Wednesday, December 14, 2016

'Tis the season of wandering minds

Barbara here. I was so happy to see the two previous posts of my blogmates. What to write about? No ideas. Nada. Let's try to think serious thoughts about writing while making Christmas cookies, Aline says. Let's write about Christmas trees, Rick says. What a serious group we are. The reality is that the holiday season plays havoc with a writer's schedule and focus. Charlotte Hinger's post on her valiant effort to write a book at this worst of possible times struck a chord. I am just embarking on the third book in the Amanda Doucette series and I am trying to use Charlotte's tricks. Consider writing like any other job; set a daily goal, choose a time of the day, write no matter what's going on around you or wandering through your head.

Easier said than done. Even if you're not trying to get ready for that Christmas luncheon or shop for gifts before the rush hour or clean the house for the neighbours you invited over so that you would have to clean the house (it's nice to see the neighbours too), it's difficult to pretend this is a time of year like any other. In my extended family, we celebrate two traditions, so I get distractions in spades. Do I have enough Hanukah candles for the menorahs, and where on earth can I buy Hanukah napkins and wrapping paper? The colours of Hanukah, at least in my family, are silver, white and blue. Try finding those in a season crazy about red, green, and gold.

Every year I pore over Hanukah recipes looking for a combination of old and new dishes. At the very least, my children expect classic potato latkes and Hanukah sugar cookies cut into shapes; all else is negotiable. We also celebrate Christmas with my extended family so I have gifts and food to prepare for that as well. And when you're a work-at-home writer sharing a house with two rambunctious, long-haired dogs, there is not a high premium put on house-cleaning. Until all three children and their partners descend for the holidays, in which case not only do the beds need to be changed, but the accumulated dog fur has to be vacuumed, muddy dog prints mopped up, the books, maps, pages of notes, and other clutter of my craft cleared off all the available surfaces in the house, etc.

With all these demands yammering in the back of my head, how on earth can I expect to find that zone of creativity and inspiration that a writer needs to produce a reasonably coherent sentence?

Then I take comfort in the thought that, even when I had a normal job out in the world, not a lot of real focussed work got done in the two weeks leading up to the holiday season. There were staff parties and gift exchanges and lots of gossiping around the water cooler. Not that there was an actual water cooler in my job, but in each school I went into, the kids and teachers seemed more excited to talk about decorating and baking and shopping and visiting than about the serious business of learning. Life is not all work; there needs to be time for fun too. Time for connecting and laughing and indulging oneself. So with that in mind, I accept that I'm not likely to get a whole lot of serious writing done over the next three weeks. I'll be lucky if I get the dog hair vacuumed. But I plan to have fun.

Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, and the best of the season to you all!

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