It can be hard in the soporific depths of winter to foster creativity in our lives and in our businesses. It’s difficult to stay inspired when our inclination is to shuffle through the scarce daylight hours with our heads down, in a fugue of lethargy, channelling the torpor of a dormouse in February. With our eyes cast at our feet it’s easy to believe that nature is feeling the same, that it’s as quiet as our own brains are, and that along with the hedgehogs we should all be hibernating, ready to rejoin the world with the primroses and daffodils in March.
I find at this time of year, after the excitement and energy of Christmas, I begin to feel stuck in a big, fat, uninspiring rut. I fall into a creative slump brought on by peddling through tired routines and general winter inertia. As the temperatures dip and the frost appears my dog walks with Edward become shorter and mundane. I am bored of eating porridge for breakfast and of our weekday meal rotations. I’m tired of wearing the same clothes everyday and of cycling through the same activities each weekend. I’m suffering from a new year ennui and it’s at this point I know I need to shake things up.
What I’ve found this new year is that it can actually be incredibly simple to pull oneself out of a dip in creativity, all one really needs to do to bring inspiration back into one’s life is to switch up some routines and pay attention to default behaviours and challenge them. When we change our routines our brain starts working again, it forms new connections when it can no longer wallow in the idleness of routine and instead has to concentrate and focus. This new year I have changed quite a few routines, some by intention, some by necessity and some completely by accident.
1. Shaking up dog walks
The first thing I did was start taking our dog walks backwards (the other way around, that is, not actually walking backwards). It quickly made me realise quite how mind-numbingly boring our walks had become. Walking the other way around showed me new things, I started noticing that nature wasn’t in fact asleep and that there were signs of spring everywhere if you look closely enough. I saw buildings and views from different angles and noticed different animals as we passed the zoo. I have been inspired to lengthen our walks and go further afield, which has made both Edward and I very happy.
2. Reinvigorating our weekends
Our uneventful weekends in London were the next target as they had become a bit of an uninspiring cycle of kids’ activities followed by some light work, followed by, well, not much at all really. Often we didn’t even leave our neighbourhood all weekend. So I deleted instagram from my phone (temporarily) and resolved to take more day trips from London, rather than just waiting for the weekends away and holidays we puncture the year with. Yesterday we drove 45 minutes to Cliveden House and spent the most glorious freezing winter’s day smiling at snowdrops and eating blessedly hot cauliflower cheese on the terrace of the lovely cafe. It was bliss, and being surrounded by such beauty gave me a much needed jolt of inspiration.
3. Switching exercise regimens
After ten years I have switched back to pilates from yoga. The two disciplines share much common but I am finding that the different poses (and using different names for the same poses), the different type of people, and even placing my mat in a different part of the room has helped me use my brain and body in different ways and I have to think much harder about what I am doing.
4. Writing more
As far as work goes, one of my big intentions for this year is to write more. I’ve resolved to write blog posts every week to banish the bad habit I’ve developed of typing long instagram captions with my thumbs because I can’t be bothered to open my laptop and write properly on my website. I am enjoying this process so much and it’s brought a lot of the joy of writing back to me. I can already see that I am getting better and faster at writing and the process has inspired so many other thoughts. It’s been hugely valuable for generating ideas and motivating me and making me feel and proud of my business and what I have achieved.
5. Disrupting business routines
I’ve also switched from writing emails to my list from the first Friday of each month to writing them when I feel inspired to do so. This now seems to happen a couple of times a month and mostly on a Monday as, combined with writing the blog posts that go with my emails, it’s the task I’m most excited about at the beginning of the week as I really look forward to connecting with the lovely people on my list. I’m really, really enjoying breaking the shackles of a monthly email as I was beginning to feel a dread of the 1st of the month when all the monthly emails drop into my inbox and, although mine were rarely sent on that particular day, I didn’t enjoy feeling I was following some sort of email orthodoxy.
6. Shedding armour
And finally, something dispiriting happened, something that ultimately challenged and broke a default habit I had intentionally adopted. I lost one of my neoprene swimming boots. I arrived at the pond last Monday to find it missing from my bag and as I stood at the edge of the pond deliberating whether I really could swim in 3C water without my boots, I decided to just get on with it seeing as I’d made the effort to get myself there. As I stood on the ladder ready to drop into the water my feet began throbbing in pain. It took all of mental reserves and mindfulness to disassociate myself from the searing pain in my feet and summon the courage to enter the water. After a minute or two the pain subsided and I found that I could in fact swim without boots, and that perhaps they had become a sort of armour and a defence. I felt that perhaps by protecting myself from the pain of the cold they were actually stopping me from eeking every physical and mental sensation out of my swim. I felt afterwards that I had battled the elements without a weapon, just relying on my own fortitude and I felt a huge sense of achievement at winning this tiny battle.
Disrupting routines can be easy
All of these disruptions to my routines have been simple and they have been easy, they just took a little determination and focus. They have been interesting experiments on how to foster and maintain creativity in this darkest time of the year. I hope that you will feel inspired to switch something today too. You never know what might happen, you might just shed a little unnecessary armour along the way.
This week Nell Gifford sadly lost her battle with cancer. Nell was my school friend and was someone who left an indelible impression on me. Her wonderful circus was her gift to the world.
Next week we take possession of a dilapidated, neglected Victorian terraced house in North London and so begins a six month renovation project, during which we will be moving to the country.