I got those Gray Day Blues,
O yeah, the Gray Day Blues,
When my cerebellum goes on snooze.

So maybe you can advise,
O one so sage and wise,
How to cope under gray skies?

I got some real good news:
Don’t dwell on sunless views,
Just get busy – to end your blues!

Not much of a song, as blues songs go, but this weather can dull one’s creativity.

How many days in a row can the Chicago area endure dreary weather? Apparently quite a few. As far as I can tell, we’ve had two sunny days the last month. Otherwise, it’s gray, grayer and grayest, with a helping of winter storms and single-digit temps to come.

As my dear friend and former RoundTable columnist Charlie Wilkinson recently put it: “My solar battery is puckered.”

If like me you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (the cutesy acronym of which is SAD), you know that lack of sun is the equivalent of lack of sleep or (worse) lack of chocolate.

But in Chicago, for meteorological reasons that remain obscure to me (despite this explanation), we experience long spells of overcast skies this time every year.

What to do? Here are a few options:

Grin and bear it. As my father once admonished me in a dream: “Quit your belly aching!” But complaining about Chicago’s weather is a time-honored tradition. Aren’t we the city that coined the expression, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes”? The great Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko used to say Chicago winters bred character. But notwithstanding my huge regard for Mike, I say it’s spinach and I say the [heck] with it!

Go south. Some friends and family escape to warmer, sunnier climes. But our kids and grandson are here, our friends are here, our bank account is here and we don’t want to abandon any of them. Plus, how many days can you sit by the pool before you expire from boredom?

Get equipment: There are special lamps advertised as light therapy for SAD sufferers. I’ve never used them – I’d need to have them in every nook and cranny of the house, and anyway, I’m skeptical about their efficacy. Lamplight does not equal sunlight.

Get going. As the blues guy above advises, the best remedy against SAD is to gear up! Use the time freed up from those outdoor summer hikes and bike rides to focus your energies on tasks you’ve put off, passions to explore and new hobbies and friendships.

Spring has its cleaning. Winter should have its clearing. Clear your head, set a few important but realistic goals – and get to work!

For me, the three biggies this winter are: 1) Find an agent or small publishing house for my new novel, 2) Exercise more and better and 3) Write more fiction.

The first two are underway. I try to send out a query letter a day. Of course, that means dealing with a lot of rejection. But that’s to be expected. At the Chester Gould Museum in Woodstock, Ill., one learns the famed cartoonist pitched 59 cartoon ideas to national newspaper syndicates during the 1920s. All were rejected. No. 60 was Dick Tracy. How did Gould deal with a decade of setbacks? This instructive history was inscribed on a poster titled, “Perseverance.”

As for exercise, it’s pickleball at the McGaw Y for me!

Writing fiction is harder than pickleball. Non-fiction is guided by facts. In fiction, the imagination reigns. Every word and sentence contain innumerable choices. A decision tree would be infinitely complex, would choke the universe. The antidote is to ignore the infinitudes and instead apply the first rule of writing: don’t worry about perfection. Get the first draft down, refine from there.

Similarly, turn the lassitude of your gray days into productive busy-ness. Get going, refine from there.

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...

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