Winter is coming. Let’s write.
Sometimes, I miss being a mouse. I miss it most around this time of year, as autumn begins to wane and small, furry animals scurry about, expending a final burst of energy before their long, winter’s sleep. Watching them stash their acorns and other treasures reminds me of winter afternoons holed up in the makeshift burrow at the foot of my childhood bed.
There was a narrow space between my bed and the floor-to-ceiling bookcase that housed not only my books, but also my large (and meticulously organized) collection of Breyer and other horse figurines. It was just wide enough to accommodate me, and I would often transform it into my own, little hideaway. With a pile of blankets and pillows beneath me as a nest, and the large cutting board my mom used for her sewing above me as a roof, I would retreat into my hibernation den with a Ziploc bag full of cheerios, my sketch book, journal, and pencils. Since my mouse house was built alongside the bookcase, I already had a built-in library, and – since the heating grate was conveniently situated at the foot of my bed – I also had a source of toasty warmth. It was the perfect retreat from the world.
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Living in New England, winter has always been to me a time to hunker down in the cozy warmth of home. I am happiest when curled up on the couch under blankets with a steaming mug of tea and a good book. Even the chores of winter – hauling and stacking firewood (a chore I sadly no longer have since our new abode does not have a fireplace … yet), making soup, baking bread, even shoveling snow – make me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Winter is the time to gather around the hearth and tell tales. It is the season of the storyteller, the keeper of myths and histories. It has also always been, for me, the season of the writer. It’s as if we must keep the balance – spinning new tales as the old ones are spent around the flickering light of the fire.
Winter’s descent into darkness is like journeying into the underworld – a place of foreboding and yet also a place of rest, rejuvenation, and – ultimately – creation and rebirth. Though today’s technology and modern lifestyle try to drown out the rhythms of the seasons, if you listen closely you can still hear winter’s invitation to slow down and nestle into the comforts and creativity of your own, small world.
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Despite the howling of its storms, winter is a time of deep quiet. Even before the snow flies, the stillness begins to creep in as many of the region’s birds take to the skies in search of warmer climes, and the crickets and cicadas turn in for the year. Even the trees cease their endless whispering as their leaves fall to the ground to rustle quietly like the fading echoes of long ago conversations. And with the remnants of their foliage raiments scattered at their feet, the trees stand tall and naked, silently revealed truths silhouetted against the sky.
And then the snowflakes blanket the world in a white hush that glitters like fallen stars, bringing not only quiet, but also the possibility of magic. I remember walking through snowy woods as a child, feeling like a character in one of my beloved fairytales. Transformed by winter’s artistry, the forest seemed a foreign place full of mystery. Stories called to me from the shadowy spaces under snow-laden fir trees and from around the corners in once familiar paths. My heart ran wild with the silver deer of my imagination, their jeweled antlers shining darkly against the newly white world.
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More than any other season, winter still holds this sense of magic and “otherness” for me. Despite the whirlwind of the holidays and the ceaselessly churning world of business, winter manages to provide a much-needed respite from the usual grind. And it is in these spaces between storms that I find I am most inspired to write. The transformation of the world under its layer of icy frosting invites me to step outside my usual routines and thoughts into a many-storied world of endless possibilities. The quiet clears my head, replacing the din of distractions with a contemplative space that invites introspection. The cold and snow make it easy to hide away from the rest of the world, snuggled into a pocket of personal creativity where I am warmed as much by my imagination as I am by my hot tea.
Winter strikes a sharp contrast between comfort and survival. It strips the world bare, leaving us exposed to our own frailties, but it also heightens our appreciation of the simple pleasures of hearth and home. Let the storm rage, I say. We have stories to tell.
I have been listening to Brene Brown’s book, The Power of Vulnerability on Audible. It’s the first of her books that I’ve read, despite the fact that friends have been raving about her for years. Now I know why.
Brown calls herself a “researcher/storyteller.” She began her work studying shame, a topic that didn’t earn her any popularity points on the speaking circuit, but eventually realized that what she was really studying was vulnerability. Though her work does not deal comprehensively or exclusively with creativity, it includes some important revelations about the importance of play, rest, and creative endeavors, and it also dives fearlessly into a deep exploration of the feelings, beliefs, and behaviors that keep us from living “whole heartedly.”
The audio, featuring Brown, was recorded at a live workshop. Though the topic is heavy and complex, Browns’s down-to-earth delivery is as entertaining and humorous as it is enlightening. For a taste of her work (and her style), you might take twenty minutes to watch her 2010 TEDTalk:
I have a feeling I will eventually share more thoughts about how Brown’s work intersects with our creative urges and courage, but – for now – I’ll just leave you with a heartfelt recommendation for this book. I’m already trying to decide which of her other books to read next!
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- Why You Should Make Building Community a Priority in Your Blogging by @ProBlogger
- The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers (And How They Can Help You Succeed) by @james_clear
- Here’s What Kurt Vonnegut Can Teach You About Life by @maddiecrum
- Writers, we need to stop saying this by @JH_Moncrieff
- The Basics of Point of View for Fiction Writers by @JaneFriedman
- 3 Essential Ingredients to Creative Success by @DanBlank via @WriterUnboxed
- What It Takes: Instinct and Intelligence by Shawn Coyne via @SPressfield
Finally, a quote for the week:
In the wake of the nightmarish news coming in from Paris and other places around the world, the pursuit of art can feel small and unimportant; but art is necessary. It is an outlet for our pain and fears. It helps us connect with others and with our own feelings. It reminds us that there is good and hope and beauty in the world, even when life seem full of cruelty and darkness. My heart goes out to the people of Paris, and to everyone around the world who suffers. None of us can single-handedly save the world, but each of us can engage in small acts of kindness, and – just as importantly – continue to create the art that only we can create. The world needs it.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.