Who loves writing on rainy days? A show of hands please. (No, not you mime artists – your entire act is a ‘show of hands’…) Okay, so quite a few of you. We agree that writing on a rainy day is awesome – there’s just something about it. But what IS that something that makes it so creatively compelling?
Okay first, let’s make one thing clear. Writing on a rainy day is NOT the same as writing IN the rain. No one likes soggy pages and last time we checked, laptops/iPads weren’t rated on their absorbency. Instead, standing in the rain should only be reserved for school pickups (seriously, what is it with that timing?) and Hollywood rom-com declarations of love (unless you’re Andie McDowell in Four Weddings, in which case you should never ever say anything in the rain ever again because you were terrible).
What we ARE of course talking about is that dream scenario where it’s miserable outside but you are dry, you are warm and you are comfortable inside. Yet here comes that question again: how does a rainy day suddenly make writing feel so much more delicious and inviting?
Reason 1: FOMO
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is what writers suffer on a regular basis. Much like a child in a full body cast (perhaps the result of slipping on a soggy iPad) who gets asked by friends to come and play outside, as writers we sadly cannot join them. The day is sunny and the beach is beckoning, but sadly, we have to write. Word counts come first…
Actually, wait a second, that doesn’t sound right. We’re writers. Even a pile of dishes or the lounge windows that haven’t been cleaned since you moved in can miraculously lure us away from writing if we’re in the ‘procrastizone’. So if it’s 34 degrees outside, you’re probably going to tell yourself “nahh, I can write later on” as you grab your bucket and spade, chuck on your thongs and sunnies, and jump into the car proclaiming “being a writer is awwwwesome!” [Sound of tyres screeching above the hum of lawnmowers.]
Of course, later on, as you’re applying aloe vera lotion to your sunburnt skin, you will feel guilty that you really SHOULD have done your writing earlier, and now all you want to do is sleep. “Curse you sunny day! Why did you tempt me so!” you proclaim.
But hey, I’m a writer – can’t I just write on the beach?
You’ve been looking at too many stock images. No one sits on a beach with a laptop and actually does work. It’s as believable as the stock images with everyone smiling at an office birthday party.
All good points… But what does this have to do with rainy days?
Everything. The reason we love rainy days so much is for the OPPOSITE reasons as above. Rainy days reduce the temptations because everyone else is inside. Even a study by students from Harvard Business School found that people are more productive on gloomy days because they’re less likely to be daydreaming about all the other things they COULD be doing. Bad weather offers up fewer things that you’d rather be doing than writing – therefore, less FOMO!
Reason 2: The sound of the rain
Mmmmm. Pitter patter splish splosh. Depending on how heavy the rain is and what your roof is made of, the sound of rain has to be one of the best sounds in the world when you have nowhere to be. And for a writer, the sound of rain on a roof is like pennies from heaven (actually, pennies from heaven make a slightly different sound on the roof – more of an alarming metallic clanging).
The gentle rhythm raindrops seems to work like a creative metronome for a writer, providing just the right level of non-distracting background noise. You see, some writers can only write in complete silence, but most (often without realising it) need some kind of music or peripheral ‘white noise’ hubbub. In fact, an entire industry has been created out of apps that replicate the sounds of cafes, traffic, bubbling streams and, of course, rain. Sites/apps like Noisli, Rainy Cafe, My Noise, Coffitivity have arisen to improve productivity by presenting you with a smorgasbord of sounds on tap (no doubt including the sound of a tap…maybe even the sound of a smorgasbord too).
Another site, Thunderspace has been created by a large team of researchers who argue that it can’t just be ANY ambient noise that makes you more productive – it has to be the right TYPE of noise. So they got Emmy-award winning nature sound-recording professional Gordon Hempton to create their “rain sounds”. They claim that theirs are much better than the hundreds of other rain sounds out there because they recorded their storms in “stereoscopic 3-D, specially designed for headphones at 256kpbs AAC.” (Sheesh, doesn’t everyone?)
So it turns out that not all raindrops are created equal. But even in its non-recorded state, rain, unlike a café (which we choose to visit) is like a natural form of silence really – if it’s heavy enough, we will hear it, but much like the sound of waves crashing on a beach, it soon dissolves into the blissful background. Nature’s default sound.
Ernest Hemingway tells the story of how he was not able to write in the same pub that he drank in with his mates – he needed a different sounding pub for that. And if a friend happened upon him at his ‘secret’ pub and talked to him, that one would be ruined and he’d have to find a new one. It’s a cool story, although we can’t help thinking it was just a convenient excuse for him to drink his way across Florida, Cuba, Africa and Idaho…
Reason 3: Hot beverages
Those first two reasons were very long. Let’s make these next ones much shorter – starting with hot beverages.
Here’s our thinking: for many, the writing habit requires a cup of tea, a cup of coffee or even a nice hot cup of cocoa at your side. (Actually, some even drink just hot water, so hello out there to you.) And if it’s a rainy day, hot drinks just taste better and feel better. It’s cosier and the steam rises in the kind of pretty swirly pattern that they devote entire Instagram accounts to. It’s on these kinds of days, as you sip your single origin soy mocha chai tea latte macchiato while the raindrops gently streak down the window, that being a writer is your favourite and your best.
Reason 4: Drama & Poetry
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
“The unwelcome November rain had perversely stolen the day’s last hour and pawned it with that ancient fence, the night.”
“It was a rainy night. It was the myth of a rainy night.”
“Crying in the rain. No one sees your tears and your pain gets washed away.”
“Heaven opened and the water hammered down, reviving the reluctant old well, greenmossing the pigless pigsty, carpet bombing still, tea-coloured puddles the way memory bombs still, tea-colored minds.”
We’ve all read books – great books – that describe a rainy scene in a beautiful way. Over the decades, wonderful things have been written about the rain. Wonderfully dramatic or descriptive or simply melancholy. It’s arguably a more inviting subject to describe than that of a sunny day.
So maybe it’s the fact that writing just FEELS so much more literary when it’s raining. It unlocks the clichés in our mind from books and films where big and important and climactic and beautifully described things happen during a rainstorm. And so, perhaps when we hear rain, we feel like something big and important and climactic and beautiful will happen at the keyboard that day. Perhaps.
As they say, ‘to create an outpouring of words, you need an outpouring of rain’. (Actually, no one says that – we just made it up.)
Reason 5: Procrastination
Not nearly as poetic as reason number 4, but probably just as likely. As the title of this blog post says, we often put off things to ‘save it for a rainy day’. And for many of us, writing is a task that we struggle to find time for or even find motivation for. By taking a ‘rain check’ (wow, rain and procrastination really do go hand in hand!) we are putting it off until it literally is a rainy day.
We’re not entirely convinced by this reason – and that’s why it’s number 5. Because, if you’ve put writing off this long, the thought of now sitting down to write could be quickly outweighed by the idea of falling down a YouTube rabbit hole that begins innocently enough with a thoughtful TED talk and finds you six hours later engrossed in the Marble Olympics (you’re welcome!).
Okay that’s five reasons. And whichever reason it is for you (maybe a combination of all of them, or another three we didn’t think of), writing on a rainy day just FEELS RIGHT, right? This is of course not good news if you are planning on writing your memoir in a desert, but fantastic news if you are penning your next crime thriller in the village of Mawsynram in India, the world’s wettest place – with an average annual rainfall of 11,871mm*.
Or, you could just stay at home and get that rainy day sound app. (And if Andie McDowell knocks, run.)
*For the record, Sydney gets an average of about 1200mm rain a year, with Melbourne, Adelaide and even Hobart copping just half that. Perth’s 800mm are concentrated to the middle of the year, while most of Brisbane’s 1000mm and Darwin’s 1800mm falls during November-April.