it has to feel real for me first. Literally. So I made myself feel warm when I writing it.
This is the part I'm embarrassed to admit: I couldn't face the cold rainy days of San Francisco, so I wrote summer in order to escape them.
I've been known to do this before. And the truth is, this is why I started writing stories as a young person: sometimes, I just wanted be somewhere else.
This is my writing advice:
If you can't change something about where you are, then change your where when you write.
If you live in Costa Rica right now but you miss snowboarding in the Rockies, write a scene about the mountains in winter. Take time to describe the colour of the snow, and the colour of the shadows.
If you live in Toronto right now but you miss being near the Pacific, write about the ocean. Go there in your mind. Describe the sound your feet make as you walk on the pebbled beach.
If you live in Rome right now but you miss the cherry blossom festivals of Japan, go back to Japan on the page. Write about the smell of those trees when they are all in bloom.
Because isn't this one of the very best and most underestimated benefits to being a writer? You're in charge of your reality when you're writing. You can be anywhere you want to be. You can create the day you want by building a scene around it.
Go for it. Indulge a little. And if it's not lovely where you are today, then just go somewhere lovely anyway — write yourself there.
Photo credit (top): Corey Agopian on Unsplash