Long Dark Nights: How the Magic of the Winter Solstice Serves Writers and Artists

I used to dread winter coming. I grew up in Michigan, a very cold and snowy place during the winter. So when the days started getting shorter in the fall I knew subzero temperatures and life-threatening patches of black ice were on the way. Then I moved to California and I didn’t have to fear the snow and ice anymore. But my dread of winter stayed with me. There was just something about it getting dark so early in the afternoon that depressed me. I felt this need to withdraw and retreat until spring showed up again.

I also noticed that my writing output seemed to suffer during the end of December, but I blamed it on the holiday madness that erupts every year. I was too busy to think straight, much less push through those difficult last few chapters of my novel.

But when I moved to San Francisco I became friends with a writer who told me she loved the dark time that led up to the winter solstice. For her, it was filled with magic, long dark nights full of stars, and the opportunity to turn inward to find the seeds of creative ideas she wanted to plant in the spring.

This changed my thinking about winter solstice, and it definitely changed the way I felt about it too. I realized that it wasn’t necessary for me to be productive all the time, every single week of the year. It helped me see that special times are built into our seasonal calendar specifically so that we can take periods of rest. We need a couple of weeks at the end of the year to turn inward for reflection.

This is especially true for writers and artists. Most of us have highly sensitive nervous systems and we feel a much-stronger-than-average connection with the natural world. We shift into a different mode when the temperature drops and snow is on the horizon. And even if we live in a warmer climate, the decreasing sunlight in the evening hours still really affects us. If we’re convinced that we need to push on with business as usual we’ll most likely end up drained, cranky, and fighting a constant sluggish feeling.

It’s much more helpful for writers and artists to embrace the weeks surrounding the winter solstice as a time for quiet celebration, contemplation, and restful joy. Instead of pushing yourself to complete work on your novel, set it aside until after the New Year. Don’t worry, the work will get done. In January the collective energy is jumping with inspiration and new motivation, and because we’re so sensitive, we’ll be able to tap into that frequency too.

Meanwhile, in December focus on what is most important and what most deeply aligns with the energy of the winter solstice:

Spending Time with Family
This might be your biological family, or the family of friends you’ve created around you. No matter how you’re related, block off large chunks of time here and there (a whole afternoon or even a whole day) to spend with the people who you dearly love. Take advantage of the playfulness of the holiday season to do something simple and fun, like cooking a meal together or playing a board game.

This is the best time of year to curl up with a good book. If you’re not feeling like writing (and most writers aren’t during holiday madness), dive into the guilty-pleasure book you haven’t had a chance to start yet. Whatever your choice is for reading material, make sure it’s something that feels like fun and/or nourishes your spirit in some way.

Getting out in Nature
Okay, I know it’s cold outside, but wintertime is actually an excellent time to take nature walks. Pick a place that you know will be quiet and still and spend some time saying hello to the wildlife and the trees. Watch the sunset on solstice, give thanks for everything you learned this past year and set your intentions for the new one.

No matter how you choose to spend the end of December, the important thing I want all you writers and artists to remember is that it’s okay not to work during this time. If you take a couple of weeks to recharge your mind and spirit, the writing you do in January will be all the better for it. Give yourself permission to go with the cycle of seasons.

The downtime that’s being offered to you by the universe is a gift. Take it.

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