A Practical Guide to Holiday Creativity

Portly men are tumbling down chimneys, stores abound with merry chaos, and if you still don’t have to go back to work, you might be at home with your relatives—and your writing. How do you make the most of the holidays and go into the new year productive?*

  • No one likes a work-obsessed Scrooge scribbling in a notebook while everyone is watching the Christmas Story marathon on TBS, but writers can’t really avoid writing. Especially during the 100th viewing of A Christmas Story. To overcome any angry relatives, buy a stack of gaudy leftover cards at the dollar store and compose your poems, stories and prewriting inside them. Now, your thank-you card productivity shines.
  • Get lost in all the ornaments on a holiday tree—names, places, shapes, figurines. Is there a way to mold a story based on what you find dangling in those branches?
  • Destroy your inner critic and turn on soap operas and other programs you usually miss (e.g., Judge Judy). Borrow a character from one of the shows, and write a scene based on her daily life outside the program.
  • Whereas a cup of tea or coffee usually does the trick to get you amped up and ready to write, indulge in all the seasonal opportunities around you. Soon, you’ll awaken surrounded by 12 types of cookies, peppermint bark, spiked cider, several cups of hot cocoa, a thermos of gourmet coffee, empty boxes of Godivas, A Christmas Story playing in the background and a herd of curious cats watching you. Brush yourself off, avoid the couch that’s calling your name and channel the electrifying sugar jitters to plow through a chapter of your WIP.
  • Speaking of those cats, as all the humans doze, arrange the felines around the room and perhaps construct on-the-fly costumes for them out of wrapping paper to bring your scenes to life. Observe new character interactions. And how your protagonist suddenly goes gaga for shoelaces.
  • Go to a coffee shop or stand in the Return line at a store and simply listen, jotting down stray quotes. Mash them together, and write a scene based on the voyeur prompt. One of my stolen prompts from today:
    “It doesn’t fit.”
    “Did it ever?”
    “Do they ever?”
    “Look—Valentine’s Day is on its way.”
    “It all just keeps coming.”
  • Get a jump on 2010 and craft a New Year’s Writing Resolution list. More on this Wednesday …
  • Print a few poems and short stories, fold them into boxes (numerous versions can be found via a Google search), and tie small bows on them. Candy within optional. Then, give them to your writing group members at your next meeting.
  • Don’t celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Study the various holidays and attempt to write a convincing scene involving one of them. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and write outside your box (then, make the scene into your own holiday box?).
  • If anything, treat the holidays like any other days, slip away for a bit, and just work on your regular project. It’ll only be a couple of hours, and you may be deemed a Scrooge, but hey, it’s easier than making wrapping paper costumes for cats. And A Christmas Story will still be on when you’re done, right?

*Not everything on this list is entirely serious. Although I am writing it inside a card from the dollar store. And A Christmas Story is on.

(Also, check out the excellent holiday stylings of Martha W. and Mark James in the Comments section of the previous post!)

Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings.

It’s Dec. 31, and you’re scrambling to make a resolution come true that you made last year. The sun is setting, and it’s time for action.

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0 thoughts on “A Practical Guide to Holiday Creativity

  1. Zac


    *Brushes back brown locks* – I’m flattered! (And not just by being literally immersed in your excellent pacing 🙂 Although I wish my fictive me had been friendlier. We totally would have partied at the Havana!

    Dorraine: Yes. I had way too many sweets. Truth be told, an old newspaper reporter friend mailed me a box of German chocolates, and I disappeared into them for several hours. And now, because of it, my cat is still walking around with a sour expression and an Esquire magazine tuxedo.

    Happy New Year to you all, and thanks for hanging out at the blog in 2009! Your stories and comments have meant a lot — and not just because you had to destroy a sinister mechanical gatekeeper to post each and every one.

  2. Martha W

    Aw, Dorraine, that’s not nice… I almost snorted my coffee! lol!

    I forgot to mention in my post above that your first bullet made me laugh. Normally at Christmas I forgo anything "me" and just sit at my in-laws watching TV or the kids (all combined there are 14 of us that get together).

    This year I thought differently and downloaded a friend’s ms that I volunteered to critique onto my phone (droid). Do you know that they teased me the entire time I tried to read? Like missing out on watching TV was going to stunt my growth or something. They weren’t even watching Christmas specials!

    So maybe next year I’ll bring thank you cards… *grin*

  3. Dorraine

    Hey, Zac, I think Martha will be at the Havana Martini Club for new years! The question is: will you?

    And I think you’ve possibly been eating too many sweets. Eh, me too. I do love your wrapping paper cat costumes idea. On the fly, of course, because there wouldn’t be any other way to do it. I just have one cat here. Hairless. I’m already envisioning something. She knows something is up and is avoiding me. Poor thing.

    Between shopping, wrapping, baking, entertaining and eating, my poor writing has gotten the ole shaft. But thank you for the splendid ideas. I began again today. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Happy New Year!

  4. Martha W

    Aww, Mark… Love it!

    Zach – this one’s for you…


    He had to be here somewhere.

    Zach never lied so it was just a matter of finding him. People were crushed together in the Havana Martini Club but, then again, it was New Year’s Eve at eleven-thirty. My eyes scanned the room looking for the man in question.

    Within minutes my gaze fell upon the light brown locks of the editor for Writer’s Digest. Handsome in a country boy way with poet’s eyes that could look to your soul, I knew he was the one. My hands trembled as I ran them through my hair, smoothing errant stands back behind my ears.

    Keeping him in sight, I followed in his wake as he made the circuit. He stopped at each group of celebrants, talking to someone, laughing, sharing in their gaiety. I stayed far enough back that he didn’t feel me trailing behind him like a puppy dog. My eyes narrowed as the familiar jealous streak reared to life. I wanted to be like them, part of his crowd.

    But tonight was the night. I flicked a quick glance at my watch. Crap. Only five minutes to go before the last of my New Year’s resolutions flushed down the proverbial toilet. Jerking my gaze back up, I quickly found him. It was time.

    Moving quietly up behind him, close enough his woodsy male scent assailed my senses, and grazed his arm softly with my fingers. First his muscles tensed as the foreign touch registered, then he turned slowly toward me.

    Up close his liquid gaze was even more powerful. I almost lost my nerve. Zach lifted an eyebrow but didn’t speak. He tugged his arm in an attempt to pull away but I clamped my grip tighter around his wrist. Suspicion clouded his face.

    "Five…" The crowd began the annual ritual, escalating my nerves.

    "Let go."

    "No, you don’t understand."


    "Let go. Now."

    "Listen, Zach. You’re the one." I couldn’t keep the plea out of my voice. He pulled harder at my hold on him.


    "You’re crazy, let go." he hissed.

    "You’re the only one. Please!"


    This time Zach jerked hard enough to bring me stumbling into his chest. I froze, staring into his startled eyes. He flinched as the crowd cheered around us. That little movement set me on fire. My eyes narrowed as anger raced through my veins. "I knew you were the one! Why would you do this to me?"

    He gripped my arms, giving me a rough shake. "What are you talking about?"

    "My stories!"

    Zach’s mouth opened, then closed. Confusion evident by the crease between his brows. "What?"

    "One!" Couples paired off as the fated moment passed.

    "Why won’t you publish me? Am I not good enough for you? Are you afraid of what I’ll write?"

    The uncertainty cleared away. His mouth pinched as he tried to stop the laugh threatening to break through. "You’re the school bus chick from my blog, aren’t you?"

  5. Mark James

    I climbed the last dune, looked out over the sand to the sun setting over the ocean. How could I have let it come down to hours?

    I wound my watch, waited for the sand to flow through the digital hourglass, held my up arm. The setting sun stained it blood red. Black smoke came out of my watch, snaking up to the twilight sky, then flowing into a thick column beside me.

    “You’re late,” my watch genie said. “Why don’t you try being unpredictable for a change, Tesh?”

    I looked her up and down. “I like the new outfit.”

    She ran her red nails over her silver genie top, down her bare belly, to the silver skin tight pants. “I saw what you were thinking. Is it just what you wished for?”

    Like I’d waste my last wish on that.

    “You found me exactly one year ago today, at midnight last New Year’s Eve,” Kalila said. “That means you have until midnight tonight make your last wish.”

    “Can’t you just move on if I don’t make the wish?”

    She polished her blood red nails on her silvery top. “While one would like to do that, Tesh, I’m afraid I can’t.” She snapped her fingers, unrolled the scroll that came into being. “According to Wish Commandment Two Million Nine Hundred Thirty Two, Paragraph One, Subparagraph b, the life of any human who does not make their three wishes within a one year period is forfeit. Method of disposal to be at Wish Granter discretion.”

    I watched her roll the parchment into thin air. The first two wishes had been easy. Young and rich forever. It was always the third wish where they got you. When I first found my watch, my New Year’s resolution had been to outsmart the genie.

    “What are we doing here in the middle of no place?” she said.

    “So when I strangle you, no one hears you scream.”

    “Do you wish you could strangle me?”

    “I wish you’d – – ” I stopped myself just in time.

    “Yes?” She sounded as eager as a starved tigress on the hunt.

    I sat on the dune, watched her floating just above the sand.

    Something about the scroll teased at the edges of my mind.

    “You shouldn’t think so much,” Kalila said. “Looks like it really hurts.”

    I spun around, looked at her. Why didn’t I see it before? She’d dangled it right in front of me. “I wish for a loophole in the law about dying for not making my last wish.”

    She turned so red, I thought she’d blow like St. Helen.

    A flash of white light exploded all around, blinded me. Then I was standing in a church, with Kalila next to me, in a wedding dress. Two words came out of my mouth, “I do.”

    She whisked us away too fast for me to hear the ‘man and wife’ part. “What did you do?”

    “We’re married,” she said through clenched teeth. “I can’t kill my husband. And – – ”

    I backed away. Maybe she could torture her husband to the point of death—forever.

    “And a genie’s husband gets unlimited wishes.”

    My eyes dropped to her outfit. Eternity looked good; real good.


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