Winter Guest Post by Tara Leaver

December 13th, 2011

 What to do when your creativity succumbs to winter


As winter starts to make its presence felt round here, I’ve been thinking a lot about cycles. About listening to my body and honouring its needs and what that really means. This is something relatively new to my Western monkey mind, for whom achievement is paramount, and only a certain amount of rest is permitted!


I’m a summer girl with a history of depression. Traditionally winter {which can be a long, chilly, dark and wet affair here in England} would take its toll on my well-being before it had even begun. I rejected the darkness and of course winter became something to dread and struggle through. I gotta tell you, I’m really tired of the concept of resigning myself to the belief that some things are ‘just like that’. 


My teacher has been showing me another way to approach winter. We all know about cycles – the seasons, women’s monthly cycles, Saturn Returns, to name just a few - but I’m not sure how often we really notice or accept them, let alone embrace them. We often seem to ignore or resist our personal cycles, because of commitments and jobs and things that Must Be Done. There is no time sculpted into our lives for honouring the quiet, ‘winter’ parts of our cycles. Winter is about resting, seeds waiting underground, animals hibernating. Nature knows and allows this; we can too, if we choose.


We creative types have our own cycles. Sometimes the inspiration is flowing fast and furious, and it’s all you can do to ‘get it all down’ quick enough; other times we feel stagnant or dry – nothing inspires us and efforts to force it result in frustration.


I learned the hard way that I must honour my creative cycle. Since I made the decision to just let it be what it is, to stop labelling it, judging myself, feeling disappointed or guilty or antsy or impatient about it, I’ve come to see my own personal cycle as something, well, beautiful actually.


We are often so unaccustomed to being gentle with ourselves. While I learn to apply this self- kindness to all the other areas of my life and leave the internal dark days far behind, at least when it comes to my creativity I have learned to give myself the ease of knowing that when it’s quiet and I haven’t been into my studio for days {weeks, sometimes}, the cycle will come round again. And in the meantime, if I let it, my creativity will reveal itself in other ways.  Even if it doesn’t, the focus here is honouring all parts of the cycle, not just the bits I may find easier or more comfortable.


Here are a few things I do when my creative cycle is in ‘winter’. They have evolved from trial and error, and are about giving myself over to it rather than trying to override or kick start it; perhaps they will help you too.


*Stop trying! Let the whole thing go like you just don’t care. Quite a challenge when your creativity is such a huge part of who you are, I know, but just trust me on this. What we resist persists, right? The more we poke at it and try to change it and don’t allow ourselves to accept it as it is, the more we are blocking the cycle from turning in its own time.


*Do something else. If you’re not yet ready to just not do, then redirect. If your thing is painting, try cooking {works for me!}. If it’s sewing, try drawing. If it’s photography, try writing. You get the idea. Sometimes our creativity needs new avenues to run down.


*Go outside. For me it’s the beach, every time. I started by just going there to sit; that has now evolved into me taking my sketchbook with absolutely no plan or pressure to use it. Sometimes I actually do use it. Sometimes I don’t. It’s all good. I have a friend who needs green; when she’s feeling uninspired or drained or stuck she goes out into the countryside, or even just the park, to get some chlorophyll and hug some trees.


*Distract your brain. If you’re giving yourself a hard time about how you haven’t done anything creative for ages, do something that gives you some respite from the chat in your head. Box sets often do the trick for me. You can’t get much less creative than lying under blankets passively watching images on a screen and sipping hot chocolate!  I’ve worked my way through the entire seven series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer doing this. {I know.}  I lay on the sofa and watched Buffy kick vampire ass until that familiar tickle inside drew me back into the studio without any decision making on my part. All I needed was to let myself have a time out, and for the cycle to bring itself round again.


What do you to do honour and embrace your personal creative winters? I’ve only touched on four of an infinite number of possibilities. Let’s put our heads together and lay out everything we’ve got. Let’s give ourselves and each other permission to honour all the parts of the cycle, even and especially the arctic wasteland parts. Share your wisdom



I am an energy healer and artist living in Brighton in the UK. I paint with acrylics and mixed media, and my work is mostly bold and vibrant. I’m fascinated by symbolism and meaning, and love to bring my energy work together with my art to produce paintings that have infinite possible interpretations. And sometimes I just like to paint in pretty colours. :-)






Facebook:  Aquamarine Art: Mixed Media Paintings by Tara Leaver

24 Responses

[...] you can find me over at Creative Every Day, where I was asked to do a guest post about winter for the blog. If you’ve been hanging [...]

Excellent post Tara, even though it’s summer down under I think I’m going through a winter cycle myself and will try some of your suggestions. Thanks, Michelle.

What a lovely post Tara ! And I completely agree with you.

It has taken me a very long time to stop “resisting” winter. But, like you say , nature INTENDS there to be a quiet time, we shouldn’t expect to be able to create at full tilt 12 months a year. And it takes some quiet , stopping time, to let new things bubble up.

I like your box set idea – will keep a lookout for something.
One of my tactics is to add lots and lots of extra light to my house. Candles and at the moment also all kinds of starry paper lanterns.

Look forward to hearing other winter enhancing tips.

Signed up for 2012 ~ Happy Holidays to you and yours ~ ^_^ namaste, Carol ^_^

Lovely post Tara! Embracing the down part of the cycle is so hard, thank you for the encouragement and tips.

Thanks for the great advice and what a beautiful work of art.

[...] I connected with at the Do What You Love retreat last spring, has a beautiful guest post today on “Wintering” at Creative Every Day. She reminds me that I am not alone in my feelings, being in the down part of the creative cycle. [...]

Tara!!! Yay!!!

I love what Rhiannon said, above, about adding lots of extra light…. I adore candles & that totally helps me too. Wondering where she got (or how she made?) the starry paper lanterns?!

Anyway… I so often find myself feeling stuck in that whole “nothing is coming to me” thing and getting frustrated about it. It’s been difficult for me to remember (I don’t know why, since I totally get it intellectually) that there’s a time for every season. I wish I had a way to remind myself to just relax and let it be (and to use some of these tools!) rather than get frustrated and angsty about it… Ugh.

I’m actually the opposite, though, in that I feel more alive and awake in the winter (likely because I cannot tolerate the Florida heat… it’s horrid)… So this isn’t problematic for me so much now as it will be in about 4 more months or so.

Love that you have another friend who likes to go be near/with the trees to refuel… that’s totally me too.

So excited to see you here, and LOVELOVELOVE the post!

Love this post Tara – spot on, thank you.. & lovely to be introduced to Creative Every Day :)
I like long hot pampery baths, and cds like healing with the angels to drift off to sleep with, plus lots of hot water bottles! Do tend to get stuck on ebay & facebook when I’m tired tho, which is not really a rest! This winter I would really like to get better at being still, tho I find that challenging in a cold flat..gotta get the mini trampoline out to keep warm.. maybe doing more art would absorb me such that I wouldn’t notice the temperature.
I put up extra lights too,as Rhiannon mentions ~ fairy lights are my fave, candles for bathtime. Soft lighting makes big difference. Been interested to try the daylight SAD boxes, bit pricey, and apparently there’s a gradual-dawn SAD alarm clock too for those dark mornings when some folks do truly need to get up.
Cosy blessings all & a happy sparkly peaceful hibernation *

Wonderful post and very thought provoking.
I’m one of those weird folks who are the other way around, I love cold crisp winters, but really suffer when it’s hot and I can’t get cool.
As for the creative slump, I find doing something mindless helps too; currently Plants v Zombies :)

Lovely post – I’m glad to meet another creative who finds winter difficult! Last year I really noticed my zero creativity from the end of November to the Winter Solstice. The next day I felt my creative surge come back! So this year I put a reminder in my calender to expect this creative dearth…and it hasn’t happened! Just allowing myself the possibility of a creative hibernation has allowed me to see that my creativity is low but not gone!

At other times when I’m in a creative ebb, I work on my self-care. I ask myself ‘what would I love to do right now’ and go do that – it may be walking, watching a movie, reading a book, playing with my dog, eating a chocolate biscuit…anything to nurture my inner child/creative. But mostly it’s about noticing it’s not happening on that day and letting that be ok!

Just love this post – especially the part about being kind to yourself. Thanks for sharing it!

Hi Tara,
What a great post. I am feeling decidedly ‘wintery’ with creativity in a slump so this post is very timely. In some ways it feels like taking stock before the next part of the journey, but I can be impatient and fret if I’m not taking active steps to move forward. Getting outside (anywhere!), reading, films are all great. Blog surfing is great but can also kick off the comparison thing which isn’t so good. I’m a fellow UKer so the winter can seem loooooong. Off to check out your blog now too. Becsx

Hi Tara, loved how you talked about cycles. I think that’s so important — to stay in tune with how the world around us changes, and then not fight it. <3

Quite the ovely post, Tara, with so much sweet encouragement to allow your body to respond as it naturally is designed to do to the cycles of nature. We are, after all, made up of the very same particles of earth, sky, stars & sea that surround us! Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the United States for the past almost 4 years is teaching me how nourishing & necessary it is for my body & soul when I welcome the early and longer days of darkness, the slowed-down pace of settling into the season of rest, rejuvination, quiet & contemplation as a way to prepare myself for the higher energy, growing, blooming, bursting forth days ahead. I find myself snuggling up with my doggies more often, reading, listening to calming music, meditating, baking, cooking healthy warming meals,finding my creative expression in writing and slow sketching & painting, and connecting with friends in more small, intimate ways. Wonderful Winter Solstice wishes for peace & contentment to everyone!

Your painting is so calming and inviting – those colors!!! I hadn’t thought of it as cycles, but that is so true- I get very worried when I am in a creative lull but really I need to see it as recharging.

My cycles are totally random and don’t appear to have anything to do with weather or seasons. The urge to create is just stronger some time than others. All these techniques shared by the others are great ideas to pamper yourself and rest the body and spirit. Thanks for starting this conversation!
Happy Holidays.

[...] the second at Creative Everyday, a guest post by Tara [...]

Beautiful post–thanks, Tara! I love the idea of honoring, instead of fighting, the cycles in our creative lives. I’ll be bookmarking it, just in case I need a reminder on cold gray days.

Tara i have followed your career only for two or three months and have found you to be an inspiration,a blessing and of enormous support.I actually dont see that you are any thing other than prolific…… the true sense of the artists way living poetically becomes you greatly!!!!

I wait with great anticipation for the summer and your growth. A growth spurt which once takes hold, once those green shoots start sprouting into full blown 10 foot by 10 foot canvasses………..cant wait to see your future works THANKYOU

Beautifully put. Sometimes entering the winter-time is just what I’m ready for – turning inward, and winding down. And, other times, it feels more like entering a desert, full of dryness and struggle. Thank you for writing about it..and for sharing your way of ‘being’ in it. Your words are comforting and encouraging – just want I needed on this winter night! xo

Wonderful post and full of such good advice. I agree with all that you say. I used to live near the sea and all I want now is to go for a beach walk.. :)

I love this – gives me a lot to think about but mostly i feel all of the energy and good vibes.
Like the comments above also x

Thank you for such a beautiful post Tara. Living on the West Coast of Canada (grey, rainy winters here as well) I experience SAD most winters. Every fall the anxiety of impending winter begins. However, winter is also my time to recoup, hibernate, and rest a bit. Thank you for the lovely reminder to do (and embrace) just that.

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