My mum never did well with the dark days of winter–how she grew up in snow country without a suicide or a homicide (far more fitting for her moods), I’ve no idea. Grams E. never did particularly well with short winter days, and this may be why most of our family Christmas cookies require vast amounts of chocolate. Oh, tidings of joy….or at least of theobroa cacao. And the shorter dark days got me thinking about the whole depression, discouragement thing that writers are prone to.
Maybe it’s artistic sensitivity. Maybe it’s just that lack of chocolate, or sunlight to create enough chemical balance to keep your head on straight. Or maybe it’s because we work solo so very, very much. Writing is isolating–it just is. You live in your head, because that’s where the story is, and dragging it out of the darkness to any kind of light is a masochistic process at best that most folks are wise to avoid. It’s no wonder we procrastinate. Avoidance, thy name is writer (or not-writer, more like would-be writer). And I understand why folks stop writing, and take up just about anything else for a hobby. But I suspect writers are not alone with this problem–creativity tends to happen in the head, and then it forces itself out in various forms. Flowers bud, then bloom. Folks do the same some way, some how–and, yes, a clean house can be a creative expression, but it’s also one that’s socially approved, and you get admiration for it (no one every says, oh, gee, you know if you’d only dusted from left to the right, instead of right to the left, I think this would have a much better impact and really convey the essence of your cleaning far better).
So this brings me back to how the hell do you cope with dark days–metaphorical or real ones–and the trick is to cope in ways that still leave you working (or able to–chocolate comas are not pretty things, and come from the Greek koma for deep sleep, so too much of that cure and you end up useless as a lotus eater). For me, exercise helps, and thank god for horses, because riding in the winter in So. Cal. where we don’t have the snow, just fresh icy morns, is great, but I’ve been out of the saddle a couple of years and it so shows–happens every damn time, I stop riding, and put on twenty pounds, at least. Meaning I need to get my ass back to some kind of dance class–very important in winter. Or at least get back to yoga or something that will take not too much time and keep the endorphins pinging. Gardening only does so much for me in the winter. And at least the dogs need and get their walks–they don’t put up with excuses, good animals that they are. There is also much therapy in that house cleaning, and praise, and the only thing I have to be careful with is that it doesn’t become an avoidance mechanism for not-writing.
But I think what’s stood me best in dealing with the dark days is to get angry (or at least strongly annoyed), instead of depressed or discouraged. Anger–thank everything–can get you moving. Get pissed off enough and you either want to prove the bastards wrong, or you buckle down and have to put that red hot glow inside to use. It’s not a bad tool to get really ticked off at someone’s bad advice, or stupid critiques, or (god help us all) well meaning advice that doesn’t mean spit. A little fire in the belly is not a bad thing for the dark days–keeps one warm and moving. And if you can keep going, the days do get longer again, the warmth outside comes back. That’s the hard part, really–hanging in there long enough to get there. So here’s to a healthy dose of arrogance self-assurance, and sheer bloody-mindedness to get us all through the dark days.