This last month seemed like it should be the easy one, the victorious lazy stumble across the finish line after the marathon has been run.
But I do not know if writing is ever like that, the happy slow jog to the end. I think writing is always something we must remember to keep buoyant, like a raft in the middle of the ocean with a little hole in the bottom. We can stay in that raft a very long time, as long as we remember to bail out the water of life that fills the bottom of the boat, overflows over our boot tops, and makes our feet heavy.
December in particular. There is family to brace ourselves for, presents to figure out, work to keep working on, holiday travel plans, finals in school, parties to attend and hangovers to rue. Even nature gets in on the conspiracy, as the seasons officially turn we are cold where there is cold, wet where there is wet, and heat in places that are backwards (yes, Australia, I am looking at you).
Here, there is a steady mix of snow showers and 20° temperatures, the noses and cheeks shoppers are rosy from the chill as they rush around the outdoor malls, the holiday cheer lost in wondering why anyone would build outdoor malls in a climate known for such extremes. And yet, they shop. They shop despite the other obstacles and the cold or the commute.
Because they have a priority, and they have a deadline, and even if all their Christmas/Kwanza/Ramadan/Hanukah presents come in Amazon boxes, they will get it done.
And so must we as writers, get it done – we must write with the determination of a grandmother with endless funds and a bevy of grandkids to spoil. Even if it is a poem scribbled on the back of receipts, of a quip of dialogue noted on food court napkins, we must remember that writing has a place too. Beyond the holiday lights and the new year fireworks, we will have stories waiting for us, edits to do, competitions to try for, dreams to hunt.
Not even December can take away our little boat, as long as we keep bailing the water out.
This year has not been without its setbacks. I have written through a third degree burn on my hand, two bad colds, a car accident and the injuries incurred, difficulties at work, the death of irowboat's dear cat Felix, a fabulous trip to San Francisco, turning thirty, martial arts classes, multiple assaults of mental paralysis and the grim knowing that I am and will always be a failure. This is the short list.
And just this month: more stress at work, the terrible news of the shooting in Newton Connecticut, and finding someone had backed up over my car.
But no matter what, there is writing to do. Between arguments with insurance agencies, sadness about my poor old not-pretty-but-I-love-it car, grief over the little lives lost across this country, and disappointment that I am not better caught up with the rest of my life by now.
I must write.
There is only 25,000 words left until I cross that finish line, and I want to have it done by Christmas morning. And I can do it.
If I keep writing through it, let the difficulties play like low background music as I type away.
I have learned this year that nothing, nothing at all, gets to derail us for long. Take a moment, or five, and then work hard and fast and move through the pain or difficulty or frustration. Let all of it fuel the writing, let it fuel ourselves.
Oh, and don't stress so much about shopping for just the right thing. Gifts can be forgotten in a year, but stories last beyond our lifetimes. Write instead and buy everyone an ugly scarf.*
*I accept no liability for the ramifications of following this advice. But I would appreciate any stories that result from trying it.