I have a love/hate relationship with my winter writing slump. I hate that, during the winter, the majority of my writing goes in the ‘draft’ file and never sees the light of day. I also hate that the amount of writing I produce is a fraction of what I produce during other parts of the year, which means I’m harder on myself, which means I write less, which becomes a big, ugly, unrelenting cycle of negative writing activity.
In the first flush of spring, I inevitably look back at my frustrating winter writing slump with loving eyes. I’ve always been of the opinion that everyone needs to experience downtime during the year to balance life, and I think that applies to writing time, too. Though the winter is hard and cold and inescapable (at least for those of us who don’t have the money to be jetting around to warmer climes), it does provide me with an awful lot of time to think, to reacquaint myself with anxiety, to contemplate, to keep failing (in my mind), and thus keep trying.
Today is one of the many days in the spring when all of the thinking I did during the winter is beginning to pay off. I am the sort of person who likes to carefully consider my next move in life (though I am working on that a bit — it’s crippling in some instances), and I feel I am far more confident in the writing decisions I make during the latter two-thirds of the year, after having time to gain perspective and weed out some of the truly terrible ideas I generated during the winter. I may mourn my productivity during the colder months, but it helps me to celebrate and focus during the warmer ones.
As many times as I’ve considered trying to change my winter downtime, there is a certain comfort in it, and it’s a comfort I’m not willing to give up. I balk at the idea that we should always be happy and productive — I don’t think we’re designed that way. There’s more to it than that, though. One of the best parts of having that downtime, that unproductive time, is the feeling that comes when you know everything will be just fine; when the sun starts shining and ideas come streaming from your mind to your fingers and onto blank pages, and before you know it, your wretched winter downtime is partially responsible for some gems you didn’t know you had in you.
There’s no use in saying, “Well, I could have written that months ago if it hadn’t been for my wretched winter”. The truth of the matter is that you wouldn’t have written the same thing: the time in-between the last thing you wrote and the next thing you write always informs the latter, even if that time is spent lying around watching DVDs of old TV shows on your laptop in the dark. That DVD-watching, junk-book reading, navel-gazing time is helpful — and even necessary — to your writing process. It certainly has been helpful to mine.
When I sat down to write this afternoon, I picked up my pen and my notepad and just went with what came out. I needed to focus, get the juices flowing, and get started for the day. What came out was this: that time you hate when you’re not writing? Learn to be thankful for it. The crap you do write and that no one ever sees? It’s part of the process. The darkness that descends in the winter months? Feel it, know it, and be confident that it does end. And then: take the darkness and create something from it.