Establishing Our Creative Roots this Winter


Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

I have been trying my hand at growing plants this past year, and one of the things I’ve learned is that some plant bulbs, such as daffodils (which bloom in early spring), should be planted in the cold soil of fall and winter. I was surprised to learn this planting technique, as I would have assumed the bitter coldness of winter would kill off such delicate bulbs in the ground.

I discovered that gardeners plant them in such a way because they want to give the bulbs time to establish a root system before the harshness of winter occurs.

This past week, I have felt like one of those daffodil bulbs, sitting quietly waiting for my writing to take root. My creativity has been sluggish, as if it, too, is burying itself deep in the soil of my mind for winter.

Hoping to find some inspiration today, I took one of my writer friends up on her offer to have me come stay with her for a few days so that we could accomplish some writing together. This morning, despite the current twenty degree weather, I made the long drive up to the mountains to see her.

The drive is a good four hours, and I passed the time by listening to a few episodes of the podcast Story Grid. I just discovered this podcast today, and I am definitely making a note of it for future reference. The podcast has two co-hosts: Shawn, a published author, and Tim, who is a writer working on improving his craft. One episode I listened to today involved Shawn offering advice on Tim’s initial scene for a book. This information provided great advice that I will be able to apply to my own writing.

If you are like me and frequently make long drives, podcasts are a great way to not only pass the hours but to also fit in some writing-focused time. I was in better spirits already just from listening to the podcast on the drive, as it took off the pressure I’d put on myself to produce writing. Instead, I was able to spend a couple hours listening to others talk about their writing which indirectly helped my own.

Once I arrived, my friend and I met up with another member of our writing group, and we three spent the afternoon writing in coffee and tea shops around town. Each of us swapped stories about our inability to write much in the past week, and it occurred to me that maybe I haven’t been alone with trying to re-energize my dormant creativity the last couple days. Could we all be simultaneously trying to establish our creative roots this month?

Perhaps we are not that different from the daffodils and need these few weeks to soak up the world around us so that in time, we, too, can harden our roots and allow the stories within us to blossom.

It inspired me to hear how both of my friends were working through their writing difficulties, not letting a few days keep them down. They created plans that would help them to keep their work going, aiming to finish a certain chapter by the end of the day and to meet up another day this week to continue writing. After a tough week, they were establishing the roots for their works in progress.

This morning, writing anything seemed next to impossible, but after taking the time to listen to other writers and their own creative journeys, I find myself inspired once again. Allowing myself to experience a short period of writing dormancy was just what I needed and will probably need again later this winter. In the meantime however, I can be satisfied that I have written a blog post, so maybe I am establishing some roots of my own after all . . .

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Snowstorm


Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

The woods rose up all around me, towers of dead trees and bare branches that grasped my clothing and hair as I ran. I took no notice of their thorns as they scratched through my sleeves and left strands of hair snagged on their limbs.

It was after me, and the dread that fueled my escape was like nothing I had ever felt. I dared not to look back, driven onward by the fear of being caught.

I followed no path yet instinctively darted around the trees, leaping over fallen logs and exposed roots. A half-moon was overhead, an impartial observer to this chase between predator and prey. It offered only a dim reflection of the snow, aiding not only my vision but also that of my pursuer.

The deathly silence of the forest was only broken by the sound of my boots striking the snow and of my own breath, frantic gasps that left trails of condensation in the cold winter night’s air.

The slope of the earth below me changed, and I was soon running downward into a section of trees that thinned out and were easier to see through. At the other end of this section of trees, I saw the house, a rectangular structure that was lit up from within. I ran the final paces, barely striking the ground like a rabbit leaping to its burrow, and upon reaching the porch, I knew I was finally safe.

I had reached sanctuary. I was now aware some boundary existed between this house and the woods, between me and it. It could no longer follow me; it would go no further than the woods.

I turned and faced the creature for the first time. It remained at the edge of the treeline, barely visible in the pale moonlight and forest shadows. I could see it was part human and part beast, bearing the head of a deer with fearsome antlers crowning its image. The upper torso and arms were that of a human, but the rest of it was the form of a deer with four cloven hooves.

We stared at one another, caught in a stalemate. It had lost the hunt tonight, but it was only one of many. That we both knew. The deer creature reared on its hind legs and thundered back into the woods, kicking up slivers of ice and snow behind it.

I opened the front door and walked inside the house, met with the warmth and welcoming light of the fireplace someone had left burning for me.

This passage was based on a dream I had last winter. It occurred during a major winter storm and has stuck in my mind as one of the more unsettling dreams I’ve had.