From Turkeys to Stockings to Writer’s Block and Empty Pages

Writers, keep your schedules and get to the page to avoid the holiday blues.
Photo by danaberlith via Flickr

When the holidays start, it’s time to find new ways to keep on writing.
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer

Ahhh…the holidays are upon us once again.  As soon as humanely possible, the drugstore down the street from my office relegated the Halloween candy to the “sale” shelves and stuffed the main thoroughfare full of Christmas items – and October 31st was still a week away!

It’s a familiar lament – each year it seems as if seasonal celebrations are imposed at earlier and earlier intervals (you just know the world will be bowed and bowered with Shamrocks come January 2nd). Nevertheless, for many of us, the months of October, November and December are a time for joyful traditions… and traditional stress.

So many commitments… So much money spent… So many cookies to bake (and eat!), and all those cards to sign and relatives to ferry to and from the airport.

While many of the words associated with the holiday season include “celebration,” “festivities,” and “day off,” I think many of us can agree rest and relaxation is in short supply from about October 1st to January 3rd.

And when you add a commitment to creative endeavors and regular writing to the mix, the weight of it all can seem like too much to bear.

But before you seriously consider booking a one-way ticket to Timbuktu (is that even possible?) and opting out of the whole endeavor, let me make one suggestion: The best way to get through that slalom run known as “the holiday season,” is adhere every more strictly to your daily schedule.

Now is not the time to skip the daily walk, the morning pages, the artist’s dates or the regular writing (come to think of it – that might be one reason why NaNoWriMo is launched in November instead of a less holiday-intensive time, like February).

So how do you find a chance to write (or be creative) between trips to the grocery store for more cranberry sauce and endless monologs from your drunken uncle Larry?

Over at her blog, Charlotte Rains Dixon offers some suggestions, including taking your manuscript with you everywhere (I plan on deploying this tactic myself) even if it’s just a couple of printed pages. She also suggests thinking about your writing (an underrated but significant activity says Dixon, and I agree), and cultivate an attitude that – contrary to what may or may not be going on around you – there IS enough time to get everything done.

Meanwhile, over at judygoldman.com, blogger Judy Stone-Goldman provides a very useful writing prompt that can help you sort out your priorities:

““When I get very busy, the first thing that happens is ______” (then keep writing); “For me to stay balanced during the holidays, I definitely need ______” (then keep writing); “This year, even during the holiday season, I have a commitment to ______” (then keep writing).”

Allison Adair takes a more figurative – and perhaps counterintuitive – approach to the issue of seasonal writer’s block.  In a post titled “Silencing Your Inner Grinch: How to Keep Writing During the Holidays,” Adair lists a number of methods as both literal and figurative tools to get you away from the fruitcake and onto the page.

Adair’s tips include:

Writing yourself into the season instead of trying to ignore it.

Figuratively: Write your way into — not against — the spirit of the season. Consider it an extended “tonal” imitation exercise. Challenge yourself to write something that captures the many shades of a bright time.”

Pay attention to the folks that aren’t celebrating and see what new perspectives you might gain, or new characters you might discover.

Upon seeing an old lady pause to take in a holiday wreath and asking if she needed help, Adair explains the insight she gained, writing, “Her accent made me imagine places where Christmas might have been, at one time and maybe even for her, more complicated than it was this evening, there on Beacon Street.”

I particularly like Adair’s suggestion that we look closer at the holiday cheer around us to see the hidden sorrow underneath.  After all, this time of year, celebrations carry with them “the tint of despair.”

“The juxtapositioning of joy and despair can be startling,” writes Adair. “- how many holiday memories do you have that fit perfectly into the terrific box (or, equally, the terrible box).

And of course, she’s right. The holidays are complicated and multifaceted – we can never honestly say that was “the best” or “the worst” Thanksgiving ever!  Usually, there’s some silver lining to be found amongst the leftover turkey and congealed gravy, and – more often than not  – those run-ins with the relatives are not nearly as fraught with tension and calamity as we expect (at least I hope – fingers crossed).

But even if your seasonal celebrations run the trajectory of mediocre to awful to truly horrendous, take comfort in the wise words of Garrison Keillor

Nothing bad happens to writers, it’s all material.


And after you’ve consoled yourself with an extra slice of pumpkin pie and a to-the-rim glass of wine, get they back to the page and write it all out.

That’s what I plan on doing anyway!

Cheers!

And if you’re still feeling down and out on the eve of Thanksgiving, check out the Oatmeal’s classic comic on the holiday “then and now” which starts:

 

All original content is the sole property of Elizabeth Cutright and The Daily Creative Writer. If you are reading this blog on another website, it has been reposted without the author’s permission in violation of the DMCA. © 2012 The Daily Creative Writer

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