If your decision in 2019 was to finish that creative project or write that book of yours, it’s almost a universal given that, come mid-January, your enthusiasm will wane. Sadly, many of our fervent declarations fall down a rung or two on the ladder of our priorities this time of year. Truth is, when it’s cold and dark outside, it’s hard to stay motivated.
Winter weather can wreak havoc on those who have seasonal affective disorder; it’s no wonder that the acronym spells SAD. Imagine, for a moment, being a creative person—an artist or a writer—with aspirations to write or make art in 2019. Everything dies in winter, and, if you’re trying to create magic in those conditions, you’re up against what can feel like kraken-sized resistance that comes around at the same time, every single year.
You get off work, and slog through slush and mud on your way home. Perhaps your teeth chatter and your fingers just can’t get quite warm enough in your jacket pockets. Once you’re home, though, you change into comfy clothes, defrost your extremities in front of the heater, and turn on Netflix to binge-watch The Handmaid’s Tale until bedtime while you eat leftovers. Every now and then, you catch a glimpse of your printed-out, half-finished novel in your peripheral vision, but what can you do? The weight of winter has crushed your creative spirit, and it usually doesn’t return until spring. Maybe you’ll feel like being creative then. Yes, that’ll have to do, you tell yourself.
“Everything dies in winter, and, if you’re trying to create magic in those conditions, you’re up against what can feel like kraken-sized resistance that comes around at the same time, every single year.”
If this loop plays in your head every winter—and especially now—here is a list of the top five ways we’ve found can keep your creative light bright during the coldest, darkest time of year:
- Try something unusual to shake things up with your art/creative project. Be an art-disruptor. If you normally write prose, try to make something visual, write a poem, or make a collage. Get outside of your creative-artist-writer box, and create the conditions for your brain to make new connections and to be excited.
- Schedule your work and a reward on your calendar. Every time you complete a session with your art—be it writing, sculpting, photography, or something else—do something fun to treat yourself. The key here is to make your creative work as important as any appointment, but also to have something fun to do immediately afterwards, whether that’s a mini dance party in your living room or treating yourself to that new flavored latte at your local coffee shop. You’ll have TWO things to be excited about: having followed through on your artist date, and the fun treat that’s the reward for the day’s work.
- Exercise. This may seem unrelated to your project, but it’s not. Exercise is always important, but especially in winter when it’s so easy to slip into an emotional maelstrom. Moving your body creates happy hormones, and, like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde says, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” I’ll add: happy people are more likely to stick to their creative projects, too.
- Create mini milestones for your project—and, along the way, celebrate those wins so you keep going. Whether you keep track of the number of chapters written, a word count, or a streak of how many days in a row you sat down to work on your project, celebrating little wins not only creates momentum for your project, but it lets your heart and mind know you’re making progress. Momentum and progress are key to a continued sense of connection to our creative projects.
- Get a partner. Humans are not designed to work best in isolation, despite what your favorite introverted friends might espouse. And being held accountable doesn’t always feel like the right (or most pleasant) approach when we need support for our creative efforts. Research shows that creative partnering—rather than policing—generates much more connectivity and receptivity for both people, and is known to help keep you motivated on days when you just want to pull the shades and open up Netflix again. Just think: you’d also have a built-in friend to celebrate getting to the halfway point in your manuscript. #winwin
It’s far too easy to fall out of step with our creative goals during the winter months, and many of us know this pain on a deep level. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but rather it’s a plan with the best ideas to help you stay focused on your creative goals this year. Because, according to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
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