The holiday season can be chaotic, and if you’re already struggling to scrape out writing time you might feel a little frantic about cramming any creative time into the coming weeks. But I find that the holidays actually hand me a lot of gifts as a writer for children! Here are a few such gifts that I’ve discovered through the years:
Family: Whatever your holiday traditions may be, family likely plays a role (for good or for bad). And good families and bad families play a cornerstone role in children’s books as well. When you’re part of a family gathering, watch the dynamics as objectively as possible. Try to imagine how these dynamics appear to the children in the room—what nuances do they pick up on? What false impressions might they gain by watching the interactions? What conflicts might form the foundation for your own family-focused story?
Long lines: Think through some of the struggles you’re having with your current writing projects, and try to frame them as a list of specific questions. Perhaps they might be something like “Why is Character A really making this strange choice?” or “What has to happen to heal this relationship?” or “What element could I add to make this story more suspenseful?” Then carry those questions with you, and bring them out to study when you’re standing in a long line at the store checkout. Sometimes these little “check ins” are enough to keep a story active in our brains even when we don’t have time to sit down and write.
Smells: The holiday season is jam-packed with powerful smells: wood smoke, pine trees, hot cocoa, snow in the air, cinnamon, Grandma’s secret recipe, wet wool. And scientists continue to explore the way that our sense of smell manages to evoke powerful memories and emotions. Think of the smells of the season like time machines that transports you back to powerful past experiences. Could any of these serve as a platform for a new story?
Children: Holidays from many different faith backgrounds and traditions have special roles and satisfactions on hand for children—and when those holidays roll around again each year, we are often able to recapture some of our own childhood emotions by reliving those events.
Distraction: The reality is, some years I actually manage to get more writing done over the holiday season—because everyone around me, and the various people I work for, are so distracted themselves that they don’t notice that I’ve “retreated” into my writing. Are there some sneaky ways you can capture additional writing time in these last few weeks of the year?
What other writing gifts do the holidays present to you? Let me know in the comments!