Erratic Creativity and Shaking off the Winter Slump

It is the middle of winter in Melbourne and July is the coldest month of the year with lower levels of sunlight. This is the time when many people have difficulty with their creative flow. Unlike during the warmer months when my energy is high, now it is very erratic and this inhibits my ability to focus on one thing for long. I find it much less stressful to switch between different creative activities, depending on my mood and energy level. When this is low, if something else sparks my interest, I embrace such experiences to restore my sense of joy in dull and grey weather. These strategies can help anyone who is in a creative slump, especially during the winter.

When I am feeling overwhelmed my spirits have been lifted by watching live Youtube streams from places where it is now summer. There is nothing like the power of the Icelandic volcanic eruption and the antics of Danish and German Wildlife to realise that the world is still a wonderful place. Here are some links to these livestreams for your enjoyment.

It is good to know that beautiful places and amazing events are still out there even though we cannot visit at the moment. Watching the live sporting broadcasts of the Tour de France has brought back the heat. It is entertaining to view the cycling action and spectacular scenery of the French countryside. This really puts a smile on your face when it is cold and it has been very inspiring to see the achievements of these talented riders. It is good motivation to get on the exercise bike.

Being in nature is beneficial for your health and sanity even during the colder months, so it is wonderful to have a garden. Our local parks can be crowded with joggers, dog walkers etc whenever there is fine weather and it is lovely to have such a peaceful place to enjoy by just walking out the back door. During  Melbourne’s repeated lockdowns there were millions of people wishing to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine in public parks at the same time. With all the development and destruction of established gardens in our area, I hope that people finally realise how important it is to preserve these personal outdoor spaces.

If you have any outside space, whether a balcony or small courtyard, make the most of it and try to create some shelter from winter winds with screening plants and appropriate seating. Use your imagination and be creative. In the summer Ellie and I fixed up our run down terrace, by adding more paving and painted the old garden furniture so that it is more pleasant to sit outside in fine weather. Plants were added to make the adjacent fernery appear lush and tropical with leafy, evergreen plants that can survive Melbourne’s cold, windy winters.  Here are some before and after photos.

Here we saved money by planting several shade loving Clivias that Ellie propagated from one pot plant. We found some Canna and Arum Lillys and Bleeding Heart trees, that had spontaneously grown in the empty bed next to the new fence. These have been potted for future deployment in the front garden. Also tomato and pumpkin plants popped up from the compost which was spread in our herb garden, along with lots of nasturtiums which grew from last year’s seeding. Our single wormwood shrub has also provided new plants from cuttings that will be added to the herb garden. Green and variegated spider plants, birds nest ferns and aralia plants easily reproduce in our garden and we have a plentiful supply in pots. It is wonderful when a garden self regenerates. 

When your creativity levels take a dive it makes a real difference to see growth and life in the garden. We are lucky in Melbourne because our winters do not produce snow and there is always an abundance of greenery and citrus fruits during the coldest months. If you are in a snowy region you can also benefit from the watching the continual growth of indoor plants. It is harder to feel down in the dumps when these are bursting with green energy which is restorative.

Plant life can provide creative impetus. Our garden is a constant source of inspiration and has given me ideas for artworks. There is always something new to see during winter. Even when not in the mood for drawing and painting, I have photographed any seasonal changes in our garden for use in future work. These have already inspired me to practice new techniques and try various art materials. 

During periods of low creative energy don’t worry if you are not producing masterpieces. Some artworks are just for learning purposes and not to create great works of art. I have a watercolour sketchbook and a fun collage journal where I do things that make me happy. Some things work, others don’t. I’m not always happy with the results, but I don’t need to show anyone because they are for my benefit alone. It’s Ok to keep some artworks to yourself. These a just a step in your journey to making art that you want to display in public.

However sometimes it pays to ignore your own advice and to go with your instincts. Yesterday I did show one of my practice art journals to someone I trust and they commissioned me to do a small painting as a gift for a relative. So just playing around in a sketchbook for fun when you are trying to lift your mood is never a waste of time. It might just lead you down a more creative path.

Winter might not be the most creative season for everyone but there are many ways to give yourself a boost. This is also the time when there is never more than three months until the arrival of spring and all the renewed energy that comes with sunnier days.

Kat