Holidays. It’s the time of year when visual artists flourish. All their hard work over the past six months comes to fruition. At last they get their pay off. Creative people who work in kitchens, arrange flowers, craft strange and exotic pieces, pot, or paint will try during this season to make up for the barren winter months to come when tourists are few and their regular patrons are broke. The visual artist has worked and polished all year for this: the art shows and craft tours that are the delight of aficionados everywhere, and the money these people bring in that must last until late spring and early summer when the big spenders return.
It’s a perfect time for an artist’s date and the best way I know to spend money. I hand over my check, credit card or cash with a smile on my face and drink a cup of cider or cocoa with the artist while I observe the studio where the gift I just purchased was made. There are no home made cookies served on a hand made platter at the mall. It’s a great way to spend, and a wonderful way to spend a weekend, especially if you live in the mountains where fine art and folk art can be found a hill or two apart. I believe in supporting artists and I want my dollar to stay as close to home as possible.
For writers, though, the holidays can be a hard time to remain true to ourselves and the work we do. It’s a social time; a family and friend time where festivities and smoozing abound. Like everyone else, we bake and cook and buy and wrap and sing carols or chant or whatever our celebration calls for. The solitude and quiet that a writer requires like oxygen and water become thin and hard to find. We find ourselves in a desert of too much; too much activity, too much fun, too much food and wine and socializing. Our resolve to write falls away and is smashed to bits like a glass ornament shaken loose from the tree of our intentions. Where in the midst of all this clatter and clutter, admidst the pleasure of seeing old friends and family, of eating and drinking too much, do we find the quiet centered place from which we write?
I’m lucky to have someone like Leigh in my life who understands that it’s crucial for me to have private time in order that we may both survive the holidays. Watching as I begin to spin faster and faster out of control, she takes my hand and leads me to my room, places a notebook and pen and cup of coffee in my hand and whispers gently (or not), “Write something. Anything. Please, for both our sakes.” And writers, where will you find more material than a family reunion with crazy Uncle Howard and nosy Aunt Sue unless it’s a drunken party of old friends gossiping and re-telling stories of past relationships, successes, failures and flub-ups. This, my friends, is fertile ground. Don’t waste it.
So I thought I’d list a few ways you can keep the pen moving across the page during this insane time of year:
#1 Do take an artist date and go on one of the many art and craft tours that are available in your area. They are everywhere and I know my blog followers live in some of the best places for these events. Getting out is good for the soul and seeing where and how other artists work is stimulating and inspirational. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Really, these artists can go a long way on your heartfelt praise. It’s also a good way to get some really fine snacks and beverages.
#2 Hide in your room pretending to sleep late. Say you are wrapping presents or shopping online if pestered by family or friends. Don’t answer the phone or text. You can usually steal an hour or two to yourself in this fashion. They won’t miss you. You won’t miss them. But you will miss having written if you don’t do it, and believe me, sooner or later it will show in how you handle yourself in public. As the old flight attendant saying goes, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.”
#3 If you have a roommate, as is often the case in these overcrowded reunion accommodations, leave for a bit. Go find a coffee shop, a cafe, or even a bar where no one you know can follow or simply show up. I have written in bars and cafes on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, even New Year’s Day. You are spending time in a veritable wonderland of writing prompts with all these folks and all their emotions displayed like shiny objects in a shop window. Use them. Write about them. Hide your notebook well when you return to the fray.
#4 Remember, writing is your safe harbor. If ever there was a time that a sensitive writer needs a place to hide away, it’s between Solstice and New Years. Your sanity depends on it. Possibly someone else’s does too. Your Muse doesn’t take time off and she waits for you to show up at the page, Christmas concert or not. You can’t expect to wake up on New Year’s Day, groggy or hung over, and have those brilliant writing resolutions simply appear. You must write your way toward them. The best ones require thought and refinement on the page.
So don’t worry about being the humbug in the family. Be a happy humbug. Steal that hour or two you need for yourself and write your way through a happy holiday. Or not. Then let me know how that worked out for you.