How to Stay Productive in the Season of Little Motivation
As the cold settles in for good (or, at least until spring) it’s time to accept that we will be facing snow and uncomfortably chilly temperatures for an unfortunately long length of time before the sun and warmth return. I know, it’s an absolute drag. I think most people in Buffalo can say that their gloomiest months are in the winter. The sun is hiding most of the time, and when it’s not, it’s reflecting off the pure white snow, causing a miserable pain in your forehead as you glance at it. You spend a half hour or more every morning brushing off your car and shoveling your driveway just to get to work, when you’d rather just stay home in the first place.
But the snow has hardly begun, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Artists, let’s look at this winter as an opportunity. Even for those of us who do work, we still will be spending more of our time indoors, which means we will have more time to rev up those creative juices and work on our art. Of course, this is easier said than done, as winter tends to take away more of our energy, and set most of the city into a collective gloominess. With the help of some artistic friends— novelists, poets, painters, creators—I’ve come up with the ultimate list for keeping you creative and productive in this season of little motivation:
- Take your vitamins! When you’re working up all those creative ideas, your first priority should still be your health. It’s a pretty well recognized fact that Buffalonians lack Vitamin D, particularly in the winter, because frankly, there isn’t much sun in winter. The B vitamins will also help your keep up your energy. Omega 3 Fatty acids also lower your risk of depression (and let’s face it, artists, we haven’t had the best reputation with depression). Vitamin C helps boost your immunity, which will be challenged in cold and flu season as you will probably get less sleep and burn the candle at both ends. While you’re at it, see if you can find a multivitamin that contains most of these and get it all taken care of at once!
- Get your sleep! While many people deprive themselves of sleep to get more creative work done, this is not good for you in the long run. Lack of sleep impairs your memory and ability to concentrate, and will drag down your energy over time. Getting enough sleep will help you feel up to creating that brilliant painting or novel you’re working on.
- Find a hot beverage to keep you toasty. If coffee keeps you alert, then drink coffee. However, it does dehydrate you so make sure to drink plenty of water, and don’t substitute coffee for sleep (I know, easy enough for me to say). If you don’t like coffee, then find a nice herbal tea, mulled cider, or hot chocolate. Sip it as you keep your insides warm to practice that dance number or spoken word poem.
- If your art allows it, get some fingerless gloves. They’ll keep your hands warm while still giving you the mobility to create! These are particularly nice for people who do a great deal of typing or handling a paint brush.
- Create a warm, creative space. Though you should have this anyway, it’s especially comforting in winter to have an area set aside with all of your materials, limited distractions, some music, and a warm sweater or two. Any place you can find where you’re not thinking about what’s on television will be one step further in keeping you focused.
- Stay active. Even just 30 minutes a day of some sort of physical activity will speed up your metabolism and give you more energy in the long run. It’s easy to lay back in the winter and turn into a blob, but this will only drag you down and pull you towards procrastination.
- Set aside creative time every day. This is another thing you should be doing anyways, but it helps to remember every day to do something productive, even if it’s only for ten minutes a day. An hour would be even better. This way, you get yourself into a routine, and it just becomes a part of your day. You may not produce something fantastic every time, but the collective amount of work accomplished will eventually lead to something great you wouldn’t have come up with keeping a sporadic, uneven schedule.
- Experience the art of others to help enhance your own. If you’re a painter, go to a local exhibit. If you act, go to a local theatre production (note that these are both indoor activities). Seeing other works of art in your field of creative expertise will give you inspiration as well as remind you why you do what you do. It will also hopefully train you to increase the quality of your own work. If the acting in the play you saw was terrible, you will understand why, and learn from the experience. If the acting was well done and entertaining, then you need to figure out why, so your performance will be just as good, or better. Better yet, go experience a kind of art that is different from your own, so you can expand your own horizons, and try to think creatively in a way you don’t normally do. You may find ideas you would never have had otherwise.
- Spend time with other creative people. Even if they don’t make the same kind of art as you, they still are looking for new ideas and inspiration, just like you. And likely, they may be feeling as unmotivated as you. You can talk to them about what you’re working on, but, more importantly, talk about how it feels once you’ve finished a project, or what you like about the artists you admire. After your break hanging out with other artists, you’ll be more likely to want to get to work as soon as you get home.
- Set goals. According to Rebecca Wrobel, novelist, “Even if it’s just ‘I will write 100 words today’…often you end up writing more because it’s kind of like a faucet – once you start it, you have to physically turn it off —so it works really well. It’s tricking yourself into doing something that you feel you don’t want to do, but that you really do want deep down.”
- “Embrace the melancholy of the Buffalo weather.” Poet Connor Walters says, “Wallace Stevens wrote that ‘one must have a mind of winter’ to not see the season as depressing, a darkly humorous suggestion that those of us inclined to prefer the season are sad or lonely people—he referred to this type of person as the poem’s titular ‘Snow Man.’ So you find your inner snow man and tap into what the season makes you feel—if that happens to be a certain loneliness, no artist has ever been called too sensitive.”
- Enjoy the indoors and learn something new. “Since we can’t travel as easily, this is a great time for mental expansion.” Writer Ailsa Forlenza says. “Pursue a class that’s outside of your comfort zone, or pick a challenging book to dig into.”
- Listen to music. “Listen to classical music or instrumental music in general. Go on a drive and turn it up or get comfortable at home and almost meditate/ let yourself relax,” Alyssa Pepe, media producer, says. “Sometimes the ideas come to me in minutes, sometimes longer. When you’re focusing on the flow of the music, suddenly ideas form. Closing your eyes especially helps this. So, don’t go on a driving adventure when you do that!”
- “Watch your words,” Ailsa Forlenza says. “It’s super easy to become negative in the winter, because, well, driving in the snow is ridiculous. Try to practice mindfulness when it comes to your speech, and eliminate negative chatter and gossip. If you’re not going to say anything supportive, hold back.”
- Take note of the moment you’re in. “Being conscious and living in the moment, and taking the time to see your usual surroundings in a new perspective can add beauty or otherwise, which can be inspiring for creativity,” Bethany Dudek, writer/photographer/designer, says. “Sometimes taking the time to focus on emotions and honing in on feelings can help drive creativity or act as a voice or provoke thought to write, draw, etc…”
- Remember to keep life interesting. “It’s definitely about shaking it up,” Emily Wu, painter/sculptor/musician, says. “Taking the time to encapsulate your ideas during the summer while they’re fresh, and breaking out of your routine/comfort during the winter to return to that fresh perspective. Certain things can trigger states of being that you’ve experienced through association…songs you listened to while you were inspired, or art, writing, etc. can transport you back to that time and make you excited again.”
- Lastly, Take breaks! Just don’t start a break and never go back. Stop in the middle of a task—a sentence, a brushstroke—so you feel compelled to finish it when you go back.
Hopefully with these tips and your own personal creative spirit, you can utilize the great indoors of winter to make your next masterpiece. Now, get to work!
Do you have your own methods? Be sure to comment down below to share!
Feature photo from niagararegion.ca.