Writing with the Seasons - December, 2021 #2
Welcome to ‘Writing with the Seasons,’ a collection of writing prompts, ideas and inspiration that follow the rhythms of the natural world as the year unfolds. Everyone who booked a place at the recent Write & Shine December Festival received these weekly dispatches in December 2021.
Carl Honore’s book ‘In Praise of Slowness’ explores society’s obsession with saving time, including the popularity of one-minute fairytales and speed-listening to podcasts. He argues that slowness is not about moving at snail’s pace, but balance: “Be fast when it makes sense to be fast, and be slow when slowness is called for." It’s about closely observing the world around us and responding to our surroundings.
Some of us might find our bodies have already slowed down to echo the pale skies and cold weather this winter, with ideas drifting and thoughts turning inward. Others will enjoy the rapid race towards the end of the year: ticking off word-count goals and poem drafts, trying to fit writing between festive commitments, news updates, and other tasks.
Whatever you’re feeling, winter is a time to invite slowness into your days, whether in your routines or your creative approach.
The author Judy Reeves applies the idea of nature’s seasons to writing. She says: “Every writer experiences cycles—a productive time, a fallow time… Your cycles may run with the course of the moon or be in rhythm with some internal, cellular clock that keeps its own time.”
The quieter and slower times, Reeves says, are moments to rest and rejuvenate. Such dormancy is “like an orchard in winter: somewhere, underground in the roots and deep within the heartwood of every apple tree, the idea of apples rests, awaiting the time to begin once again the cycle of fruition.”
But how do we slow down? The cycles of productivity and output can be satisfying—or put another way, addictive.
Artist David Hockney’s ‘Grand Canyon with my Shadow’ was created using Polaroid film, arranged in a grid and showing the same place from different angles. Our eyes rove around the work, reflecting back the way we see. Hockney puts it like this: “Not all at once, but rather in discrete, separate glimpses, which we then build into our continuous experience of the world.” Jenny Odell in ‘How to Do Nothing’ says Hockney invites us to practice our skills in looking, in slowing down.
Writing prompt: One way to approach writing with more thought and attention is to apply constraints or rules. So, choose a place you’ve visited recently and write about it from 10 different angles, or only write seven-word sentences, or go without words containing the letter 'a'.
Slowing down. It’s setting small tasks: a sentence a day, a page a week. It’s doing what you love: watching a brilliant film, having a good conversation. It’s time alone: a candlelit morning with a book before everyone wakes. Slowing down allows us to see more clearly. As poet Mary Oliver says, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
Try this: Are there aspects of your life you’d like to slow down and enjoy? Can you make space to take pleasure in activities you love this December? Take five minutes to write about the things you want to savour.
Thanks for reading!
Further wintertime inspiration
Carl Honore’s ‘In Praise of Slowness’ can be found in our ‘Wintertime Reads’ selection on Write & Shine’s Bookshop page.
‘A Writer’s Book of Days’ by Judy Reeves
Jenny Odell’s ‘How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.’
Writing with the Seasons is brought to you by Write & Shine, a programme of morning writing events and online courses.