Winter No More! On Creative Productivity and Surviving Winter

The view outside our Make It Work workshop.

The view outside our Make It Work workshop.

The days might be getting longer, and the air outside might be getting warmer, but I have a hard time putting behind me the crankiness that accompanies frigid weather. This winter rolled around with the same unwelcome bitterness that I am used to each year. As you may have guessed, I don’t deal well with the cold months. Unfortunately for winter-curmudgeons such as myself, if you live in South-Western Ontario, those months can last anywhere from October to April and beyond (yes, beyond).

I live for the warmth of late summer to early fall, and the quiet optimism of the first months of spring. But because I like where I live, and because I wanted to find a different way of not just surviving butthriving in these months, I knew I had to have a plan and start approaching it all differently.

I began to pay attention to my energy and responses to the changing weather. For a while now, I’ve been dreaming of carving out time to properly work on personal projects – writing, drawing, and other creative pursuits. Typically the energy and inspiration to create comes in spurts, but I wanted to hold on to that seed of hope just a little bit longer this time. Could I somehow channel this creative energy to survive the reclusive months of winter?

With this question an experiment was born at the start of this past winter, and one that is still ongoing – a restless pursuit to channel the dreaded feelings that can accompany the cold into a time of creative productivity and focused awareness. I eventually found that feeding this restless part equated to a deeper sense of curiosity and wonder. Consequently, I became at least a little more productive, understanding and present, not to mention better able to practice self-care (I'm still learning).

I started with facing practical truths – I wasn’t going to get anywhere in this experiment without taking care of my health first. When I felt good, I would work out. When I felt under the weather, I would just practice yoga, or sleep as I needed to. I tried to make it a point to not feel guilty about resting as much as my body needed, and only made exceptions if deadlines absolutely had to be met, or if there were personal responsibilities that absolutely had to be addressed.

None of us live in a vacuum, so I also started paying closer attention to my community. I nurtured relationships that were inspiring, and most importantly, were based on trust and respect. I spent time and got to better know and appreciate some incredibly honest, courageous and generous people. Culture Leap sessions were helpful – I got together with like-minded peeps, each with a secret stash of dreams and passions of their own. The sessions helped me recognize the importance of valuing (and setting aside) the time and energy it takes to execute projects, especially with a full work schedule, and different barriers and responsibilities.

I made it a point to not only avoid the urge to hibernate, but to do the exact opposite. Earlier last year I ventured out by myself to parties or events where I didn't know anyone, and I tried that again with the ushering of a new year this winter, terrifying social anxiety be damned. I embraced opportunities when I wasn’t completely tired or feeling defeated to meet new people and properly hear out their stories. When I say hear out their stories, I mean really hear it out – shut up and actively listen to the person in front of me. Sometimes these would turn out to be chance encounters, special in their own transience, but other times, I would manage to make a connection that lasted beyond the moment.

I sought out inspirations across all cultural mediums, but especially in music. I listened to old-school jams that I’ve relied on for good ol’ motivation, but I also paid attention to musicians that would help me focus on the odd, whimsical magic of winter, like the likes of of Sigur Rós. I remember walking to a friend’s house on the coldest day of winter this year, wind blasting so hard that street signs were creaking and bending, snow cascading in dizzy clusters from above, while listening to Hoppípolla. The biting cold might have been a pain, but the overall experience was remarkably beautiful.

So where did all of that leave me? I don’t have any easy answers on how to cope with winter, how to cope with low energy and spirits, or how to be a productive-creativity-superhero. But so far, I’ve been able to cope with the onset of the cold and all that it brings better than most years. I began to better understand how to stimulate productivity in self-imposed projects, where there were no external pressures and only self-motivation to nudge me to keep at them. I started to value and celebrate trying as conquering, instead of seeking perfection (and freaking out when I’m nowhere close to perfection). I settled into a somewhat consistent routine that helped me get better at breaking up my time into segments that were manageable.

Stay tuned as I continue to experiment with different methods to build creative productivity! I'll try to post updates here on the blog.


This post was also published on Three Little Sparrows, a lifestyle blog based out of Boston, Toronto, and Calgary.