A New Meaning for “Writing Rut”

Fall in Florida is difficult for visitors to detect. We don’t have glorious leaf color changes, the temperature doesn’t dip drastically, and more often than not, our autumn feels like extended summer to those from beyond the state line. But natives and those who have lived here for decades can feel the subtle changes: Lower humidity makes the air a bit less sticky. Breezes begin to border on full-blown wind. And then there’s the change in sounds — the trees themselves, as the weather grows drier and slightly cooler, take on a different pitch as their boughs are swayed by a new incoming season. Birds’ songs grow a bit more excited and resonant as they prepare for a colder period yet to come. No, Florida’s version of fall might not be as visually grand as the displays in other parts of the country, but it’s a poet’s best friend. It requires heightened sensitivity, and is perfect outdoor weather for time in nature’s splendor.

All this reflection takes me back to my boyhood and adolescence, when fall also meant deer hunting season. This post is no rant for or against the act of hunting, but is instead intended to give a new definition for a very old term: For hunters, the word “rut” means that animals are seeking mates and are active in the woods. They forage, they frolic, they are generally more lively during mating season or “rut” than they are during more docile times of the year. Much like some big game animal, I’ve noticed that I also am enlivened by this time of year. Its different sensations and its invigorating climate make my “poetic brain” shift into overdrive. My wife has noticed this over our 10 years together; fall means that my writing takes a front seat.

So, rather than being a victim to a “writing rut” under its old definition — a time of hindered or stilted writing production due to “writer’s block” or other problems — perhaps we as poets and writers need to reclassify this term. Take a lesson from the hunters: Rut is a time for greatest activity, and so, let’s proceed into this autumn’s mating season of ideas with utmost optimism and highest ambitions for our work. Good luck, and here’s hoping you “bag” a few “trophies” along the way.

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