Fighting the winter writing blues

Ah, the charms of a PNW winter: right about this time of year, people who hold a day job droop visibly, as we are rapidly approaching the point where they are going to work AND coming home in the dark. It can be depressing, making getting out of bed feel like an outright burden.

Yes, the gloriously long days of summer do compensate for the blahs of a local winter, but that’s awfully hard to remember in mid-November, isn’t it? Just try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and — well, admittedly, the grass does stay pretty green around here all winter, but still, you know the song. My point is, back in September, you could get off work and still SEE that the grass was green without whipping out a pocket flashlight.

Remember, Seattle is where those clever doctors DISCOVERED seasonal affective disorder. It really isn’t just you — or me, for that matter. We who live far north need to take better care of ourselves in the winter.

The late dawns and early dusks are particularly hard on writers, I think. No matter whether you get up early or stay up late to snatch your precious daily writing time, the fast-waning winter light is bound to alter your schedule a little. I write and edit full-time, so I am spared the pain of the pitch-dark commute, but let me tell you, when I look up from my computer and notice that I have only an hour of daylight left, I practically have to lash myself to my desk chair to keep myself at work.

Fortunately, I now have a tool that makes seasonal adjustment easier: the full-spectrum light bulb. Yes, they are a bit more expensive than your average light bulb, but they do undoubtedly help fight local November-December blahs — they really are worth the investment. Write ’em off as a writing expense; most writers do find that they are more productive in the winter months with adequate lighting. And if you use them strategically, you need not spend a fortune to improve your mood.

If you can’t beat the seasonal blues, join ’em — and get them to help you keep your good writing habit resolutions. Okay, I’m about to share a trick of the full-time writing trade, one of those professional secrets that you always suspected the published shared with one another in furtive whispers: in the winter months, have your writing space be the ONLY room in the house equipped with full-spectrum lighting, and plenty of it. Make it blaze.

“That’s it?” I hear you cry in frustration. “Light my studio differently from the rest of the house?”

Yes, oh scoffers, that is what I said. Do it, and make sure you spend at least an hour per day in the room for the first week with the new lighting. (Ideally, you should be writing while you’re there, of course.) It does not take very long to inculcate the habit in your psyche. Soon, you will find that your body actually CRAVES being in your writing space. You (and, most likely, any pet animals that you own) will automatically gravitate there.

Nifty trick, eh?

That is my tip du jour, my friends. Keep up the good work!

– Anne Mini

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