Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas and Inspiration, Part I

WRITING UPDATE: Wrote a short linky-scene last night. I'm not sure if it's necessary but I'm trying to set up a small info dump. I suspect it may get moved to earlier in the book when I edit.

My friend Zoe posted on her blog today about inspiration. She asks how to keep up the magic and momentum of writing when the initial bliss of breaking through writer's block has passed, and how to create the mental space to be creative when balancing writing with work and life.

If anyone reading this has any useful suggestions, please wander over and post them - for my benefit as well as Zoe's, because I'll read all of them eventually too :)

Anyway, she's gotten me thinking about inspiration and how it works. We're just coming up to what I find the most inspiring time of year for writing - Christmas.

Before you start, I'm actually not a big fan of Christmas in general. I have a small family and was raised as an only child, so we were never huge Christmas people. None of us was religiously observant except my father (who was observant but not too religious), and our extended family are quite scattered. Once I was too old for Santa Claus, Christmas Day was spent reading the books we'd bought each other and watching the films we'd bought each other. Our Christmas presents always focused on 'things-to-amuse-us-on-the-day', so it was usually the day of the year when we all talked to each other the least :)

Things haven't changed. Christmas in our house involves books, DVDs and occasional bouts of conversation. Essentially, we spend two days cloistered with the creative arts.

It's fantastic for writing. I don't often write on those days, but it's part of what Natalie Goldberg calls 'composting' - letting things build and build until something can grow out of them.

As Zoe says, it's rare in everyday life for us to be able to fully immerse ourselves in writing (or reading, or film, or making model cathedrals out of matchsticks or whatever your passion is). Because of my family circumstances, Christmas gives me that chance, and it's great.

Last year, just before Christmas, I realised I had very little to watch when my eyes got tired reading (it does happen). I was temping in the city centre every day that wasn't a bank holiday, and I sprinted to HMV on my lunch hour and braved the hideous queue snaking around the shop to grab a few DVDs of a TV series that a few friends had been quoting incessantly for months (I get a little paranoid when people make pop-culture references I don't get). I curled up at home on Christmas Eve and started watching.

I've had an irrational liking for that show ever since. It reminds me of settling down on the couch with no obligations beyond texting some people happy Christmas and making more tea as needed. Just me and the stories, total immersion. I find I get much more involved with the things I read and watch at Christmas than I do at any other time of year. I internalise them in a way I haven't done since I was a kid - no analysis, no oh-I-totally-see-what-the-writer-did-there-the-sneaky-bastard, no this-guy-got-a-book-deal-are-you-serious-I-could-do-so-much-better. In spite of all the things I don't like about Christmas, I love that and I look forward to it.

And I panic slightly if I don't have enough things stockpiled to watch and read. I think I'm sorted for this year though. Hopefully it will translate into lots of writing!


  1. What was the T.V. show, if you don't mind my asking?

    Its funny how Christmas means different things to different people. I couldn't even fathom mentally unwinding, our place was always a mad house!

    I'm sure you're all set with things to watch and read!

  2. It was Coupling. Not my favourite show but has very happy associations.

    I think I'm sorted. Might get Season One of House on DVD though - for such an avid fan I have seen surprisingly little of the early stuff. Can you believe there's no new episode til January 11th??

  3. Six week hiatus... it's hitting all the shows now. I'll have to start doing productive things with my free time!

  4. My DD and I love to watch ANGEL right now (tho' the latter part of the series is lagging, he's still beautiful). We usually nest during this time as well as we are a small family (just me, DD and DH). On Christmas Day we get up, open presents, hang out in jammies, go to the theater to watch a movie (this year it'll be SHERLOCK HOLMES), and then home to chow down on dinner.

    I love being at home and chilling out. I will miss the first stage of that this year. But I plan to make up for it when I return from TX.

    I always do a puzzle during the break--we started this crazy turtle puzzle so we'll finish it during the break.


  5. Christine, I love your family's custom of going out to see a movie - cinemas aren't open here on Christmas Day as far as I know (I just realised I never checked!) but my grandmother used to go to the cinema every Christmas Eve, once she had everything done for the following day :)

    Is that Angel as in David Boreanaz? I'm going to have to get into Bones over Christmas and watch the old episodes. I need something to get me through the lack of House.

    I may just break out my mum's boxset of Jeeves and Wooster and marvel that the upper-class twit is actually Greg House. . . that's always fun.


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