Thursday, February 12, 2015

Winter Blues and and a Wayward Muse

So how are you feeling during these cold, dark and dismal months of winter? I've definitely been having a bad case of the winter blues and it's been affecting my creativity because I don't want to make beads - can you believe that?

According to the NHS (UK National Health Service) the winter blues or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) to give it it's official title could be related to the way in which our body responds to daylight:
“With SAD, one theory is that light entering the eye causes changes in hormone levels in the body. In our bodies, light functions to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making us wake up..“It’s thought that SAD sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter. They produce higher melatonin, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression.” If you’re going through a bout of winter blues, lack of daylight is probably playing a part.

Well lethargic is a perfect description of the way I've been feeling and it's curious that the sleepy suns in the image above feature among the very few beads I have been able to make.

I do try and go for a 30 minute walk every day but rather than sit on my butt and wait for Spring I'm also aiming to take myself off to some of my favourite places a couple of times a week for some extra light exposure...

Granted it doesn't look like this right now (picture taken in late spring) but it's still lovely and it leads to a beautiful beach which always calms my soul...

Of course there are lots of other things that can affect the creative flow from illness or anxiety about situations that threaten our emotional or physical well being to the everyday stresses and strains of living in a world that seems to run at an ever faster pace. Coincidentally I spotted this in a magazine at my hairdressers (also a quick, short term fix for the winter blues) yesterday...

Spooky huh?

And of course, what you've been doing creatively can also lead to a freeze from time to time. If you're having to be creative in your day job or you've recently completed a huge creative project maybe you're just a little burnt out. Like everyone I was manically busy with work in the run up to Christmas as well as completing an overhaul of my house and as soon as I got back in the new year, I had to dive headlong into preparing for a project with a tight deadline that had me working solidly for several weeks with very little time for anything else. As soon as that was done I had to sort out all my paper work and complete my annual income tax return and that in itself is enough to bring anyone down! Add to that that the studio looked like the aftermath of a Tsunami and I guess it's no surprise that it just seemed easier to walk away and settle in front of the TV for the day with a tube of Pringles.

The key point here is that sometimes there are good reasons why our Muse's may be wayward from time to time and we just need to learn to rest our bodies and souls and recuperate and to deal with all the interferences that are blocking our creativity in order to get the juices flowing again.

But what if none of these things apply and you still don't feel like doing the thing you love the most...? Well that's quite a scary feeling and one that can create its own stress that feeds back into the cycle. I turned to my own therapy group ( The AJE team are a fantastic support network) and they've all experienced this at some point and where unanimous in the belief that exposure to other forms of creativity is a good cure for creative block. Doing something that is not your life's work or passion but interests you without feeling you have to excel can be a real boost.

I've always wanted to try my hand at painting but have never really known what or where to start, not wanting to go down any intensive learning route. My AJE team mate Jenny showed me some of her art journals when I stayed with her last year and I really liked the quick informal style. On her recommendation I've recently started an online water colour sketching class with Jane LaFazio  and what do you know - I love it! I spent a couple of hours on my first lesson this last weekend and completely lost myself in it just enjoying the experience and feeling of being able to create with no pressure.

I've always been a firm believer that different creative activities cross pollinate and influence the different areas of my work and I'm sure signs of this class will come through too. I've never really been one for sketching bead and jewellery designs but after a chat with the team about an upcoming challenge that's exactly what I did last night and came up with lots of ideas so, maybe the funk is clearing...three cheers for that.

If you have any ideas or techniques for dealing with this kind of situation do let us know...we're all for sharing anything that can help our community stay motivated and inspired. Not long now until spring...

Water colour sketch by Jane LaFazio


  1. It's really easy to burn yourself out creatively. At first, in this situation, I would stress myself even more by trying to work through it, but I've found the best thing is to accept it and walk away... go and find something else to do for a while and come back when you're rested and ready!

    The watercolours look like the perfect distraction, they're fantastic!

  2. I told one of my support group yesterday that I feel like the "poster child for SAD". Only thing that gets my juices flowing is to sit at my work table, under the OTT light (only substitute I have found for sunshine) and get lost in a sketch/painting. Danny Gregory says that taking the time to really SEE an object and render/sketch/paint it in all its detail is all about mindfulness. Gets me out of the taxes/bills/household duties/lethargy/grumpiness of February every time. Spent time doing just that yesterday, and reviewing some of the online Sketchbook Skool classes I took. Danny and Jane LaFazio take me to a better place every time. So now, I'm off to the shower and heading to the gym for some (indoor, warm) exercise to exorcise the body demons and stock up on a few endorphins. Weather here on Lake Erie is about to get horridly frigid again --zero or below expected just about every nite for the next week. So while there is a little daylight to be had, off I go!

    1. Thanks Karen - your sketches are lovely and I'm glad they're therapeutic for you too.

  3. I just read about SAD yesterday, in a magazine I think. I think it applies to a lot of people. I am homebound for the most part. Leaving the house only for doctor's appointments and an occasional once in the spring flea market trip in my wheelchair. So I know about depression from lack of sunlight too. I used to never be depressed and always said I wasn't depressed but my doctor slowly added antidepressants and now I am on 3 and feeling so much better. I had no idea I was so depressed. Anyway.... I so love your pendants they are so cute. You are very talented at painting!! Wow, you have it all baby!

  4. It's going to be a very sunny 80 today, 86 tomorrow, now having said that.... come summer, it'll be 110 115, so I guess there's no really perfect place, unless you can stay here in Phoenix in the winter and then maybe Montana in the summer :) I do need to see the sun, we had the option of either moving to Seattle or Phoenix 20 years ago and I knew that even though the summers can boil you, I needed to have sunny days ! I get a lot more beading done in the summer when its too hot to be outside, unless you're in the pool.

  5. I find this time of year that my hardest part is actually making it down to my studio. Once I cross that hurdle, I seem to be fine and end up creating even if I just went down to put things away. Of course, we have been getting a lot of unseasonable sunshine this year which really helps.

  6. I enjoyed your post Lesley. I have these dry spells too, especially after an intense lead up to a show. I find it is best to just give it a rest or try something different for awhile, with no expectation of creating a "product". It has to be approached as a time for play. Which is exactly what you are doing!

  7. Excellent post - I can so relate. I bought my Husband a UV light for his desk as he never gets outside during the work week. To me the cold is as bad as the SAD light deprivation. I have no desire to ever leave the house...

    Your watercolors look fabulous! And the sunny bright colors are sure a visual boost! F+Glad you like the class, Im liking mine and want to devote more time to Week 2.

  8. I know oh so well! And top it off with tons of snow and cold and it just ends up worse. Something will come along and spark it when you are ready


We would love to hear what you have to say, please leave a comment.