joy & moxie

In Progress

Creative Winter

I bought this oxalis shamrock about three years ago. It keeps growing despite its age and regardless of the season. It’s happy in the eastern window of my apartment, basking in the morning sun. I don’t have the greatest track record with houseplants. I have one living jade, two oxalis, one croton. I’ve killed more English ivies, poinsettias, amaryllises and schefflera than I care to admit. But these… these bring me much joy for their heartiness.

These flowers are heartening for me in this creative fallow period; it’s so good to see something bright and thriving when there are five inches of snow on the ground and the mercury barely climbs above 10 degrees. This plant (“heedless of the wind and weather”) sits there in the light, even when a draft from old windows rustles its leaves. Meanwhile, I sit here at my desk, pondering life without the crafting of a novel to structure to the day. This plant, I think, is doing more than I am. And that’s okay.

I finished the novel a month ago, and while I anticipate some revisions, I am not working on anything now. I’ve begun a blurb, which I hope to reduce down for a query, but it is not the focus of my whole being. Some of that is fear. Some of it is plain exhaustion from other quarters. Much of it is that I’m just not ready to dig into the art of query-letter writing at the moment, and I don’t want to have to bully myself into it. It’s hard to write anything when you’re a bully to yourself.

It’s also hard to write anything new that way. Many writers will say “Start on something new right away,” but I’m not there yet. And honestly? I don’t even know where to start. It’s been six years since I started anything new or anything with the potential to be a full novel. All the old proto-stories and ideas seem dull to me. I have lovely ideas once in a while, but they’re fleeting like will o’ the wisp, and I forget about them as easily as conjure them up. I’m simply not ready. My heart is too wrapped up in the novel and those characters and the idea of revisions and queries, so the only possible thing that keeps my creative mind awake is whispers of a sequel. For now, it’s just play – daydreams and sketches. That’s all I have energy for. That and binge-watching The Office and re-re-reading Harry Potter.

It is creative winter. It is the art of being still while the snow piles up and you dig your roots deeper into the soil, curling up in the warmth, hibernation and the dreams that flow into it. A winter with good snow makes for a well-watered, nourished spring, and a summer of flourishing. Unlike the actual seasons, I don’t know how long my winter is going to last. My hope is that if I respect it, allow the field to lie fallow and the soil to become fertile again, spring will come. Something will start growing there as the snow melts. It’s not something I can force. It’s something I have to embrace, an opportunity to play and rearrange the furniture. And that works for me.

That’s the key, I think, to harnessing creative energy, embracing what works best for me. I spend too much time comparing myself to other writers. And that’s not going to get me very far this year. No two writing paths are alike. The length and temperament of the seasons are different for each one. It might as well be looking over at the next planet. So: no to comparisons, yes to enjoying the quiet of this winter.

And finishing Harry Potter through again. 😉


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