Charlie and I moved to Florida 40 years ago. When I talk to people who live in northern states, they sometimes ask how I can stand to live in a place with no seasons. Doesn’t it get monotonous? This time of year, when trees are displaying their gorgeous autumn foliage, is especially likely to evoke pitying looks. Charlie and I are missing out on all that beauty!
The truth is that we’re not – and there’s a point to be made about writing here. If you take the time to look, there’s fall color everywhere, even in Central Florida (where the thermometer hit 90 degrees again today – sigh).
Goldenrain trees, which display golden leaves and red blossoms in the fall, are the most spectacular example of fall color – but there are many others. Florida maples turn crimson in the fall, and Virginia creepers and crape myrtles display multi-colored leaves. And those are just a few examples of the beautiful colors we see every autumn.
A writer’s goal (your goal!) is to make your experience become the reader’s experience. I revel in Florida’s trees and shrubs at this time of year, and I want you, reading this, to catch a hint of that beauty. If you’re a Floridian, go out and look for it! If not, maybe you’ll feel a little less sorry for me as you watch the breathtaking display in your own village or town.
Good writers endlessly turn their minds (and eyes and ears – all the senses) both outward and inward in the quest for topics to write about.
Here’s another example. Last week I went to a writing club meeting at the prison where I volunteer. The inmates were talking about fall and the changes it brings, even in a prison where there aren’t many trees to enjoy. One inmate said he loves fall and winter because the shortened days mean he can be outdoors after dark. In the summer, inmates are locked into their dorms for the night before the sun goes down. But in the fall, they go to the chow hall for their evening meal in the dark. While they’re standing in line, they can look up at the night sky.
By the time he’d finished talking, everything looked different to me: The night sky, the stars, the moon – and the freedom to go outside anytime I want and contemplate the world around me.
Making things look different – encouraging you to notice that the green leaves on a Virginia creeper have turned scarlet and gold, or the sky is full of stars tonight – is what writers do.
What do you see, feel, hear, think that’s different? You need to write about it.