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?