Stuck in a Winter Writing Rut? How to Be More Productive This Season

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Freelancers who spend a lot of time indoors at a computer can easily fall into a rut during the winter.

Bitterly cold days and limited sunlight can make it easy to just stay inside and fall into the same old routine every day. I live in the land of winter in Jackson, Wyoming, so I’m quite familiar with the woes of short days and bitter cold. We have days that don’t get above zero and temperatures that routinely plunge to 20 degrees below zero — and colder.

It’s easy to want to hide in a nest of blankets, turn the TV on for comforting background noise, and do the bare minimum from the top of your to-do list. But that hibernation mindset can easily lead to the winter doldrums and a serious case of the blues.

Of course, if what you’re experiencing is more than a temporary case of the winter blues, please do seek professional help. But if what you’re experiencing is just a mild mid-winter rut, follow these tips to get un-stuck.

1. Take screen breaks

Everyone knows watching videos of baby sloths is a top-notch way to put a smile on your face. Go ahead, try it. I dare you not to smile.

But no matter how cute baby sloth videos are, getting away from your computer screen from time to time is important. Do some stretches, cook a new recipe for lunch, meet up with a friend, or go for a walk.

Do anything to take yourself away from your electronic devices and get a break from work for a while.

It’s easy to let a whole winter day go by while barely looking up from your computer.

2. Go outside and get some sunshine

Soaking up the sunshine isn’t just a summertime to-do. Get outside and see if you can also squeeze in some outdoor exercise.

Even just going for a walk around the block can be a great mood-booster, even on the dreariest of days. Going outside offers an array of health benefitsfrom increasing Vitamin D levels to increasing creativity and making you happier.

3. Exercise

Getting exercise can do wonders for boosting your mood. But exercise doesn’t have to equal trudging along on a treadmill. Mix it up!

Grab some snowshoes or ice skates and enjoy the winter season. Or bundle up to attend an indoor workout in at the local rock climbing gym or ballet studio. However you want to get moving, it will likely help boost your mood.

4. Eat healthy meals

While it’s tempting to drown the winter blues in carb-heavy meals with lots of sweets on the side, it won’t help you feel better in the long run.

Make sure to eat a balanced diet and eat plenty of healthy meals this winter. Making healthy slow-cooker meals is an easy way to eat smart and still enjoy a hearty winter meal.

5. Interact with real live humans. In person.

Freelancers can go feral any time of year, but winter is an especially tough time for the work-from-home crowd. With bitterly cold days and limited sunlight, why go outside when you can work from home in your PJs all day, every day?

In summer, a bike ride to the coffee shop or meeting up with a friend for lunch sounds like a wonderful reprieve from indoor life. But it’s easy to skip these meet-ups in winter.

Don’t skip them.

Make a point to meet with friends and work around others, either at a co-working space or a nontraditional spot to mix up your routine and get some human interaction.

6. Stay in touch with friends and family

While interacting with friends and family members in person is best, it’s not always possible. If your favorite people are in faraway lands, make some time to Skype or FaceTime with them on a regular basis.

Set a date, just like you would when meeting someone for coffee, clear your calendar, bring your own cuppa joe, and settle in for an hour (or even a half hour) of catching up with loved ones.

7. Try something new

Shake up your regular routine and try something new and different. Enroll in a pottery class, take photos of frost formations on your morning walk, or go to salsa night at your local dance hall.

Join a book club, learn how to ski, or volunteer to walk dogs at the local animal rescue center. Whatever you do, mix it up a little to refresh your mind and spirit and enjoy a little novelty this winter.

How do you deal with long, dark winters? Or is it your favorite season? Tell us your winter tips, writers!

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Kristen Pope is a Jackson Hole, Wyoming based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Discover, Backpacker, Western Confluence, International Journal of Wilderness, and Planning Magazine, and she is the managing editor of JHStyle Magazine.... .

Kristen Pope | @Kristen_E_Pope

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Comments

  1. Great tips! Going along with getting sunshine- I started using a therapy light (a light box) during my early morning writing sessions. It’s really helped me to re-gain energy in the mornings, and I’m positive it’s made me happier overall during the long winter months.

  2. From the position of a hermit writer, I love winter. It’s my time to focus on writing. Spring will be here soon enough, and then the outdoors work begins.

    If I need a pick-me-up, I switch out the music. I’ve also started drinking different loose-leaf herbal tea. Mmm.

    When there’s a snow storm raging outside, I’m warm and cosy, writing, knowing I won’t be disturbed and I can’t go anywhere.

  3. These are great tips, and I’m happy to say, I do most of these things. Although it was late starting, winter has definitely arrived here in Ontario, and since we can’t beat it, we might as well join it. I meet regularly with friends for exercise–some indoors and a brisk walk with our Nordic Walking Poles. It was sunny today, which made it even better. After our exercise we go to a local cafe and have some tea or coffee. Then it’s on to our day, whatever that may bring. The exercise, fresh air and sunshine we’ve enjoyed makes our day. Two of the women in my group are writers so I will definitely pass these tips on to them.

  4. This is a great set of writing advice! Most writers tend to hibernate in the winter for various reasons. They tend to not want to leave their writing behind but other parts of their life begin to suffer as a result. It is not healthy and actually can lead many writers to develop other social issues beyond what’s discussed here. This was a great reminder for all writers to keep in mind as we start a brand new year. Well done!

  5. Great advice there. I don’t usually get the winter blues, but this season has been brutal to the psyche for some reason. And it can be difficult to stay productive in writing when you’re feeling down.

    I guess unless you write dark poetry. Which I haven’t since high school…

  6. Kristene, it sounds like we live in different situation…

    I’m here, Banteay Meanchey, Cambodia… it’s a hot season, and last few week the government warning about hotter temperately…

    I didn’t much outdoor, but just online TV and reading blog. I spent sometime with coffee shop and TV news again. LOL..! I’m sorry…

    However, I think that you’ve go a good idea about more productive. Perhaps I’ve got to follow you…

  7. Hi,

    A dream of mine has always been to be a freelance writer and today I actually got the courage to begin pursuing this passion and wrote my first piece.

    I live in Central Florida and the 40 degree weather today along new recent life events provided me with the perfect recipe to write.

  8. This is great advice for anyone anywhere when the sun dips too low in the sky. But, yeah, a lifestyle where you work at home can be way too conducive to burrowing into a deep winter blob-life. But, again, great advice for all seasons!

  9. Thank you Kristen!

    This article is awesome. I’ve recently found myself absolutely unprepared for this situation. But your tips just have come in handy to me. I should say that the most effective for me was going outside walking down the streets.

  10. Great post with great tips. I exercise daily but I find that screen breaks are very important in the winter, sometimes I can forget to take them! A good reminder to meet up with friends for lunch which I do not do often enough. I also got a second job at nights and weekends to interact with other people since it can be a disconnected and solitary existence freelancing. Thanks again and all the best!

  11. Marie Vonow says:

    It is mid summer here in South Australia and the days can get very hot. It is tiresome when there is a run of very hot days. The nights are still quite hot so one doesn’t feel energetic. The temptation is to stay home all day for days on end with the air conditioning blasting cool air.

    This post reminded me of the need to get exercise, keep in contact with ‘real people’ and generally make the effort even though the weather is unpleasant. Thanks for the tips.

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