SIMPLE RITUALS

by | Oct 2, 2021 | The Writer's Life, Tosca Lee | 10 comments

By Tosca Lee

I get twitchy in the fall. 

As minutes of daylight seep from the end of each day, the old restless anxiety creeps in. I know those dark, early evenings are on their way. And, here in the Midwest, the cold comes with it.

Don’t get me wrong—I love winter holidays. It’s just that autumnal shoulder season that eats my lunch in between. 

A born night owl (before becoming an insta-mom to three of four kids still at home, turning 50, and menopause), I’ve studied and then worked most of my into the wee hours—sometimes until dawn. Which meant sleeping past noon and five hours of sunlight or less in the dead of winter.

It felt hard to want to work, but living deadline to deadline, I couldn’t afford not to write, and love racking up word counts—or trying to—through National Novel Writing Month in November.

These days, I make peace with the changing seasons. I put on ambient music. Throw onion and herbs into a pot with the bones of a rotisserie chicken I’ve kept in the freezer, or start what inevitably becomes a giant cauldron of chili I can add secret ingredients to (chocolate, coffee, or smoked paprika) throughout the day. I know it’s time to work when soup’s simmering on the stove, or happily bubbling in the crockpot as a flame dances on the wick of a pumpkin spice candle. 

Once I hit January, it’s all downhill from there. I get more golden as the days lengthen and the trees outside my window start to green. When the birds start singing well before dawn and the cicadas come out at night.

I teach about writing a lot. I probably don’t talk often enough about writing through challenges like Seasonal Affective Disorder, a pending anxiety attack, while caring for aging parents, a sick partner, going through a divorce, or in the midst of a pandemic with the kids home and the house torn up for renovation and during plain old burnout. But what I always encourage writers to do is know exactly how they work best (in a writing group or alone, with an outline or no road map at all, counting words or letting them fly, in the evening or the morning, under deadline pressure at a desk or daydreaming in bed). And that includes those rituals and simple practices that afford moments of grace, peace, and creative serenity. Whether it’s the olfactory joy of baking bread, the auditory cue of rain sounds through headphones, or an invigorating walk.  

What are some of your favorite practices to entice creativity during less-than-ideal seasons, situations, or the noise of everyday life?

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10 Comments

  1. Colleen B. McChesney

    I know exactly how you’re feelings. I find it extremely harder during the three to four months of the year when it is back to standard time instead of Daylight Saving Time. I too love 💕 the holidays, cooking & baking, daily journaling & painting. Some days it’s a struggle but most days it’s good. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Jenny

    I love fall too. But do sometimes feel melancholy about it knowing long cold winter is coming. I try to plan things fun for the future to look forward to. And I do chores and errands so that I can check things off my list and feel accomplished.

  3. Dixie Pearson

    Autumn is a feast for the soul with its colors, scents and daily surprises, even with the dark, chill days of winter lurking in the shadows. It promises a time of looking inward, to creating new worlds and adventures for ourselves and for those who, hopefully will want to travel with us.It’s the lighting of the first fires, flickering, fragrant candles, and snuggling on the couch with that special someone who will encourage all that we are.

  4. Julie

    I struggle with the darkness, so I cover our house in lights. Twinkle lights line the mantle, globe lights frame the windows, delicate lights intermix with the tablescapes, and patio lights are on timers both in the backyard and front porch. Between light and forcing myself to walk outside every, single day to clear my head, my creative side may dim, but doesn’t go out. Cheers to lighter days!

  5. Karna Small Bodman

    As we get through Fall and anticipate a cold, dark winter (in some parts of the country that is), I feel very fortunate to be able to spend the winter months in Florida where it’s wonderful to look out at shimmering water and feel inspired to write. In fact, there are tons of great writers who live in Florida and produce bestselling books — must be “something in the water.”

  6. Lisa Black

    I always loved fall (when I lived in Ohio), the changing leaves, my birthday month, and I was one of those kids that got secretly excited about going back to school. But when I worked at the coroner’s office I swore that *everyone* gets antsy in September. We’d have more homicides that month than most any other month (February wasn’t great either). I say it’s because we all had to go back to school in September so we get to that month and our bodies feel Iike something should be happening.
    And if anyone has a formula for prompting creativity during antsy times, please let me know!

  7. Chris Goff

    I love the fall, but I sure could use some ideas for sparking the creative juices. I write best in the morning, but right now my mornings are full. I need to find a way to switch the clock–get up earlier?–or perhaps come up with a time I dedicate to working on the novel-in-progress with a ritual that spurs me to action.

  8. Gayle Lynds

    You brought back so many memories, Tosca, of writing with kids while supporting the family. Now I smile a lot about it, amazed that all of us got through it and I have books that I wrote that I love. Writers are lucky that way, I think. We do get to figure out what works best for us, and at least in my case, too, working 14-hour shifts was it. Immersion, and look forward to the dawn!

  9. Sarah Awa

    I really relate to this! I love to stay up late and write in the peace and quiet. And SAD is a real struggle. At least now I have running a company on top of writing my next book to keep me busy, and I definitely listen to peppy music when I’m getting ready to start my day. . . . But I think smelling food while I work would be too distracting and make me very hungry! (: