I turn to fiction in the winter, both the reading and writing of it. I’ve often wondered why this is, and have come to the reluctant conclusion that death is inspirational.
Last year about this time I began writing a novel. It is the second such book I have written, the first back in my twenties which was also started during the cold snowy months. Both plots are driven along in no insignificant way by death. This is not to say that the stories are about death, but rather that death serves as an excellent driver of plots.
In winter, it’s hard to escape death. It’s everywhere around you. Green gets replaced by gray. Leaves wither into brown and fly away except for the ones that stubbornly cling to the branches of tall oak trees, making them look sickly and tattered. Then the cold comes and the plants on the deck turn pale green and rubbery. The lush green lawns of the suburbs become matted and powdery, the color of sand.
Unlike the death of men, this is just a season. We know that in a few months time, the color will come back. We know this because it is reliably true. It happens every year. Still, to watch the world around us shrivel and die three months every year has always visited waves of melancholy upon me along with bouts of introspection. Ultimately, I escape to the reading and writing of fiction.
Once again, I’m feeling the itch to create something. The germs of ideas have lately come to life in my imagination. Most of them I reject because I lose interest so easily. Once they are rejected, I can’t even recall what they were, so complete is their banishment. Others fester up there for days, then weeks, until finally I find myself sitting here writing.
But if I’m going to write another book, I better get started while it’s winter. Once it’s warm and green again, I would much rather be outside living my real life than putzing around in an imaginary one.
Here’s a project for all of you literature fans. I wonder what percentage of the greatest novels ever written were started during winter? I’m willing to bet 75%.