1. What was the back-to-school season like for you as a child? Was it a source of dread or anticipation? What emotions did you feel during this time? How would you describe this time of year to someone who goes to school year-round? Do you feel any echoes of the back-to-school season in your adult life?
2. Autumn is a season of dramatic change: While spring seems like a slow, creeping battle with winter, it can often feel like summer changes drastically to fall overnight. Take the time now to reflect on the changes you’ve undergone this year. Which have been positive or negative? How have you shifted or transformed this year? Any of these changes – internal or external – can be fertile fields for essay ideas.
3. It’s harvest season, when we retire our gardens and preserve their riches as best we can for winter. Imagine the fall is your own creative harvest season. What can you do now to prepare for winter? What stores did you find depleted last winter? What habits, systems, or mindsets can you build now and reap rewards from later?
4. Write about your most memorable costume – Halloween or otherwise. Where did it come from? How was it chosen? How did you feel when you wore it?
5. For many of us, fall marks a return to our kitchens, filling our homes with smells of apples, pumpkins, and warm spices. What flavors signify fall to you (versus the flavors of spring, summer, and winter)? What foods do you eat to mark the turning of each season? What strong memories do you have attached to each period of the year? If you were to assign a signature dish to each season, what would it be?
1. Look back at the professional goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year. There’s still a full quarter of a year left to achieve them if any still feel untouched or unresolved. It’s also a good time to pare them down with zero self-judgment. With only a few months left in the year, what do you feel is most important for you to accomplish, and what can be rolled over to next year?
2. Autumn is a busy, busy season for publishing, with authors seemingly releasing books left and right. Take note of their launch strategies: What are you seeing authors do most? What seems to be working? What outside-the-box promotional strategies caught your eye?
3. Many of us prefer a free-flowing creative summer, but autumn is a perfect time to reintroduce structure to our writing habits before the dark of winter sets in again. Try a daily morning exercise, sign up for a writing class, or research writing groups in your area. If you’re planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), you might like to spend September and October researching and outlining so you’ll hit the page running on Nov. 1.
4. As people return to their desks, they’re increasingly online – and on social media. Take a look at your own social presence. Could you be posting more to promote your work, or do you think you should take a step back from social media to write more? Which platforms have you grown in the last year, and which have stagnated? Which spaces seem to provide more return for your investments?
5. Like it or not, much of the publishing world shuts down between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2 – which also means the pre-holiday season is a chaotic, deadline-filled period. Take the time at the end of fall to get any editorial ducks in a row before the holiday seasons descend. Can you get a jump on any of your deadlines? Send any admin-related emails before the crunch time? Deploy any invoices before the holiday rush begins?
1. Write a story that begins with the following sentence: “It was already shaping up to be the worst first day of school ever.”
2. In honor of the impending spooky season, write a story with a member of the undead as your protagonist – a ghost, a zombie, a vampire, etc. Give us a glimpse of their daily, ordinary routine before something happens that will change them forever.
3. Inspired by Daylight Saving Time, write about a world in which time suddenly starts moving differently. Who first notices it? Does time move the same way for everyone, or is it only different for one person or a few individuals? What are the consequences of this new shift?
4. With much of the natural world awash in reds, oranges, and golds, it’s time to practice your descriptive writing skills. Write a short piece of description that strongly features an autumnal tree of your choosing. Your prose should not only describe the tree using plenty of sensory details but should also evoke an overall mood. The reader should have some small idea of this story’s genre, time period, location, and the overarching mood or emotion that will permeate the narrative based solely on this one piece of description.
5. There’s a reason why so many mysteries are set during the cozy season of fall. Take a stab at writing your own autumnal story featuring an element of mystery. How will your protagonist solve the mystery? What do they need to solve it? What’s at stake if the mystery doesn’t get solved?
—Nicki Porter served as the editor of The Writer from 2016 to 2022; she previously served as its associate editor. Before helming The Writer, she worked as a food editor for Madavor Media and America’s Test Kitchen. She’s also written for a number of publications and spoken at writing conferences across the country. Learn more at nickiporter.com.