• The Winter Writing Doldrums

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 21 comments

    I’ve been in the writing doldrums lately. Since before the holidays, I’ve had one, maybe two good writing sessions. My book is stalled.

    It’s not that I’m worried about it. I care enough about this project that I know I won’t abandon it.

    But I do wonder: Is it a seasonal thing? Am I a warm-weather writer? Maybe when I feel cooped up by the cold, with cabin fever closing in, my creativity freezes.

    We talk often about our favorite times of day for writing. “I write in the morning,” we’ll say, “when my mind is a blank slate, before the day’s garbage starts to pile up”; or, “Only at night, after I’ve waded through the day’s garbage, can I turn on my creativity and write.”

    But in the same way that time of day does, maybe time of year can influence our writing patterns and habits and productivity?



    I have a romanticized image of spending an entire winter alone in a cabin in the middle of a woodsy nowhere with nothing but books, notebooks, and pens and pencils. In my fantasies, I come out the other side with something deep and meditative and worthwhile. And complete.

    The reality is, I would probably come out the other side a batshit insane person.

    But one might think that a typical writer would write more often in the winter. It’s not like we’re taking long February walks or going to baseball games or Shakespeare in the Park. Less time outside means more time inside. And more time inside means more time to write.

    Except not really, for me. I prefer to write outside. Over this past summer and into the fall, when I was writing nearly every day, my routine was, first thing in the morning: Take coffee, notebook and pencil to the park, sit on a bench, and write until my hand hurt.

    And the words flowed, nearly every session. It wasn’t just a sunshine thing, either — I remember some days writing through a light to moderate rain, scrunched over to shield the notebook with my body.

    I can’t write outside now, so I rarely write at all. And the times I’ve tried to write inside, it hasn’t gone swimmingly.

    It’s as if I’m hibernating. Or suffering from some sort of seasonal affective disorder that affects only my writing.

    Your turn: Do you write less, or more, or about the same in the wintertime? Does your writing routine change? Does the weather ever seem to affect your creativity, your inspiration? 

    Let us know in the comments below.

    And P.S., our notifications still aren’t working, so if you want to know if someone has responded to your comment, you’ll have to come back and check.

    The same goes for last week’s discussion, Do Book Reviews Influence You?

    We’re working on it.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    DB Bradley

    I write far much less in the winter. It’s a thing. And it could be sunlight-related; look at the effects of SAD. So like even if you’re not depressed or anything, it could be because of that.

    David Duhr

    Yeah, I believe it. It reminds me of an episode of Northern Exposure where, during Alaska’s 24-hour/day darkness phase, the people affected by SAD wear these visors over their eyes that provide extra light. Maybe we should make and market a version for writers.

    Brian McFadden

    I’m from Boston and it seems that I have the same winter season writing drought issue as you. This year my father past away suddenly in the Fall to kick off an early drought. I feel that it is difficult to get started. I am an early morning writer as well. I like to get up and get in “some good words”, that’s what I call a decent amount of my novel written. My wife and dog wake at 7 are, when I am in a writing groove I would wake at 4:45, get a cup of joe from the… Read more »

    Barbara A Mealer

    I find winter is a great time to write. There isn’t much to do due to the weather and I’m stuck inside a lot, so I use the time to be creative. In fact, I wrote a complete novella over my two weeks off at Christmas. During the warmer weather, I’m outside and have all these places to go and see. My only winter must see is the Grand Canyon with snow. This is my second year here and it seems to only snow there when I’m working and melts before my days off. I’m one of those people who… Read more »


    I was all set to agree that my inactivity must be because of the weather, but everything else in the house is getting done. When it comes to chores, I don’t let any grass grow under my feet. In the summer, I would blame the garden for not weeding itself and there are so many more fun things to do at that time. I have time to do it. When I write, I have fun doing it. I find myself sitting there for hours, crafting and revising, and I’m proud of what I’ve done. So, why don’t I do it… Read more »


    I don’t ever have trouble coming up with things to write. It gets pushed off, most definitely.

    Elizabeth Westra

    I do less of everything in winter. I hate getting out of bed in the morning. It’s a real struggle. As for writing–I’m not doing as much, and ideas seem to have dried up or the ones I get don’t seem good. I do have SAD and use a light box in the office I write in. It doesn’t seem to help much this year as it has in the past. On sunny days, which we get few of in winter, I get more done. When spring comes I’m a new person and feel suddenly alive after a winter of… Read more »

    William Seward

    I too, welcome the bad weather that forces me to stay inside. I know that there will be fewer demands on me to do chores and other things outside. However, I noticed a long time ago that I was much more productive when I was choosing to write while avoiding some other thing I needed to do. I wrote a lot while ostensibly working at a full time job, for instance. I have been retired for awhile, and produce much less.

    David Duhr

    So you write more when you have other tasks that need to get done. Do you ever tell yourself that you “need” to write? If so, does it get done then, or do you find a diversion?

    Emily K. Martin

    I write the most in the fall and spring, less in the winter, and the least in the summer. My fluctuations revolve around kids and school breaks and my part time job of nursing which, thanks to the flu and pneumonia, is more demanding in December and January. But in any season, I love waking up early and writing when the house is quiet, whether in summer shorts or winter pajamas, complete with piping hot, black coffee :)

    David Duhr

    Sounds like you’ve got it all worked out. Are weekends a no-go for writing, then? Or do you still do the early-morning thing on Saturday and Sunday?

    PIa Manning

    I love winter. Probably a good thing as I live in the great white north. We often get our first frost at the end of August, and at times, snow in May. The cold quiet has a dreamy quality about it-snow sparkling like diamonds, deep blue skies, conversations between the wind and the pines overheard-I can’t help but let my imagination out to play. Long dark nights with a favorite warm beverage are perfect for writing. Lol just make sure you have your favorite heated throw, or space heater handy.

    David Duhr

    Frost in August and snow in May? You must be wayyyyyy up there. Alaska? Canada? Super Upper Midwest? Do you find that the dark and cold creep into your work in any way?

    Jerry Schwartz

    My writing is not affected by the season. I live indoors, and I have central air and heating. My car is in an attached garage. I’m retired. I don’t like sports of any kind. My computer is a desktop, and it’s located in a basement that has only two small windows. They’re so dirty that you can hardly tell what the weather is like. One day is pretty much the same as any other. The only thing that really gets me depressed is mud weather: that time of year when the ground is soft and squishy but nothing has greened… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Yeah, I hadn’t pegged you as someone who might be affected by weather. I did not know that you write in a basement without any (functioning) window to look out of, though. Does that ever make you feel cramped? Maybe that helps get you in the right mood?

    Eleanor Gamarsh

    Winter’s no problem to me. Doesn’t matter the season, I’ll write as long as I can steal the time. Only after there’s lots of snow do I feel like I’m hibernating cuz I can’t go anywhere even if I had somewhere to go. Summer is the worst when I feel pulled to go out to take care of my gardens. Then I feel almost as if I have to ‘hibernate’ to get any writing done.

    David Duhr

    Thanks, Eleanor. Do you always look at writing as “stealing time” from something else? How is the project coming along?

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