Every January 1 throughout the world, hordes of human "polar bears" make a mad dash to icy waters for a quick plunge.

Why do they brave the elements and the possibility of frostbite and hypothermia? Some say it’s a way to combat depression. Others claim it is a spiritual experience, but I suspect it’s even more than that. They take the plunge for one of the same reasons writers write: they want to prove they’re alive.

From a writing perspective, winter has always been a productive time for me. I have lived in some of the coldest places on earth but I always managed to find a colorful cafe to keep me warm and writing during the season. Even if this meant I had to trek for half a mile through glistening, hip-high snow, I’d “soldier on” because I knew I would be bringing home an old notebook full of brand new thoughts.

"When asked how they prepare for their winter plunge, some winter swimmers suggest to wade in slowly. Others say to just get it over and run right in!"

I live in the tiny ocean state of Rhode Island where there are plenty of beaches for winter swimmers, but I would never join them because I don’t enjoy exposing my body to the cold, winter air nor could I “bare” the shock of standing in freezing water. But I do admire these swimmers' frosty courage, which has inspired me to create the “Cold Writing Plunge”.

Cold writing is simply sitting down and writing a piece from scratch, out of the clear blue sky, with no notes or reference materials handy. It is going the distance as quickly as you can until you can no longer tolerate the writing "waters". (Or your fingers go numb—whichever comes first.) It's writing without planning, without editing, up a creek with no paddle, just moving forward with no thoughts of obstacles in between.

Would you like to accept my cold writing challenge? Cold writing can be done anywhere, even if you live in an extremely warm climate. (You're a writer, so you just need an imagination.) Pick a date and have fun making preparations for your own winter writing retreat. Below is a sample checklist:

* Plan your cold writing schedule.
* Check your writing equipment and timer.
* Cook a pot of nourishing, homemade soup you can heat and eat the next day.
* Tell your friends, family and social media followers about your plans to plunge the next day. (To ensure your commitment, you might consider collecting pledges so that you can pay it forward to your favorite charity.)
* Prepare yourself mentally for the experience. Get to bed by 10PM, to ensure plenty of rest.

Get up with the sun and greet the day with an affirmation, like “I am a writer” or “Winter days are writing days.”

For inspiration, create a room spray with spring water and invigorating orange essential oil. You might also try Aura Cacia’s “Creative Juice” blend, which contains bergamot and cardamom.

Drink spring water with lemon and herbal tea with honey throughout the day.

Before you write, exercise your fingers and give yourself a good hand massage with aromatherapy hand cream.

Wear colorful, fingerless gloves if you live in a cold climate. (Red will stimulate action, blue will help you communicate better and yellow will improve your confidence.)

As for me, I'm going to plan for a snowy day and then proceed with several 'icebreakers", beginning with this 1-minute warmup:

Choose one of these words (arctic, bitter, biting, brisk, cold, freezing, frosty, icy) as the first word in your first sentence—and then run with it for one minute!

After the warmup, my intention is to take a 5-minute rest, then choose an "icebreaker" for a 5-minute plunge, a 10-minute rest and then another "icebreaker" 15-minute plunge, followed by a 30-minute rest. And when I feel sufficiently acclimated, I will just coldwrite whatever pops in my head for as long as I can stand it. In between times, I plan on enjoying my winter writing retreat with meditation, color therapy and full-out pampering!

Choose from these "icebreakers" or create your own:

Complete this sentence: “The last time I felt really cold was…”

Imagine you are one of the many “polar bears” who braves the watery plunge. Describe the moment your body touches water. Which part feels the cold first? How do you feel physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually?

Complete this sentence: “The first important thing I want to do after I’ve emerged from the icy water, dried off and changed into warm clothes is…”

Complete this sentence: “Since my cold plunge, I am surprised to find that I feel differently about…”

Write down all your fears of swimming outside in winter.

Write a letter to a friend, explaining why swimming outside in winter was one of the best experiences you’ve ever had.

Write about the one thing you wish you weren’t afraid to try.

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I'm looking forward to my Cold Writing Plunge. It will be a great test of my endurance and (because it is conducted indoors) a golden opportunity to record something memorable without suffering the shivers!

(P.S. I've set up a Pinterest board to share ideas on preparing and celebrating your own Cold Writing Plunge. If you're looking for a different kind of writing challenge, please join me!)

Author's Bio: 

Eleyne-Mari has been a professional writer since 1980. For writing workshops and products, visit her "Writelighter" virtual writing and wellness spa at www.writelighter.com.