By Rob Hines
The bells are jingling and the halls are reasonably decked. 'Tis the season to be merry, and if you’re staying productive while you celebrate with kith and kin, good for you!
If you’re feeling the pressure of the season and wondering how you can feel like you’re still moving your writing forward, I've put a few tips together. If you’d like, you can read these suggestions as you play your favorite instrumental holiday tune.
- Download Evernote on your phone or other portable device. You’ll probably have a bunch of great writing ideas as you celebrate the holidays, but you’ll probably also find yourself in festive situations where it’s not easy to get to a keyboard to take them down. Evernote has been my go-to app for notetaking at all hours. Just create a few folders to organize and prioritize your ideas however you’d like. Novel, short story, script. Good, bad, so-so. Drunk, buzzed, sober. Whatever you think will keep your thoughts in order.
- Remember everything you see and hear from your family, even the crazy stuff. Especially the crazy stuff. We love our families, but there’s a strange feeling of stress that begins to creep in every year as the holidays approach. That feeling comes from the certainty that your family will say and do things that will make you question your genetic composition. My challenge to you is to embrace the inevitable lunacy and channel your stress creatively to transform your holiday experiences into amazing story and character ideas. Just make sure you change the names and places to keep future holidays from getting weird. Unless you really want to send a message. That’s your deal.
- Finally, I grant you all permission to find inspiration in cheese. You can try to avoid them all you want, but I defy anyone to make it all the way through the holidays without being subjected to one or more traditional holiday movies. By the way, when it comes to holiday movies, the word “traditional” really means “you have to watch these saccharin flicks that no one watched when they came out because you’re not really celebrating if you don’t.” But I’m not completely condemning our beloved holiday movies. In fact, I've come to realize that these films have weaseled their way into our artistic lexicon, and since they’re so ubiquitous we can use them to inspire our own writing. Want to write a story about small town life? Study A Christmas Story. Pondering personal triumph? Explore It’s A Wonderful Life. Thinking about a story of redemption? Just watch any of the million Scrooge movies. Okay, you could also read the Dickens classic, but you’re stuck in front of the TV anyway so you might as well use the Cliffs Notes version. Are these movies great art? Of course not, but they've done something that every writer wishes could happen to his or her work. They've become beloved. They've become part of our culture to the point that writers from every medium still include allusions to these classic stories in their works. Don't be shy about doing the same thing with your own special touch.
Will these next few weeks be busy? Yep. Will you experience a strange cocktail of anxiety, stress and childlike joy? Probably. But there’s no reason why you can’t celebrate the holiday of your choice (or all of them) and still be a productive writer. Just don’t blame me if you go all Hemingway and develop an egg-nog addiction.
Happy Holidays Everyone!