|Photo credit: danielemusella from morguefile.com|
"Caring for your creativity" might sound a little strange, but think of it like a muscle. It needs both consistent exercise and protection from injury. Holiday busyness provides both unique opportunities and unique dangers for your creative powers.
Deeply engage socially
The times I've been most blocked with my writing have not been for want of time, but want of ideas--specifically interesting stuff for the characters to be doing that move forward their arcs of change. Busy seasons provide an opportunity to fill up with ideas. Getting butt out of chair and living life can help, as can being exceptionally curious and nosy.
During the holidays, you are thrown together with lots of people in all sorts of venues, so take advantage of it. Everyone who crosses your path has an interesting story to share, so make it your mission to access those stories. Some folks will be quick to share their best adventures, others have to warm up a bit. Here are some conversation starters that can help you get people talking:
- What is your favorite holiday memory?
- What happened on your worst Christmas ever?
- What is the most memorable gift you ever received?
- What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?
- What unique traditions have been passed down in your family?
- What do you love most about your family? Dislike most?
- How are you like your parents? How are you different?
- What was your most precious childhood possession?
- Are you a collector? What do you collect and why?
- What is the weirdest secret you ever discovered?
- What is the funniest thing you’ve ever done?
- What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Was it worthwhile?
- What is the coolest place you’ve ever visited? Scariest? Most disgusting?
- What mishap turned out better than you ever expected?
Once you ask, listen, not only to story ideas, but also how the story is told. Note the storyteller's tone of voice and be alert to unique turns of phrase. Watch their expressions and gestures. Jot down the best stuff. Get a copy of Emotions in the Wild, a guided journal I created to help you collect data about how real people express emotions, and use it to keep your observations organized.
And if you're a party host, your guests just might love a structured time of storytelling, in which they take turns sharing a funny or touching memory with the group.
Seek pockets of stillness
Busy seasons also have a way of filling our minds with a lot of noise. This can be a big cause of post-holidays burn-out. The more you can give your mind pockets of quiet and stillness, the more mentally healthy you will feel during and after the holidays. Here are some ways to reduce noise and introduce peaceful moments into your day:
- Pare back on social media. Most of what you'll find there is buy, buy, buy anyway,
- Set your phone and computer aside more often.
- Limit TV watching
- Take far-away parking spaces and walk more
- Begin and end the day with a few minutes of silent reflection or prayer
- Journal: write away some of the noise of the day, then write about your childhood
- Snuggle with pets and loved ones
- Cook something that has to be constantly stirred
- Listen to soothing music while doing gentle stretches
- Walk, preferably during daylight hours to get vitamin D
- Swap a few showers for baths
- Copy poems or inspiring prose into your journal
- Write snail-mail letters to distant friends and family
- Improvise with a musical instrument
- Doodle, draw or color
- Build Legos with or without your family
Balancing out the hustle and bustle with quiet should make for a happier holiday season, and keep burn-out at bay.
What special challenges make writing difficult for you in December? Which ideas above appeal to you most?