The Holidays not only creep up on you, they devour you. Really, there are multiple holidays tightly woven into a short span of time. I am declaring Hallowe’en part of the Holiday Season. Admittedly there is no day off from work on that day and yes, we tend to think of it as more of an event. But it requires preparation (some people decorate more for Hallowe’en then they do Christmas), the purchase of food, and entertaining guests (those little rascals!).
Viewed this way, the Holiday Season preparations and activities begin during the last week in October and carry on right through the first of the year (for some cultures and religions, even longer). Inside and out, the house decorations shift from pumpkins to gourds to pinecones and from ghouls to pilgrims to Santas while lights go from orange to white to red and green. The longest time frame to prepare is the 28 days in November. This year, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was virtually nil.
Don’t get me wrong; all of this is great fun. We need these celebrations to cheer us as the darkness devours the sun. But how is a writer to continue being productive through this time without becoming a Humbug?
Those of you with a day job, who write at night and in your spare time; read no further. This article can not help you. Clearly, you already possess the self-discipline and concentration to succeed under any circumstances. But for the rest of us: read on.
This newly described Holiday Season is full of distractions. And when we consider that this time frame is nearly one-quarter of the entire year, this festive time can only be viewed as a menace to a writer’s productivity. But most of us don’t see it this way, and therefore don’t prepare adequately. The great danger lies in the benevolent seduction of the season. Only after the decorating and parties and travel and card writing and candy eating and stocking filling and gift wrapping and Auld Lang Syne is over and done in early January; only when looking back does the writer clearly see this massive loss of productivity. And now its time for taxes. And too late for New Years Resolutions.
I mentioned travel. Travel is the death knell for writing. Writing demands concentration. Travel guaranties distraction and adverse stimulation. Train and plane travel offer some opportunities to write, between stewardess interruptions and bathroom trips. But if you drive to your relatives, as many of us do, our hands are effectively handcuffed and our brains hijacked. I have tried driving with a mini recorder to help me remember those brilliant ideas that come out of the blue. But there is risk in diverting one’s mind while driving; there are assassins out there.
The danger from travel is overt but the covert danger is the insidious infection of the mind. It is the pervasive spirit of the holiday season. It is permission to stop writing early to help the wife decorate; it’s the holidays. It’s okay to eat the chocolate kiss, or two, or three, and generate that sugar high, because when else can one do it? After all, it’s the holidays. It’s okay to stop work to have a glass of wine an hour or two earlier than usual; it’s the holidays.
You get the picture. Writers (this writer at least) are easily distracted from their work under most circumstances. But when the writer has a mind-set that gives him permission to stop writing at any time during a two month span, the results are predictable.
So what’s to be done? The answer is: be aware. With any addiction, the first step to wholeness is understanding that one has a problem. Every journey begins with the first step. Once the evil is disclosed, once the beguiling siren song of the season is seen for what it is, the writer can begin to fabricate defenses to repel the seductive sorties launched against his position. Only then will the journey to wellness begin.
(In the spirit of disclosure this author is a true believer in holidays of all types.)