Wednesday, December 2

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, December 02, 2015 8 comments
Photo credit: danielemusella from
December is here, and with it comes a lot of rush and bustle. Shopping, decorating, parties, concerts, recitals, bake sales, visiting family and friends, preparing for visitors, more shopping, more baking, more parties, etc. All the festivities can be pretty draining, not only of your bank account and time, but of your creativity, too.

"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?


  1. I'm definitely curious and nosy. I suffer the same writing challenges all year; any excuse to NOT write. I'm hoping to keep that under control by setting a new years resolution of writing 100 words a day, excluding blog posts and book reviews. I think I'm already making excuses, lol.

    1. I hear you. Developing a routine and some rituals (think of your getting ready for bed routine) is supposed to help a lot. Honestly, the biggest hurdle is just STARTING. If you commit to do that, and build meaningful rewards into it, you should be able to establish a regular time of writing.

      If you haven't looked at Roseanne Bane's Around the Writer's Block, I highly recommend it. She has great ideas for making a writing routine more fun, and she encourages counting more than just drafting new material as "writing."

  2. I think I need to print this out and hang it in my writing space - or maybe from my fridge. I love these questions and plans for stillness.
    Thank you, Laurel.
    I'm often more busy in December. For example, this morning, I woke up at 4:45 am to write. At 8:15, I was out of the house, and only returned for 30 minute sessions three times until 6:45. Then, I had phone calls to make and e-mails to write, while preparing dinner.
    So, December brings lots of conversations, e-mails, and phone calls, more food to cook, and more stuff to do - not just shopping but special events, as well. Plus, I seem to run into more people I know out and about - I spent a half hour at a craft store yesterday, talking with a friend I haven't seen for a year, because I didn't want to walk away because it's been too long and it's the Christmas season - a time for renewed fellowship.
    And, here I am gabbing away in a comment box. Ah well.
    Merry Christmas, Laurel!

    1. Grab those moments of stillness everywhere you can. It sounds like December could wipe out your creative mojo for months if you don't. The other reason--to protect your health. My hubs seems to get sick every single December because he runs himself into the ground at work as a college professor, surrounded by young adults who don't take care of themselves and live in dorms (aka petri dishes).

      Your reconnection at the craft store sounds awesome. Remember that you need to fill up in order to create, so by all means, grab those fun, social moments too.

      And I love long comments! It feels like a wonderful deep conversation when I get them. :-) Merry Christmas to you, too.

  3. Those are some great questions! Especially for me as I'm still meeting new people in the office...

    1. Great. Hope you tap some wonderful stories that inspire you (or, heck, just change some details and steal them).

  4. People talk about the holidays being crazy, but that's life around here. The unfortunate symptom is a tendency to withdraw from social events because there's enough insanity in every day life. Guess it's time to reevaluate, eh?

  5. You can get so much good material and inspiration for characters by taking advantage of the social situations and putting yourself out there. But balance is needed so you don't burn out.