7 Ways to Beat the Winter Writing Blues

Filed in When Writing Is Hard by on December 9, 2014 • views: 1108

winter writing bluesAre you feeling it?

You’re dragging yourself through your workday. You’re dreading your exercise routines. You’re sleeping in on weekends until noon. And you’ve got a deadly craving for frosted brownies.

Worst of all, you’re writing has slowed down. Maybe you’re struggling more than you were only a few weeks ago. Maybe you’re even blocked, and you’re beating yourself up for failing to get any pages completed. Or you get really irritated any time someone mentions the word, “marketing.”

These and other symptoms could be signs you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It affects mood and overall health, but it can also affect your writing, and we all know how a bad day of writing can cast a dark cloud over everything in life.

Fortunately, there are solutions.

Winter Can Be Hard on Writers

Seasonal changes can be particularly hard on writers. Most of us are pretty sensitive and tend to be reflective, as well—both characteristics that can leave us vulnerable to a low mood on gray days.

“If you’re anything like me (and let’s hope you’re not),” writes author and professor Sarah Domet, “the long drab days of winter can often squash your desire to write. It’s hard to find anything inspired or inspiring in a grey sky.”

Maybe you’re the responsible type, and despite feeling the drag of winter, you’re working away every day at your designated writing time. But something’s not right. The words aren’t flowing. The action is dead, and the characters are boring.

“You might continue to put words on the page,” says children’s book author Tamson, “but maybe it won’t be as much fun, your ideas will not be accompanied by the usual spark or glowing light bulb and perhaps you will wonder why you are doing it. Will anyone even want to read this anyway?”

Our inner critics tend to come out in full force during gray winter days. Suddenly what looked like brilliant prose can seem flat and dull. You may feel frustrated that you’re still slogging through the middle of the story when you figured you’d be well into the end by now. Your tight plot may suddenly strike you as extremely boring. You may be tempted to throw a gruesome murder in the mix just to get your blood pumping again!

Before you make any rash decisions, consider the following seven tips. Once you’re mood improves, return to your work and see if things don’t look a little better.

  1. Get out. Sometimes we resist getting out during the winter. It’s cold, after all, and it’s natural to want to cozy up by the fire or handy space heater. A lack of sunshine is one of the key causes of SAD, however, and exposure cures it. Try to get out even on cloudy days, even if it’s only for ten minutes or so.
  2. Lighten up. Light is the key to a happy mood. You can try one of those “happy lights” that are made specifically to offset winter grayness. Here’s one at Walgreens for only about $40. Another fun idea—get the multi-colored holiday lights going around your writing area. Drape a few on the walls around you or even over the top of your desk. Getting creative with indoor lighting can help you find the spark you need to return to the page with more enthusiasm.
  3. Move. This is another thing we do less of in winter. Our natural biological systems want to curl up and nap about every other hour. We’re more likely to neglect our exercise routines. Forcing yourself won’t work, so it’s time to change it up. Find other ways to get movement into your day. Buy a pedometer and count your steps (they say 10,000 a day is optimal). Turn on the music and dance. Invest in a treadmill and walk/jog during your favorite evening television program. Try rebounding—it’s fun and really good for you. Schedule a few more skiing trips. Give yourself permission to invest in some warm-weather clothing and get out and walk. Do something you enjoy and you’re more likely to stick with it.
  4. Create in other ways. Sometimes the creative brain needs a jolt. If your writing is stalling, pick up a fun cold-weather hobby, like painting, knitting or crocheting, quilting, woodworking, drawing, sculpting, putting models or puzzles together, playing an instrument—whatever sounds fun. Leave the writing alone for a few days while you try something else, and then come back.
  5. Exercise your green thumb. Houseplants help clean toxins from the air, so they’re great for reducing indoor pollution—especially in the winter, when you’re likely to get less ventilation in your home. According to a 2011 article in Scientific American, houseplants can also improve how you think and help boost your ability to maintain attention. Particularly if you’re in front of your screen a lot, a touch of nature can be a welcome relief that boosts your mood. Find some with colorful blossoms and brighten up your space.
  6. Rearrange the furniture. If you’ve been writing in the same place the same way since you can’t remember when, try changing it up. I used to shift the furniture around in my room as a kid because I loved the way it made me feel like everything was new in the world. Even shifting the chair to the other side of the desk—where you have a new point of view—can do wonders for your mood and creativity. If you really want to get creative, paint the room a new color, get a new desk or chair, or create a small office for yourself (if you don’t have one).
  7. Write something new. If you’re feeling the drag of the winter blues, and you’re just not making progress on your current writing project, try something else. Write a poem about the weather in your area. Try a short story about a character in winter. Recall a favorite winter memory from childhood and start there. Give a snowman a voice in a children’s story. It doesn’t really matter what you do—just that you get back into the groove of writing. Remember what it feels like to create something new. That’s usually enough to give you the juice you need to return to your regular project when you’re ready.

Do you have other ways for beating the winter writer blues? Please share your tips with our readers!

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  1. Excellent points, Colleen.

    Another item you could add to your list: Take some time for yourself, and read a good book.