Friday, December 23, 2011

The War for Christmas

No, this post isn't about the culture war to "Remember the Reason for the Season" or to "Keep Christ in Christmas". I'll elaborate:

Christmastime is always a busy time for me--and not just with the usual holiday family stuff.

Being a writer is stressful, all-consuming, and exhaustive work. Add to that a 8-5 day job and a full-time family and it's downright overwhelming, bordering on unbearable. But every year I have my Christmas break. A whole two weeks off from work!

But it's not a vacation. Far from it.

In fact, it's work overload. At last I have time to get caught up on a year's worth of writing. No longer do I have to squeeze in a thousand words during my lunch break or stay up until two in the morning. I don't have to spend the three good hours I have with my daughters before bedtime sneaking off to finish "one more chapter". Now I've got a whole day to write, write, write.

But, as with nearly every year, I run into the annual "Christmas Wall". Meaning, I finally have all the time in the world...and absolutely nothing to say. The sad truth is I'm used to being cramped for time. I'm used to the late hours, the soda-fueled rampages, the run-run-run of my mental schedule. That's not to say that I like any of it--just that I've been conditioned for that. So, here I sit, with my whole day free to write, and I can't write.

Oh, I do write. Last year at this time I finished the rough draft of The Coming Evil, Book Three (due out in Feb 2013, btw). This year I'm cracking the whip trying to get some work done on a non-fiction media tie-in book I'm under contract for, and my next novel. It's slow going, but I am getting things done. But never as much as I'd like to. What's frustrating, is that I can write 10,000 words a day, when I'm really in the zone. Give me 8 days, and I could have a finished novel! Give me two weeks and I could be close to finishing two! Two whole novels! Nearly finished and ready for the publisher!

But it never works out like that. I'll be lucky if I write 20,000 words this Christmas break. More than likely as soon as I start back up to work, and get back to my terrible schedule, I'll crank out 40k :p

So what do I do, then? In the face of this paradox, how will I respond? Well, it usually starts with a fair amount of depression. I get mad, frustrated, and can almost literally hear those precious seconds ticking away, knowing that I'm "wasting" my holiday and not finishing three short stories, a novel, and a screenplay, or whatever. But, after some time, I usually snap out of it and realize that writing is not all there is to life. That Christmas comes once a year and it's to be spent with family, enjoying that time together. It's about doing something for someone else. About being better.

Writing is a horribly selfish profession. It really is. It's all about expressing your thoughts and dreams and putting them on display for others to applaud you. Yeah, we want our words to mean something. We write because God's given us this ability (or compulsion) and we want to do something with it that honors Him. But maybe God just delights in the fact that we write at all. Maybe He doesn't care if anyone reads it, or if it's our witty quotes that people are posting on Facebook :p But we want that.

But Christmas is not about self. It's about Christ (at least as Christians celebrate it). It's about family. It's about reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves.

So, to me--as a writer--that's the War for Christmas. It's a struggle between selfishly hoarding my time off to spend on my pursuits (that probably don't really amount to a hill of beans in the long run), and spending it investing in others, especially my wife. My kids. And it is a war, don't let anyone tell you any different. It's a war of the will, which is sometimes the hardest to fight.

I hope I win the war this year. I've still got a week and a half of vacation, and I'm sure I'll be struggling to the bitter end, but I hope that I don't miss Christmas this year. I hope I see it, experience it, for all that it is and that it can be. I hope you do too. I hope you don't let the busyness distract you from what's most important. And not just this season, but throughout your life. Don't be so blinded in pursuing your dreams that you miss the wonderful reality already in front of you. Fight that war. Win the war. Keep Christmas alive, all year round.

1 comment:

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Greg,
Merry Christmas! I'm taking some advice from a writer friend and getting some rest. I slept off and on all day yesterday, my first day of vacation. Today I shopped and cleaned and still tons to do. The tree now has lights. :)I'm going to enjoy the next couple of days and then write as much as I can until I return to the day job on January 4th.
If I can get a thousand words a day this coming week I'll be thrilled. I'd encourage you to take a day of rest too. God knew what He was doing when he planned the Sabbath.