Shorter Days, Slower Thoughts

It's always a struggle for me to maintain the creative energy which I experience during Spring and Summer, and carry it through the shorter days and colder weather of Fall and Winter. (I dislike labels and "conditions" but here's the official description of the issue on Wikipedia.) I think many people experience the same symptoms. I manage by taking walks during day time if possible, and by allowing some slack in my productivity during this time of year.

By the middle of January, I invariably begin to feel more optimistic about ideas, plans, projects, etc. As a gardener, I specialize in late winter blooming plants, such as Helleborus, Witch Hazel, Snow Drops and Early Crocus, for they remind me that longer days and warmer weather are imminent.

In late September I announced on this blog that I would learn and perform all from the Paul Jeanjean 18 Etudes Book in a year. I still plan to follow through. But I've been stuck for awhile on etude 2. Several reasons exist for the practice block, besides the natural cycling down of energy and mood explained above.

1: Etude 2 has always been a clincher for me. It's extremely difficult to master. Over the years it's been the one which laughed at me, until I finally performed it a few years ago. But this time, I insist on perfecting it, mastering it. That is requiring some "living with it", which I have discussed a bit here, but don't want to belabor the issue. (unless someone is really interested)

2: Every season, I seem to miscalculate how much energy and practice time my real job takes, as principal clarinetist with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Normally I could manage what we have had to play so far, but reason 3 explains why even the normal symphony practice has been a new challenge this season.

3: In the past six months, during the high point of my creative energy period, I switched ALL my equipment (mouthpieces, reeds, clarinets) to radically different styles, makers, brands. It's all good. I have enjoyed and benefited from all the changes, because they challenge me to separate what is me and what is the equipment, a great test to help identify tiny weaknesses needing work. But those changes and my playing barely had time to settle before I returned to full time work, where such experiments are unprofessional if they interfere with my performance reliability. My colleagues must be able trust what I will sound like from day to day. That is how we can blend as we do in the orchestra. I must also be able to rely on myself to play delicate solos on radically different equipment. It's one thing to do it well as home, it's another world to perform it live under pressure with the group.

So I've been scrambling to get the needle pointed North again and get back to my groove. I'm almost there. In the meantime, I'm heading South, to South Carolina. A few days break to visit my aging father in Charleston SC will be a refreshing (and warming) change.

I really look forward to nailing JJ 2 to the wall. It's coming along, just not quite ready for public airing yet.

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6 comments for “Shorter Days, Slower Thoughts

  1. November 24, 2009 at

    Cary- Thank you for your helpful comment. I believe you are right not to belabor the situation, but instead do your best to manage it. I wanted to check out your blog, but the link you listed must have had a typo. I hope you come back and let me know who you are.


  2. November 23, 2009 at

    Well put, Marion. There are positive aspects to the slowing down during Winter. Poetry and music become even more important to nurturing the spirit's inner glow.

  3. November 23, 2009 at

    I identify completely with everything that you say! From observing those closest to me, I think as human beings we all experience these cycles to a greater or lesser extent so it's a question of working out how we can productively live with them.

  4. November 23, 2009 at

    Thank you for posting this! I experience the same here in northern Norway, it is quite maddening. But as you say, perhaps one shouldn't force oneself to maintain the same standards one has during summer and spring, and rather accept that one needs more rest this time of year.

    • November 23, 2009 at

      Joar, you are in a much greater extreme of \”shorter days\” than I. How long are your days in Mid-December? 4 hours? I believe one must have a specific plan of activities. Mine is: regular exercise, early rising for sure, absorbing books to read (I'm looking for a good, long novel to capture me), good meals with friends.

      • November 23, 2009 at

        At the darkest the days aren't longer than 1-2 hours.

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