Find the Magic and Do the Work Even When Your Creativity Freezes Up

When the winter gets into the soul of the work

The Sovereign Standard, Issue 3MG_newsletter

Margaret Atwood wrote an ode to this frozen month.

“February,” she declares, “month of despair, with a skewered heart in the centre.”

Even if snow hasn’t been swirling ‘round your front door, there’s a texture to February that has people across the northern hemisphere yearning to hide under the covers. But “despair”? There are plenty who really suffer from seasonal affective disorder - it’s real, and it’s hard - but what about the rest of us who are just grouchy and feeling off our game?

We don’t have time to feel skewered when there’s a business to run and children to be entertained and a book that isn’t going to write itself.

We have to push through. But first we must acknowledge that it can be hard to find the silver in this gray and white world.

Make Friends With Reality: Reclaim the Snow Day

Remember when snow days weren’t just kids’ stuff (and massive productivity drains because there’s work to do and childcare to provide)?

Jesse Singal writes and elegy for the adult snow day in New York Magazine:

The grown-up world has a tendency to strip things of their magic a bit, but the snow day still served as a wonderful stop sign from the heavens for myopic, overworked adults. What else could grind to a halt, even temporarily, the exhausting, striving adult world of meetings and reports and office memos? What else could not only suggest to the workaholic that he take a day off, but force him to because the roads were too icy, the subways all closed? What else could unite father and son on a sled on a snowy hill in the middle of a weekday?

I too mourn the loss of the snow day and believe I’d be a better business owner and a better human if I let myself take a few more of them. While researching this week’s Sovereign Standard, I read way too many sunshine and sparkles blog posts from small business owners declaring "I don't need snow days because I love my work and my clients so much!"

Oh, please.  Let's admit:

  1. all this snow and cold is making us feel less than... optimal
  2. we feel cheated of our rights to snow days (after all, it’s one of the few consolations we have when it’s so cold you can’t make it to the mailbox without the skin on your knuckles cracking)
  3. playing hooky as Mother Nature intends would do the business, the family, and the creative work a world of good

 Everyday Creative Magic: Reclaiming the Spark of Aliveness

Again, we’re not here to despair, even as we recognize that this is the season of our discontent. Nor are we here to whine as our “bored” children home for the third day in a week are taking care of that already.

We’re here to recover some of that everyday creative magic (the kind that Singal notes has been stripped from our grown up world).

wild earth winter wool dyeing

Let’s consider summer for a moment… Here in New York’s Hudson Valley, we have a treasure of an organization called Wild Earth. Many families stare down our fear of poison ivy and Lyme disease and send our kids to their camp in July.

The few and the bold send their teenagers to overnight in the woods in the middle of this deep freeze. Tyler McNamara reveals the vital pulse at the heart of winter and why experiencing and yes, embracing, this dangerous cold is essential to being alive in this piece about eighteen young adventurers.  

But maybe we don’t need to sleep outdoors in order to find meaning in this dark season. Suzi Banks Baum of Laundry Line Divine shares notes from her winter retreat.

Where YOU are IS your point of entry, in to inner attention.

Wherever you are, mired in wild living or utter sameness, each are invitations to slow down, for even a few breaths and listen to what your heart requires of you. For even in the thrall of the clock, your voice is there, masked by the chaos perhaps, but it is there.

And if it isn’t the right time for you to sleep in a subzero tent or enjoy the luxury of solitude, there this sweet interview with artist, designer, and mom Johanna Winter-Harper at, a site dedicated to creating art with your kids. It gave me hope that it’s possible to make and mother amidst the mess. 

Message: It's Never Too Frigid to Speak

 “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”  ― Anne Lamott“Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it.” So says a UVA psychologist professor quoted in the New York Times blog post Writing Your Way to Happiness. Studies show that students who engaged in “expressive writing” were healthier and performed better in school

But we know this. Writing reveals what we really thing and who we really are (eventually). Writing is hope. Writing is healing.

Earlier this week, I dove into the places that need plenty of exploratory, personal writing, but which just aren’t the stuff of a public online presence. In Online Visibility, Transparency, and Authenticity When You’ve Got Other Things On Your Mind I hope to give you the permission to admit you’re human and that your human experience will get in front of your entrepreneurial imperatives to be visible and authentic.

Read on for a few suggestions about how to show up even when you’ve got a case of the Februaries.

Livelihood: How Winter Impacts Work

 Finally, a few practicalities about winter and the business world...

Economists don’t really know if snow storms negatively impact the economy. Apparently, “it’s more an art than a science” to figure out whether lost wages, delayed purchases, and all those flight delays have a long term impact.

If you run a brick and mortar business when the roads are closed or have remote employees who can’t work because an ice storm knocked out their power, do you pay them? This article from Entrepreneur is a place to start.

 Ultimately, How Will You Survive February?

 Clinical psychologist Paul Lichtenberg posts on his Facebook page:

It reminds us that self-care: in the boiling of the tea, rinsing with salt, epsom baths, sitting, gentle restorative yoga, soup, slow mindful walking, self-massage, asking for help; all these minute-to-minute actions with the intention to heal bodymind bring us back to the most simple message: be kind to oneself, be gentle, care for the body and quiet mind. That is healing.

In this case, Paul is talking about coping with mortality, but we can use this wisdom to navigate the last weeks of this frozen world.

And so, we can move through, taking what medicine is available and appropriate to our temperament. We can occupy the present moment and actively seek healing and vitality, rather than mere survival.

Or, write a hot harangue at a poor blameless cat. Atwood’s “February” that opened this week’s issue is actually addressed to a feline who insists on sneaking into her bed. Proof that “kick the cat” syndrome is real, even in Booker Prize winners:

Cat, enough of your greedy whining AtwoodCat, enough of your greedy whining and your small pink bumhole. Off my face! You’re the life principle, more or less, so get going on a little optimism around here. Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.