It’s the holiday season, that time of the year when it’s next to impossible to get away from the noise, activity, crowds, and craziness that accompanies it. When I was a child, I loved this month, loved snow storms, loved the anticipation and school vacation. I read like mad during school vacations. A vivid memory was reading John Hersey’s Hiroshima on New Year’s Day, with only a break for a holiday dinner, and sneaking holiday cookies I’d baked called Berry-Berry Bons Bons (cranberry orange walnut cookies that melted in the mouth). I miss those times.
The holidays are more for extroverts than introverts with all the parties, gift exchanges, Secret Santas, and traveling. They’re not conducive to introspection, solitude, or writing. I find myself feeling frustrated most days because I haven’t been able to even think about the writing project I’m working on. This makes me cranky and snarky, and I’ve caught myself taking it out on people at my part-time job. It’s not their fault. But this time of year is always difficult for me. I recall once searching for a place I could go where Christmas was not celebrated, and never did find one.
Out of all of this Sturm und Drang has emerged the realization that maybe I needed to think about my creative process, i.e. how I actually go about doing my creating. That takes me back to almost 10 years ago when I was working on the first drafts of the 2nd and 3rd books in the Perceval series. I established a work routine: after breakfast, I did my stair exercises to classical music and thought about what I’d write that day. Then I’d go over my notes before plunging right in to writing. I wrote for hours with no break except for lunch. Toward the end of the afternoon, I’d often work on other writing, research, or run errands. I was so very fortunate to have been able to work on my writing fulltime back then. I miss that time now.
The truth of the matter is that I’ve been struggling to find a new work routine, a way to preserve my creative process. When I exercised to classical music, that opened up my mind to my imagination — I resolved so many issues during that prelude to writing. When I sat at my desk, I then found myself already working in my mind and it was only a matter of getting the words on paper (screen). I had the freedom of time before, now I don’t. I write when I can — blog posts, short stories, holiday letters, essays for online publication. But I’m not feeling creative. It feels like drudgery. Although there have been times when a particularly neat word has popped into my head and I’ve felt like dancing.
There’s a saying that you can’t miss what you’ve never had. Well, I’ve had a creative process that worked wonderfully for me, a structure to my writing work day, so now I miss it because it’s gone. That doesn’t mean I can’t find a new writing routine again to enhance my creative process. It just means that during this crazy holiday season when I swear everyone goes a little insane, I am wishing for something that only I can give myself — time.
How do you survive the holidays? Does your creative process suffer during the holidays? If you work part-time or fulltime, I’d love to hear how you schedule writing time into your days in the comments section below. Thanks!