Just once a year

Helga’s Post # 61:

Pre-holiday party time is upon us in full force, a mere week after American Thanksgiving and Black Friday. A hop, skip and jump from one event to the next without so much as a breather.

The most grueling tasks are rolling in like an avalanche: attending office and social parties, cooking for friends and finding gifts for loved ones in the mere 18 shopping days remaining.

There’s more. Much more. Such as selecting, writing and mailing Christmas cards. Yes, some people do check their mailboxes in anticipation. If you have relatives or friends in Europe, then you are painfully aware of your duty. A word of advice: avoid sending Christmas cards left over from last year’s supply! People do remember. Many have kept their cards and will open those shoe boxes filled with decades of such things. They love to compare! Woe unto you if you sent them the same card as the previous year.

In true Christmas spirit, we also want to decorate our homes. We are good troopers after all, having worked for years (decades) to earn that reputation. Get that plastic tree from the basement, the one purchased over a dozen years ago, or succumb to the pressure from friends (no artificial tree over my dead body!) and spend fifty bucks on a Douglas fir? Then, when all that stress has abated, it’s time to pick up the phone and make excuses when multiple invitations for concurrent dinners and parties arrive.

Have I mentioned baking? Not in your books? Well, I guess then you’re not blessed with friends and relatives from the old country. A Christmas without home baking is the most unimaginable, most blasphemous act you will engage in. People will remember! And talk.

stollen-cutSo out come dog-eared recipe pages from decades past, and the shopping for exotic and hard to find ingredients like marzipan starts. Raisins and currents are soaked overnight in dark rum, then the Kitchen-Aid mixer is earning its keep the next day. After a full day of kneading and chopping, and finally baking the product of your hard labour, it’s time for a break. A glass of wine, or something more elaborate.

And the kitchen smells heavenly. Like I’ve arrived in Nirvana when I remove the six loaves of ‘Stollen’.

It’s eight o’clock at night and I recall I was supposed to post my blog. I’m way too tired. I figure, since my posting day is Friday, my followers have all weekend before they can read Silk’s post. And it won’t hurt to give Joe’s followers some extra time before my post arrives. All to say, my tardiness is for a good cause. No harm no foul.

If you guessed that there hasn’t been any time for my writing in recent weeks, you’ve guessed right. But no, that’s not quite accurate. I chose to prioritize my tasks, and that put writing somewhere near the bottom. And it annoys me, because it’s my passion. How can you put your passion on the back burner in favor of writing Christmas cards and shopping, and decorating, and baking?

Commitment. Tradition. Wishing to make people happy. Nostalgia of times past. All mixed with a pinch of guilt. A good thing Christmas comes just once a year. Much as I love it.

So this is my plan: I will reduce some of these tasks that keep me from writing. A Christmas present to myself. Cut back on the decorating. Shop online instead of joining armies of frantic shoppers fighting over parking spots. Give presents in kind instead of more stuff nobody needs. Stuff that needs dusting or cleaning and that ends up on Craig’s List For Sale before the year is over. Donate to the local Food Bank instead.

Spend quality time with people I love.

Maybe I’ll be able to do some of my better writing with that resolve. But before I sit down to write I have to bake that Christmas stollen first. No compromise there. My family and friends would never forgive me.

And this year I won’t do my traditional Christmas wreath for the front door, because we now have a glass door. I miss it though.

How are you dealing with your writing commitment in the midst of this crazy holiday season?

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My last year’s Christmas wreath

8 thoughts on “Just once a year

  1. Writing went well in November, and I would love to carry that through December. Alas, that hasn’t happened as much as I would like. Family and holiday commitments can’t be ignored. But January is usually a quiet month, and I plan to do what I can in December and then step it up after that!

  2. Thanks, JM. Excellent plan. Keep up your writing passion, I hope to read your novel at some point soon. I am intrigued by what I’ve seen on your blog so far.

  3. Love this post, Helga! Over the years I’ve simplified my Christmas activities, too. I write at the expense of some of the more time-consuming ones… like baking a lot of complicated recipes! Once the fruitcakes are made I wind down in that department since I’ve found when family and friends come they don’t seem to care if there are fifteen different goodies on a plate, or just a plateful of fruitcake and maybe a bit of shortbread to nibble as we visit.

    Our children are married and a few years ago they suggested family gift exchanges instead of gifts for everyone, so there’s not a lot of shopping any more. I enclose a brief newsletter with my greeting cards so I don’t have to repeat myself to everyone. And I’ve learned to say “Sorry, I can’t make it” to many of the ‘obligatory’ kind of commitments, so I have time to enjoy the more meaningful ones.

    I still write pretty well every night, even if it’s just for half an hour before bed, because it’s my quiet time with my characters. 🙂

  4. Carol, thanks so much for your wise insights. I guess we learn these improvements over the years. I don’t mind to put in a certain amount of effort to mark the occasion, but as you say, most people don’t even notice what’s on the plate. I do it more so for myself and my spouse who loves to help, and it gets us into the spirit of the special season – special because we make it so, rather than the pressure that’s placed on us to open our wallets.

  5. Your answer to Carol says it all, Helga. Your lovely post perfectly illustrates why the season shines chez Bolleter: it’s “special because you make it so.” I can almost smell the aroma of that stollen all the way across the Georgia Strait. Joyeux noel!

    • Thanks, Silk. I will try to save one for our February meeting. Maybe I can trade a loaf of stollen for my outline. Maybe ‘in lieu of’, LOL

  6. How lovely! Your post alone is helping to put me in the holiday spirit in this year of many ‘transitions’ where we’ll be spending as much time in airports as anywhere. While I am hoping to find myself ‘settled’ at some point, and back into the writing groove, it certainly isn’t this holiday season. Thanks for the Christmas cheer!

    • But there’s is hope: You get a lot of writing done in airports! And your new venue on the Sunshine Coast could provide a flood of new ideas for plots and characters.

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