When You’re Stuck in Mid-Winter

I think I have mid-winter brain. 

Never mind that I like winter most of the time. I am still susceptible to hunkering down so much I get lazy and sluggish. My energy has almost disappeared. It’s work to put on coat and boots and go anywhere. 

Tuesday was a good example. An enormous full moon set early in the morning. The sun shone all day long, bringing the temperature back above zero. The snow sparkled. Chairs in front of windows were warmed by that sun. It was, in short, a glorious winter day. My mind should have chugged along creating poems, editing work, producing a blog post full of insight. 

But no. I wanted to do nothing. I managed to do yoga, play the guitar, read, answer an author about themed calls for submission, take the dog outside. No ideas for creative work would unfold, no matter how I mucked around in those ideas. I even produced a list of things I’m obsessed with (owls, the moon, dogs, light, popcorn at the movies, fog, NYC, fireplaces, scent, coffee, black and white photographs…..and more) which did little except to look familiar. I took my laptop to a different spot to work, where I was right in front of a window. I listened to different music. 

I quit when I realized I was still getting nowhere. 

And then it occurred to me that I have not filled the well recently. In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron talks about filling the well on a regular basis: putting back the energy that gets depleted by creative work. She recommends artist dates with oneself, taking the time to go see an art show, go to a reading or a concert, or something else that looks like fun, alone so that there aren’t anyone else’s expectations to accommodate. Another option for an artist date is to make something: a collage, a painting, something sewn from scratch. Color a picture. Play. But, again, do it alone. This is supposed to be time to take care of the self, to refill that which has been drawn down.

Can’t remember the last time I did that. And I’ve worked through The Artist’s Way three times. I know better.

But I seldom think of artistic playtime alone anymore. Running a poetry journal and working on collaborative projects seems like it should keep me going just fine. But anything can become routine and that’s the death knell for creative work. In the depths of winter, routine is not the comfort it might be at other times. It is the beast that nudges us to buy plane tickets to the nearest warm place that doesn’t look like home.

But I’m not going to buy plane tickets. I’m going to charge up my camera, shoot some photos – preferably outside, make a collage. See how I can see things differently. Shake up my vision, my perception, my head. No, it won’t get posted here. It’s going to be just for me. 

Revisiting the basic tools for a creative life sounds like a good way to remind myself why I have shaped this kind of path.

Playtime sounds even better.

And you? How do you shake up your routine and inject some new perspective into whatever work you do? Let’s have a conversation.

images courtesy of pixabay.com


  1. I haven’t had the snow here tapping or maybe the better word would be sapping my blog energy. But, recently it has happened. I took an afternoon last week and just cut paper and sorted my collection of scrapbook items. It had a very calming effect. Just taking a week off from the blog put me in a more creative mood. I think we all need change in the routine from time to time to keep us going. Thanks for posting something that made me think.


    1. I’m glad this post made you think. And I see a distinction between artist dates and other kinds of recharging; I often use dog walks to recharge but that’s not the same as the idea of filling the well for creative work. I was thinking about all this early this morning again as I was out for – yes, you guessed it – a walk. In the snow. Which is coming down at an inch per hour right now!


  2. You are really making me think here this morning through this endless snow, this winter fatigue. I need a drive in the country, to somehow appreciate this winter. Not today, though. Maybe this weekend. Oh, yeah, that’s right. It’s supposed to snow.

    I wrote several poems this week, something I have not done in awhile. And making valentines with my granddaughter recently reignited the hands-on creative side of me.


    1. Glad to have given you something to ponder today as we pile up snow. This is the first year in quite a while I’ve been kind of worried about removing all the snow from our driveway and I think that’s probably part of my own mid-winter brain. Still haven’t replaced our balky snowblower! Just went to the mailbox and the snow was almost to my knees. Yikes. Anyway, I’m making plans for this afternoon to play with collage. My Valentine painting with granddaughter Camille was fun, but it’s not like doing it by myself with no concerns for anything but my own ideas. 🙂


  3. We get the cold and wind, you get the snow. Seems fair.
    Filling the well is definitely important. You have so many ways to do it there, reading, seeing performances, taking in art and nature that isn’t trying to kill you. Making something is most certainly a way I use to get out of the rut. The act of creating something other than writing seems to jump start the brain. Hence all my ‘hobbies’. It also helps when I weave, doing a hands on, meditative thing that soothes the brain and leaves me ready to do more when I finish. (Did I really say I would finish a project? And do you believe me?)


    1. Heh! Sure I believe you! I’ve long thought you live in the perfect place for some stunning photography. I would miss the city for sure if I
      lived in Wyoming, but you’ve gathered some really lovely hobbies that allow you to create beautiful work.


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