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Writing Conditions

While the rest of the country deals with copious amounts of rain and snow, the Pacific Northwest is experiencing an unusually warm and dry winter. Most Portlanders react with joy at the news of another sunny day and rush outside to take advantage of the area’s many parks, hiking trails, and rivers.

However, I greet the lovely weather with gloom inside. For me, pleasant sunny weather is not ideal writing weather. Give me a stormy, windy day – rain lashing at the windows, wind rattling the panes, and clouds hovering over the city. I want to write without feeling the tug of nice weather calling me out to play.

The non-ideal writing weather got me thinking about writing conditions in general. Which lead me to ponder what my perfect writing space would look and feel like. I recognized it’s not just one space that’s ideal. Sometimes I’m drawn towards the idea of a tower room – lots of windows (to let in fresh air and fresh ideas), a large writing desk with the perfect chair (comfy body equals clear mind), a couch for pondering my character’s next move (also called napping), and several whiteboards for jotting down plot points I want to refer to later.  At other times, a crowded place – a coffee shop, the airport, or a park – sounds just right. Excellent for watching people and eavesdropping on conversations.

In addition, the dishes must done, the house must be tidy, the laundry must be in progress, and the cats must be quiet. Should I write early in the morning before work or on the weekends? Should I write in ninety-minute increments or until the chapter is complete? Should I work on the logical next scene in the story or the climactic scene swirling around in my head? Should I…well you get the idea. Writing is often a conundrum of where, when, and how.

If it’s such a struggle to write, why do I bother? Why spend a lot of my free time on an anxiety-ridden pursuit? I don’t have a very profound reason, in fact, it’s simple – I like telling stories. Not only do I relish building the narrative and characters but I also enjoy the craft of writing – what is the best way to express joy or sadness, what is the cleverest way to show a character’s inner conflict, or how do I foreshadow without revealing too much? Who gets the chop? Who gets to fall in love? Who gets to reveal their darkest emotions? Where does the story begin? Where does the story end?

When I do finally sit down and write, my reward is in those sublime moments when I read a snippet of a chapter or scene and think, “Damn, that’s good! Who wrote this?” Then I remember I did and it makes me smile.

Ultimately, the perfect writing conditions aren’t external – if the story is going well I don’t need the perfect chair or right weather. I just need to sit my butt down and write.

As I finish this article rain has moved back into Portland. I draw a deep breath, feeling my shoulders relax.

Now where’s my pen and paper?

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first novel in the Dormant trilogy. The second book, Root, will be out later this year.


LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)



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One Hundred Grains of Sand

Reality and dreams collide all the time. The day of my daughter’s beach wedding was rainy and cold. Instead of exchanging vows with bare feet wiggling in warm sand, she and her significant other stood in a flooded gazebo under a pouring storm.

Surrounded by friends and family, thunder and lightning became the background music instead of crashing waves playing the wedding march and seagulls calling well wishes. Dark clouds blocked the sun’s bright blessings. It was an auspicious beginning to a new chapter in my daughter’s life.

It was a glorious ceremony. If you know anything about my family, we are closer to the Addams than the Waltons. Although it wasn’t what my daughter had pictured in her mind, the entire day exceeded her expectations.

Because of the excitement preceding the ceremony, the ten-month old ringbearer fell asleep. Since he’s a grumpy boss when he doesn’t get enough shuteye, we didn’t dare wake him. I held him and the rings instead.

After the vows were exchanged and the kiss was kissed, one of the wedding attendants called out, “Take the plunge!” and pointed to the pool in front of the gazebo. Acting purely on instinct and a devil-may-care wedding high, the bride and groom jumped fully clothed into the deep end of the pool.

We adjourned to the condo where our wedding fare consisted of traditional sandwiches and our own local cuisine of red beans with rice and jambalaya. The chocolate wedding cupcakes towered over the table already laden with chai tea cookies, sesame cookies and brownies cut in dolphin shapes.

Beer flowed freely, as did soft drinks and lemon water. Champagne was nestled in a bucket filled with ice and plastic sharks. With full bellies, everyone trooped out to the sandy, wet beach in the rain because it’s how we roll, muggles 😉


J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and too many works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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It’s Raining Words by J J Dare

I like rain and gloomy weather. My middle child and I were discussing where we’d like to live in the future. The upper west coast is definitely an option, particularly Oregon and Washington, and the areas around Seattle appeal to me.

Rain, rain, don’t go away . . .

My affinity for gloomy, overcast skies has nothing to do with my personality. I’m a pleasant, middle-of-the-road gal and when I feel morose I usually snap out of it quickly. The reason I like dark skies and no sun is because it reminds me of Christmas.

The yuletide seasons during my childhood were usually cold, wet and dark. On the outside, that is. Inside my parents’ home it was constant activity (at least from my viewpoint) with presents (and Daddy “helping” me open them) and food (always too much food) and Rudolph, Frosty and Charlie Brown on the television.

Pops, Tippy and that skinny kid my siblings called “Mouse”

Gloomy weather reminds me of those days when I didn’t have too many cares in the world. My main concern back then was whether I had enough allowance money left to go down the street to the creepy little candy shack with the nickles glued to the floor.

I wasn’t worried about paying the bills or fretting as the youngest child moves five hundred miles away or wishing I was closer to the oldest child who is figuratively on the other side of the world or gearing up to cry at the wedding of the middle child. I appreciate the carefree childhood my parents gave me.

My Three Girls

There are some days I wake up and for a split second I’m back in my old room, burrowed under the covers with my mother fussing at me to get up. Who doesn’t want to crawl back into the safe womb of childhood?

Dismal weather helps me write. If the sun is shining outside, I have trouble getting a bead on my thoughts. It’s too bright to think and the light feels like a heavenly interrogation. When it’s darker during the day, my mind has a chance to escape the cares of life and dive into worlds I create.

So, come on rain and gloom and darkness. The oppressive atmosphere makes me happiest and I feel alive when the skies are grey. I escape into my cocoon of gloom and write the real world away.


J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and too many works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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