I Write Better in the Autumn (sorry, Samuel Johnson)

“The notion that one can write better during one season of the year than another Samuel Johnson labeled, ‘Imagination operating upon luxury.’ Another luxury for an idle imagination is the writer’s own feeling about the work. There is neither a proportional relationship, nor an inverse one, between a writer’s estimation of a work in progress and its actual quality. The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.”

– Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Yet again I feel chastised by Ms. Dillard. She is a stern mentor, even in book form.

First of all Mr. Johnson, no matter the luxury of it, I still feel that I write better in the autumn, with the smell of woodsmoke invading an open window. When a brisk breeze starts scattering leaves from the trees, and they fall all around me as I walk through the yard, I feel bombarded by a thousand tiny muses.

But I know it’s true, what Annie (see how we are on a first-name basis, now that I am agreeing with her) says about analyzing a work in progress. Falling in love with my own unfinished work leads to overconfidence. The edge is lost. Despair over a work has results just as destructive – it is thrown away, or abandoned. Better to finish without loving or hating it.

What do you think? Can you write better during a particular season of the year? Do you allow yourself to love or hate your works in progress?

3 Replies to “I Write Better in the Autumn (sorry, Samuel Johnson)”

  1. I know there are times when I THINK I’m writing better than others, or when I feel more poetic urge to write (autumn, rainy days, summer mornings, winter, etc), but those times usually just produce more sentimentality than actual good writing.

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