By Laura Spinella
There’s no better time than the holidays to stop everything and blog about the lack of time during the holidays. I’m referring to writing time, as opposed to the general time we scramble for at the November/December juncture. Personally, it always manages to sneak up on me. One minute I’m scraping bottom for the last fun-size Snickers in the Halloween bowl, the next my kids are sending me buy links to Zumies (aka skateboard hell) and Victoria’s Secret. Zumies I pray will pass before the boy suffers a catastrophic head injury, VS compels me to send this reply to my daughters: “Girls! You realize this is despicable body image advertising at its worst, and that real women don’t look like this. Furthermore, I am at a loss to understand in what brothel-like circumstance you were reared—apparently, it’s one that would lead you to believe a lacy string up your butt suffices for underwear… Love, Santa.”
Apologies, I digress. My point is how writing time suffers during the holidays. I am, I think, like many writers, a creature of habit. I prefer the laptop in the sunroom to the desktop in the study. Ordinary tea becomes a potion that cues my brain to get in gear. And so much the better if Trip, the ugly tiger cat, hangs over my shoulder while we coerce sentences into submission and cajole plot into paragraphs. I’m not a fan of noise, so if you’re home sick, find a television on a different floor. I know that sounds harsh, probably because it is. However, I also know the depth and span of the cavern one must cross to get from, “I have this idea for a story,” to “Penguin called. They bought your book.”
It’s a path that offers no holiday shortcut.
However, fighting for time and that coveted writing rhythm isn’t to say I’m not tempted. On the contrary, during the holidays I can be my own worst enemy. I am a sucker for quirky traditions, giddily abandoning a WIP for The Homecoming. Do you know it? It’s the cavity inspired pilot for The Waltons’ television series, and it would not be the holidays here without it. It’s hokey and couldn’t be more out of sync with… well, the ideals put forth in a Victoria’s Secret catalog. But grounding twenty-plus years of tradition in hokey is what, in part, allows me to joke about the scantily clad. Holiday temptations and obligations start with the Waltons, continuing on to things we all whine about but would never forgo: the food, the shopping, the presents, the decorations… the time it all takes.
A wiser writer might retreat during this period, using the downtime to recharge and read, enjoy the festivities and start anew along with the year. The publishing industry seems to operate via that mindset, all but shutting down during December. I wish I could follow suit. But my compulsion to write doesn’t recognize holidays or vacations. I don’t know how to shut it off, or even hit the snooze button. So what I’m wondering is if, during the holidays, you happily pack up your laptop and say, “See you next year!” Or do you adjust for the climate, writing through the graveyard shift while no one is stirring, not even a mouse? I’d be curious to hear. I’d welcome the advice. It would be interesting to know if I’m certifiably odd or assuredly in the company of others who find writing an inescapable master.
Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER (which makes a groovy holiday gift) and ISABEL'S RHAPSODY, coming November 2013. Visit her at www.lauraspinella.net.