Writing–Writing Around December

Stephen King has said he writes every day, even on Christmas. I only wish I was as gifted. I don’t write every day. I tried, I failed, I found a schedule that works for me.

I’ve got a whiteboard in which I put a monthly schedule, four months at a stretch. For every month, I write down what I want to accomplish in that month. From there, I organize my projects further by writing in my day planner what I want to work on for a given day. Sometimes I can do this all at once at the beginning of the month; sometimes I go week by week. Either way, my projects get scheduled and I stick to that schedule (mostly). When it comes to short stories, I sometimes have a lot of things going on in one month. This helps keep me organized. I thrive on organization. It makes up for my declining memory.

The goal of this monthly system is to get things done and get a few days off. If I get everything done in a timely fashion, then I have a few days off at the end of the month to let my brain rest. The more efficiently I get my work done, the more time I have for resting and working on goof projects (projects that are purely for pleasure). The more I slack during the month, the less time off I have, if I get any at all.

For the most part, this scheduling system works out very well for me. December, however, is the notable exception. It’s the busiest leg of the Holiday Gauntlet and I always think I can manage my time better than I’m actually capable of and end up overscheduling myself, much to my disappointment. It’s no way to end a year.

This year I managed to wise up and gave myself a reduced schedule. So far, it’s working out very well. I’m accomplishing things without getting overwhelmed and stressed. Finally! The brains kick in and I do something smart!

With only one more item to go on my monthly writing to-do list, I’m taking this week off to enjoy the holiday and I’m doing it without guilt. Well, writing guilt, anyway.

Maybe one day I can work up to the writing stamina Stephen King has, but for now, I’m looking to end this year on a feel-good note and I’m good with that.

Stories By the Numbers

Ready: 3
Sent Out: 2
Rejected: 1 (“Erin Go Bragh”; the Universe wanted to prove the point I made in last weeks Writing Wednesday by sending me a “It’s not you, it’s me” rejection)

The Holiday Gauntlet

Every year I run the holiday gauntlet. I’m sure lots of people do it, but this isn’t about them; it’s about me.

The gauntlet starts with Thanksgiving. I attend dinner with my dad’s side of the family at my Aunt Jo’s. Some years I’m responsible for shuttling the nieces down, too. It’s a nice way to ease into the craziness that follows in the weeks to come.

From that point on, it’s a matter of wrangling presents, buying them if I can afford it or making them if I can’t, wrapping them, mailing them, piling them up with the rest of my Christmas paraphernalia in the corner of my room. This likely takes me until the week of the holiday because I’m lousy at coming up with gift ideas in a timely fashion, and if I do come up with something, then I tend to misjudge the amount of time I have to get it. Somehow, I always managed to squeak in under the wire.

My middle niece was cursed with having her birthday exactly a week before Christmas. My mom doesn’t put out any Christmas decorations until afterwards so she can have the day and of course, I’m there for it to give her present and enjoy some cupcakes. It’s like a warm-up.

The week of Chrstimas is probably my most dreaded week of the year. It’s the logistics of trying to squeeze in as many Christmases as necessary so everyone is satisfied (this happens when you have divorced parents, divorced grandparents, and traveling grandparents). One year, I ended up doing six Christmases in four days. It was a nightmare and I’ve resented Christmas ever since. Typically, though, I usually have no more than three. Last year, I only had two. This year I’m only having two. It’s like a vacation only having two.

Part of the headache of doing the Christmases is the traveling. A trip to my mom’s is usually no big deal, just a twenty minute drive. A trip to my Aunt Jo’s is about the same amount of time, but in the opposite direction. But there have been years in which I drove to my mom’s on the 23rd and 24th for Christmases and then on Christmas drove north to her house, picked up the nieces, drove south to my Aunt Jo’s, had Christmas, then drove north to take the girls home, then drove south to take myself home. The entire Christmas ping pong trip ends up being about 150 miles. It’s a lot of driving for a day full of food and presents and sometimes crappy weather.

Sure, other people drive that distance in a day. My grandparents pretty much have to in order to make their Christmas rounds. But, I think it’s more exhausting to drive it like a fish on speed trapped in a small bowl.

After the mania that is Christmas begins the slow cool down. New Year’s Eve is a raucous affair for a lot of people, but for me, it’s a quiet business of a marathon of some sort (last year it was Mystery Science Theater 3000) with some snacks, sparkling grape juice, and a friend or two. Nothing big, nothing drunken, nothing fancy. Just a quiet ringing in of the New Year.

My oldest niece’s birthday is January 11th and, you know it, I’m there for cupcakes (or cheesecake) and presents. It’s the last trip I have to make and by that point, I’m tired of driving 51 North.

The gauntlet ends on my birthday the next day, January 12th. My mom usually just lumps my birthday in with my niece’s, which has led to some interesting birthday cakes over the years. I can’t blame her. By that point, all of my friends and relatives are tired of celebrating things. Even if I had the energy to do anything special, I’d most likely be doing it alone. The last time I went out on my birthday, I was twenty-six and ended up puking at the bar, so maybe it’s just best I’m too tired to do anything anyway.

It then takes me until Thanksgiving to rest up for the next run.

This is why the people who love Christmas baffle me. I think of them like I think of people who enjoy running marathons; it’s hard for me to enjoy anything when I’m struggling so hard just to breathe.

Despite the craziness and my Grinch-like demeanor, I do enjoy the quiet, sweet moments with family and friends. And the food. And the free stuff.

Rob Whoville!