The acorns have started dropping off the oaks around Chandler’s Ford, almost certainly earlier than normal due to the heatwave, but for me, that is the start of autumn. I don’t mind that. As I’ve mentioned before, I like autumn. (Though I try to avoid being hit on the head by said acorns, they can come down with some force, and a number of times as I hear them hit the car roof, I’m glad the car took the impact rather than me!).
Okay we haven’t yet got the mists and mellow fruitfulness Keats talked about but that is only a matter of time. The main thing I dislike at the moment is how early it gets dark and of course that will worsen as we head towards the shortest day of the year in December.
So what do I like about autumn? The amazing changing colours of the leaves, the blackberries (you can’t beat a good apple and blackberry crumble!), I think the season encourages you to curl up with a good book (what’s not to like about that?!), and usually the weather is reasonably good.
There can be some amazing sunsets (and I think they look better at this time of year precisely because they will pick up on the wonderful autumnal colours around us).
It is also a time to reflect on the year so far and look ahead to the rest of it. After all, if you have plans you want to complete by the year’s end, you’ve got three months and counting down…
Autumn then is a time for taking stock then before the winter comes in. For farming, this is a literal thing!
Reflection is generally a good thing as long as it makes you either appreciate something more deeply or spur you on to greater achievements. In the case of a recent event I was glad to attend, it was the former rather than the latter. The church I go to is celebrating its 200th anniversary and we have held some events, including a Deep South Gospel Sing-Along with the Chris Walker Quartet (think a jazzed up Songs of Praise and you’ll get the picture) but last Sunday, 29th August, we held a memories service.
People brought in photos and other memorabilia connected with the church and an exhibition was put up. People were pleasantly surprised at just how many photos we were able to put together! We also got to see old record books (many of which have not seen the light of day for years) and names from the past were recalled and stories associated with those names exchanged with each other. (It made a lovely nod to the ancient tradition of oral storytelling and, I think, emphasises the importance of local history too).
Friends sadly no longer with us were recalled with great fondness, as were the trips to Swanage the church used to organise for the congregation and the village.
We went on to have favourite hymns, all of which had a special memory connected to them. It was a lovely service and people were in no hurry to leave afterwards (so we must do this kind of thing more often!). It did us good, I think, to pause and take stock.
But you take stock before moving on. Moving on is important. What stays static dies eventually. The secret is to “take the past with you” as you do move on. This is why dementia is such a cruel disease. Amongst other things, it takes cherished memories away.
Whatever the trigger, taking stock then is good for us all and autumn, I feel, is the time to do it. There is still time in the year to put plans into action. (There is also no psychological pressure of having to do something because 1st January is an “obvious” time to start. This is one reason I refuse to make any New Year’s resolutions. Just because “everybody” is making them doesn’t mean I will! I like to take stock and reorganise thoughts and plans when it suits me.).
This, to my mind, is what the autumn season can be about for all of us. Yes autumn can symbolise the year approaching its close, but let the thought of time slipping away motivate you into getting more done in the last three months than you might otherwise have done.
From a writer’s viewpoint, the autumn season is an interesting one. Publishers are gearing up for their biggest sales of the year thanks to the Christmas market. Articles and stories for the Christmas magazines would have been written, submitted and accepted several months prior to publication.
Now is the time to polish off work you want to submit to publishers (and be ready to send in early in the New Year when the hubbub of the Christmas market has settled down). Now is the time to be thinking of writing for the summer of 2019 and possibly even 2020 (yes really! It is not unknown for writers to schedule work a year ahead or more to make absolutely sure they hit deadlines for short stories for the holiday magazine market/the romantic fiction specials that come out around Valentine’s Day etc).
It pays a writer to submit work to a publisher by knowingly trying to avoid the phenomenally busy times. (Your work is more likely to be read more quickly for one thing).
I don’t find the increasing lack of natural light affects my writing at all, though I can see why it might for some. If anything with the nights slowly drawing in, it helps me to focus more, which is never a bad thing. Also it helps with what P.G. Wodehouse called the application of “the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” as if it’s cold outside, the thought of being in a nice room, writing away in the warm is infinitely more appealing!
I hope you enjoy a glorious autumn. I intend to! And when the leaves are down, I shall be getting plenty of exercise raking them up. But jobs like that also give you thinking time which is invaluable to fiction writers. We really are not staring into space for the sake of it – we really are taking stock of our ideas and working out what to do with them!
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