Edited by Claire Buss
At a recent online meeting, the Write On! team were discussing how heavy the winter days can feel and the ways in which this time of year weighs down our creativity. As writers, poets, artists and creators we all have different methods to look after ourselves and keep the creative fires burning through the long winter dark.
Write On! Editor, Madeleine F White, opens the feature with her personal thoughts:
“My birthday is the end of October, so autumn going towards Christmas is a season that has always held a sense of wonder for me.
Growing up in Germany, I had St Martin’s Day in November to punctuate the cold wetness of those the darker days. The lanterns, raised by children against the darkness, the sweet pretzels and being wrapped up against a star-spangled night sky, with our mists of cold breath billowing, were magical.
So, my childhood associations this time of year have always been filled with expectation. Even as an adult, that sense that something good is just around the corner still lingers. Though, these days, it’s more about wondering whether my adult children will come down to help me eat my birthday cake!
In terms of creative impetus, the damp smell of the forest loam, the leaves crunching underfoot and the red sandstone landscape of my childhood, especially after I started riding Icelandic ponies when I was eight, hold my creative heart. These days I’m still riding, albeit with a seascape backdrop. But that sense of what might be just around the corner, and the opportunities that await, are stronger than wanting to hide away. For the most part, at least.”
Regular contributor, Niema Bohrayba, agrees with Madeleine’s focus on nature and expanding our senses to what we can see and feel. A little self-care goes a long way:
“Late October is when I start modifying my daily routine and embracing the colder vibes. The longer nights and late rising sun in the mornings can sometimes be a challenge to my focus, so starting the day with warm lemon water with an added dash of fresh ginger helps me immensely.
I create a cosy evening atmosphere by lighting seasonally scented candles, wrapping myself in a fluffy blanket, and enjoying a good read or knitting a few more rows on my latest project.
I also maintain a daily walk, wearing extra layers and waterproofs so that I can enjoy the trees in a nearby park as they undergo their seasonal changes. And, if it’s not too wet, I enhance my sensory experience by hugging a tree or two!”
Palak Tewary reminds us of the necessity of winter and how she focuses on ways to make writing a priority:
“The winters are always a seasonal shift for writers and the routine and creative endeavours must change accordingly. What I do to prep for writing in the winter is:
- The space I write in becomes paramount – I try and make it as cosy and comfortable as possible – with blankets and throws, better lighting and space to cuddle up with hot beverages.
- I make a conscious effort to draw inspiration from everything winter – the nature, the landscape, the crisp air, the festive elements, the holiday spirit as well as the ending and the beginning.
- Finally, it’s my introspection time to delve into deeper issues and increase my reading.”
E.M. Blake introduces us to laughter therapy, run by Happily Clappily Ever Laughter, who offer free classes at Dragon Café and Shoe Lane Library, details on their Eventbrite page.
“In my third laughter therapy yoga session, I was comfortable clapping and chanting:
ha, ha, ha.
ha, ha, ha.
Next, we pretended to start an old-fashioned lawn mower. I chuckled, imagining the smell of freshly cut grass.
Did you know ten minutes of hearty laughter is equivalent to 30 minutes on the rowing machine?! Charlie Chaplin said, A day without laughter is a day wasted. So practice laughing daily. No lawn mowers or rowing machines are required. Book the free virtual classes on Eventbrite.”
Page editor, Eithne Cullen, reminds us to stay productive through the dark winter months. Who knows what will grow from those carefully tended kernels of imagination?
“October mornings, dark and uninviting; I sit in the warm kitchen while the PC winks into the gloomy morning light in the room next door.
How many times have I promised myself, or some great other, that I’ll use this hour wisely? Call it the writer’s hour, the home-made salon.
This October, I have a chance to re-commit. Give myself the proverbial kick into gear, get the writing juices flowing. So here it is again… Next Sunday, daylight saving will give me a whole, early morning, dawn rising, inspiring hour to write: free write or use a prompt, pick up a theme, finish that story I never completed, or make sense of the poem half written on a random piece of paper… it’s that simple.
Ask me in November if I used the gift of an extra hour and I hope I won’t be telling you I had an extra hour in bed, drinking tea and watching the squirrels madly chasing acorns. I wonder what my answer will be?”
Julie Dexter echoes Eithne’s encouragement to be productive, but also reminds us it’s OK to fill our creative cup through whatever means necessary:
“At this time of year, some opulence is called for to cheer yourself up, if, like me, you struggle with the change of season. This may mean adding extra cushions, or throws. Perhaps lighting a fire, getting a stock of notebooks in, along with books you want to read. Keeping active is also important, whether that’s doing stuff for others, such as cooking for friends. All in all, whatever it takes for you to be creative and feel happier, do it. Perhaps, as it’s time to stay in more than usual, that novel will finally be written!”
Rachel Affiong Umoh, who writes as Ladyray, shares her own personal struggles with writing and how we can transform those negative thoughts, altering our perspectives and allowing ourselves to embrace our creativity:
“Preparing to write this piece allowed me to reflect on my writing journey in a positive light. I’ve come to realise the importance of consistent writing. Whether it’s as part of a hobby or a full-time job, or you’re writing an article, poem, journal entry – even a short quote – the key is to enjoy the process. This enjoyment keeps the pen in the hands, regardless of the ups and downs.
Amidst my personal challenges and adjusting to the changing weather, I struggled to find the right words to capture the essence of my message. However, my desire to express myself through words never wavered. Initially, I considered titles like ‘Live The Season’ and ‘Write The Season’ but, ultimately, settled on ‘Winter Journal,’ drawing inspiration from my personal experience of journaling.
Embracing the art of writing allows us to transform our perspective. On that note, I’m excited to share I have a journal for every season. I enjoy finding the bright side of every situation, no matter how challenging it may seem. When I reflect on the memories in my summer journal, I don’t just see the scorching heat, but sunflowers blooming in tales of trials and triumphs. Now that winter is here again, some may claim the gloomy days have returned. However, I choose not to believe that. Instead, let’s embrace the power of positivity to make the most of this season. This time of year is an opportunity to bring comfort and inspiration to ourselves and others. Setting aside a few moments each day to share uplifting words can energise us for the rest of the day, enhancing our productivity.
As we gear up for winter, shopping for warm clothes and winter warmers, we should focus on being mentally prepared. This approach will help us adapt more effectively and so function better. Rather than seeing the dreary days as depressing, let us, as writers and poets, find joy in creating art out of nature. Through our words, we can build sandcastles in summer, create warmth in winter, and find comfort in gloomy days.
By tapping into the creativity nature offers, we can adapt to the changing weather, finding triumph even on the gloomiest of days.”
I hope you’re encouraged by what you’ve read to stoke your creative fires, allowing them to guide you through the cold dark of winter. Whether it leads you to an ideas book, a reflection on past scribblings or the generation of a brand new project, let it bring you joy!
I’d like to leave you with a poem of my own about something I love to hold in my hands on these cold winter days:
Cold, so cold, my cockles are chattering
I need a warm drink
A cup of tea just doesn’t quite have the heat I’m looking for
I’m in the mood for…
Hot, hot, hot chocolate
With cream and marshmallows
With mint and salted caramel
In a tall glass
In a cup
Melted chocolate in a bowl
With honey, not jam
With a wee sneaky dram
In the morning
In the evening
Last thing at night
It’s a hug in a mug, alright
© Claire Buss, 2019
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As writers, poets, artists and creators we all have different methods of looking after ourselves, keeping the creative fires burning through the long winter dark.