Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the earth is bedding down for a long winter’s nap. The daylight hours are short, shorter, shortest, and the nights are long and cold. Bears are hibernating deep in their caves. Deciduous trees have shed their leaves. In my garden, all life has fled underground, where energy is being stored for the next season of growth.
We humans are meant to bed down, too. If we follow the wisdom of the earth, we’ll go to bed earlier, sleep a little longer, eat good soups and soothing stews. It’s a good time to let go of hard striving, and step back to consider what is, and what might be, and what we’d like to grow in the spring.
As writers, creative beings, we must have fallow times in order to produce good work. Winter reminds us that we can’t grow all the time. What does that look like?
Winter is a good time to read. A lot. The early dark and unkind weather means we’re trapped indoors. Instead of pushing to outline a new book or write another three pages today, consider reading a new book, or a lot of new books, all kinds of things, unrelated to any project that’s brewing—or maybe all related to a new project. Remember the pleasure of going to the library and bringing home a big stack of books? I don’t know about you, but I’d bring home all kinds of things, mysteries and romances and historical sagas and whatever else caught my eye. In those days, I didn’t realize books were curated by those who pronounced them good or bad, I just read. And read. And read.
What would happen if you gave yourself permission to read all winter, the way you used to read when you were a kid? Don’t read what you think you should–read whatever you want. Every evening, in a chair and then in bed, maybe in the bathtub in between. What would that do for your nerves?
What might all that reading do for your writing?
Another thing you might consider is—seriously—getting more sleep. Maybe move up your bedtime by an hour, incrementally. See how it feels. Often, we’re staying up to fill some imagined need to cram more into the day, but usually, it’s just a lot more nothing. YouTube or Facebook (guilty) or binge-watching something. What if you just gave it up and slept instead, like a hibernating bear, giving your body and your soul some downtime? Sleep gives your brain a chance to scrub the floors, organize the bits and pieces of everything you’ve gathered, work on the sticky plot points that have been bothering you. It also gives your body a chance to repair broken points, heal some tears and take out the trash collecting in this spot or that before it turns into something serious. [Read more…]