by | Dec 30, 2018 | The Writer's Life, On writing | 4 comments

S. Lee Manning: Do you write more in the winter?  I do. January tends to be my most prolific month, and right now, I’m trying to figure out why – so I can hopefully export those elements to other months and other seasons in my never ending search for ways to increase productivity. 
You’d think the reason I write more in the winter would be obvious, wouldn’t you? After all, people who read my posts know I live in Vermont. If you were stuck inside a house in Vermont, surrounded by ten feet of snow – and after you’d made a cake, and some bread, and cleaned the cat litter box, what else is there to do?

Yeah, sounds good. Except – I’m not in Vermont. I’m in New Jersey. No snow. Not really cold either. Not at the moment. And, I’m about to be even warmer. A few days after New Years, I’ll be in Florida – where the temperatures should be somewhere in the 70s. 
This migration south from Vermont has been going on for several years, and every year, January has been my most productive month. So, the coldness of the month can’t be the reason – can it?
I’ll put it on the list of possibilities, but I think I already know the answer here.
So all the possibilities: 
1. January is the coldest month. Being cold means you want to stay in and write. Yeah, but I spend most winters either in Florida or in Los Angeles. One could argue that it’s colder than usual, even in those semi-tropical climes, but it isn’t exactly persuasive. Yeah, sure, people who live there will sometimes think it’s cold. I have a cousin who complains about the frigid air as it dips into the 60s – and if I try really hard, I can control the laughter. To keep perspective, I frequently check the temperatures back home in Vermont. It’s like a rocket launch in reverse. Count down. Minus seven. Minus eleven. Minus twenty. Blast-off. Nope, it is not cold in Florida in January. Not even close. 

2. I spent all of my money in December. Yup, it’s true. I did, and I do. Every year, I resolve not to get carried away, and every year, around January 3, I sit glumly regarding my credit card statements and my lack of will power. So January means cutting back. No shopping. Or at least – minimal shopping at grocery stores. No malls. No eating out. As a result, I’m at home. Television gets boring. I can only read for so long every day. I would argue that I’m motivated to write in order to earn back some of the money I blew on the holidays – but let’s not go there. I’m laughed out.
3. January is the most depressing month of the year.  It’s certainly the darkest month. December has as little daylight – but in December, houses and stores and trees are decked with lights and fake reindeer, which can at times be a little much, but certainly the decorations do put a dent in the darkness. January is just grim. Dark. Even in Florida, where it gets dark a little later than in Vermont. How does the most depressing month of the year translate into more writing time? I dunno. You have an answer?
4. I receive a lot of books as presents in December – and reading those new books and authors inspires me to write more myself? 
5. I don’t write in December. I spend my time preparing for the holidays, visiting family, and feeling vaguely guilty at all the stuff I should be doing and that I’m not because I’m shopping or going out or mediating family fights or starting family fights. Then, January rolls around. Suddenly, I have free time – and a lot of guilt. Guilt is motivating. as any Jewish mother will be happy to tell you. And I’ve had a lot of time off to recharge my energy.
So which is it? I’m not sure. I’m also not sure that there’s a way to inspire myself to greater productivity in other months by using January as an example. But here’s to giving it a try.

How about you? Do you find January to be productive – or just depressing?

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  1. Gayle Lynds

    OMG, S. Lee … what a hysterical post, but, sigh, oh so true. What is it about January? Maybe we write a lot in January just to make the month go faster. Being in Maine, where the weather is, shall we say, more challenging than January in New Jersey or Florida, I'm grateful to be able to hunker down with my computer and watch the winds and snow and ice blow past my windows. And as you say, there's a lot of entertainment value in getting lost inside a story. On the other hand, perhaps it's some sort of atavistic cave call. Put another log on the fire and let's sit around and tell stories!

  2. Lisa Black

    I am also in Florida, so it's very different here. After starting my last two books on January 1st I came to the conclusion that that was a grave error, as Jan-Feb-Mar is the busiest time here. There are library events, conventions, and what little social life I have picks up when northern friends come to visit. This year I wanted to start around summer and be done by December, but that didn't happen, so I will still be writing in January but I've set myself a more leisurely pace this time.

  3. Robin Burcell

    Well, seeing as how I live in California, and it's eternally one or two seasons at the most all year long, and the only place it snows is on the Hallmark Channel during Christmas movies, January is no different than anywhere else. I do less writing, because I'm so burned out making the Dec. deadline, and then I find myself wasting time. So whatever the January secret is, S. Lee, I wanna know! I need to know!!! It seems I don't get back in gear until about March.

  4. kk

    I think you answered your own Q with this: "Then, January rolls around. Suddenly, I have free time – and a lot of guilt. Guilt is motivating. as any Jewish mother will be happy to tell you. And I’ve had a lot of time off to recharge my energy."