As the winter solstice approaches and the nights lengthen to their darkest and most forbidding, I am inclined to go dormant along with the trees and squirrels. The Danish concept of Hygge (hoo-ge) has a way of embracing that desire to bring things down a notch, while remaining pleasantly productive throughout those dreary days of winter. It’s all about connecting with nature, friends, and all that nurtures the soul in the colder months. Here are four writing prompts inspired by this way of living that just might help you find joy in the beautiful coziness of our shortest days.
When temperatures drop, our human instinct tells us to stay as comfortable as possible at all times… which generally means we collectively become homebodies if we weren’t already. Less time outdoors means less daylight and vitamin D, which means lowered seratonin production, which encourages scroogey attitudes. Don’t let it affect your writing mojo! Bundle up and head outside. Notice the changes of the plants in your area. Is it peacefully silent in your neck of the woods? Or busier than ever on your street with the impending holidays? Notice everything. Take notes. When you get someplace you can really write, flesh out vignettes of the places you went and the scenes that were most interesting. Was it that one tree stubbornly insisting on autumn with one vibrant leaf still clinging to a twig? Was it the stressed-out convo overheard? An act of kindness observed? Post your experience here or on our Facebook page!
Hot drinks warm you up from the inside out and just feel right at this time of year. Prepare an assortment of hot drinks and some nibbles. Something familiar is nice, but be sure to include something you’ve never tasted before. Find a comfortable place to sip and write without distraction. Describe each tea, cocoa, or even soup, in detail. Finding the right words to accurately represent the complexity of flavor is the challenge! If it’s a hot toddy, how does the alcohol affect your senses? Include any memories that pop up in association with each concoction. This exercise is almost meditative as you learn to slowly savor each sip and decipher the language of your palate.
Friends and Food
One critical element of Hygge is self-care; understanding the need for kindness to ourselves. While many here are already paring back their meals in penance for the holiday feasting, the Danes embrace all that brings comfort and joy, especially friends and good food. Gather some of your favorite people, prepare some of your favorite foods, and play some of these improv games. Thinking on your feet and collaborative storytelling encourage you to think outside the box in ways staring at a blank page just doesn’t.
- One Word — Sit in a circle and tell a story together. If you’ve ever played “Fortunately but Unfortunately,” this is similar, but as you go around the circle each person contributes only the next single word to the sentence/story. Don’t overthink! Just say whatever pops out. The result is hilarious fun.
- Telestrations — This is a game that can be purchased, or done simply with paper and pencils for the group. The first person writes a sentence, then folds the paper so that the sentence is covered, and passed to the left. The next person peeks at the sentence and illustrates it. If you are a horrible artist, no worries! It just makes the next part more fun. Fold that paper the other way, so your art AND the sentence are hidden, and pass it to the left. Now look at ONLY the illustration, and write a sentence to describe what you see. Repeat this process, passing the papers until you get your original paper back. Sharing and laughing together by firelight feeds the soul, and the whole shenanigan improves creativity.
- Yes and No… with a twist– This message will self-destruct after you finish this page. Well, maybe not, but the game can really only be played once with any particular group of friends. Tell your friends it will be a storytelling game, where half of you will be creating a story, and they have to guess what it is asking only questions with yes and no answers; then send half the group out of the room. The remaining half is told that they are actually NOT going to create the story, the guessers are. For every question that starts with a consonant will be a yes answer, vowels will be a no. When the other half returns, the incognito collaboration begins.
“There are two ways of spreading light:
to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.”
Hygge culture thrives by candlelight. So light a candle, find a cozy fireplace, and contemplate those who have given light, illumination, a brightness to your world of some kind. This can be someone you know very well, a child, an artist who has inspired you, a historical or religious figure who lit a figurative fire in some way; anyone who has been a luminary to you personally. Write a quick character sketch based on that person. What have been their biggest challenges and how did they overcome them? Write their biography from your limited perspective. Write them a letter thanking them for their influence in your life. This can be four writing opportunities in one if you let it.
Snuggle into the rhythms of winter. Writing practice can include creative collaborations and silent contemplations. Be kind to yourself, embrace friends and comforting traditions. And keep writing.