Monday, May 26, 2008


According to Wikipedia, Doldrums is a word that comes from an area of the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. Interestingly enough the area can have heavy squalls, thunderstorms, and hurricanes as well as the times when the wind disappears altogether. We usually think of weather in the Doldrums as days on end where the sailors were trapped because there was not enough wind to power their sails. When we say we are in the doldrums, we usually are describing states of listlessness, despondency, inactivity, stagnation, or a slump. Writers often talk about "writer's block" that window when the words just won't flow. Psychologists would use the word depression.

A couple of days ago, my chapter from Nancy Rotenberg's book "Photography and the Creative Life" referred to just such a phase in a photographer's life. The main topic for the chapter was "Fear" those things that we allow to discourage our creative pursuits. I was encouraged by these words: "Just knowing that the process of art is cyclical and has a rhythm of ups and downs is reassuring when you hit one of those down times." During those down times, unproductive times, it is so easy to get discouraged, to feel that you are "failing." Nancy prefers to refer to this as "a seasonal interlude - a temporary pause in the flow-a speed bump." She used the season "winter" as a good description - a time when "we're cold and the juices aren't flowing." But I love the rest of this comparison. Winter is a time of dormancy, a preparation in the soil for the next season.

I've been in a winter season. I can list the causes - deaths of friends and family this year, watching the aging process with its ultimate deterioration of mind and body, the need to curtail the extensive travel we've enjoyed, the seemingly long process to become established as a photographer and writer, the large number of tedious tasks that need to be done around the house and yard . . . all of these can rob my creative energy.

If you are in the doldrums right now, I hope these words from Nancy will cheer you as they cheered me:
"Instead of running away from the dark times, give yourself permission to be in winter's shadow. You need to be allowed to feel vulnerable, weak, afraid, and weepy. Ultimately, you want to know who you are and that includes your dark side. It is in that authentic self that you should be living and sharing."

Everyone has cycles of ups and downs, cycles of great productivity and not such productive times, cycles of joy and sorrow, cycles of sickness and health. Ecclesiastes refers to this: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."

Patience is an important component as we go through these cycles. I find encouragement and wisdom from Nancy's chapter: "Have faith that winter will not go on forever and the energy of spring and growth will soon be with you."


Chris said...

The Doldrums

I am a big fan of white water rafting. One of my favorites is the Ocoee River in Georgia. You rush through heart pounding rapids and then you hit the doldrums. It is the place where you can stop and catch your breath and renew your energy for the next onslaught. I have often thought of my life as a reflection of the rapids and the doldrums. Jesus tells us to come to Him and He will give us rest. When I pull away my life runs at a frantic pace but in Him I find peace from the turmoil. The doldrums have their purpose. We can't stay there forever. We can use that time to renew our spirits.

Thanks for sharing. It has given me something new to ponder. :-)
Christina Jay

Mary Ann Melton said...

I also find that doldrums provide opportunities for needed rest. I have the "rabbit" personality . . . go fast and furious, get a lot done, but then you have to stop and rest.

Thanks for your words of encouragement!