It's here, isn't it? That busy, social stretch of time that extroverts love and introverts get all anxious about. Shopping in crowded stores that are blaring Christmas music and assaulting me with cinnamon smells, flashing lights, little sleigh bells that jingle on every door. Planning family gatherings with divorced and remarried parents, which means four different get-togethers with various factions of the family in a good year. Endless planning and cleaning and cooking and shopping. It's not that I don't love the holidays: decorating the tree with my girls, laughing and catching up with family, watching my girls' faces light up when they open their gifts. It's that I don't love everything else about the holidays. The gear-up, the pressure, the shopping, the clean-up pre- and post-gathering, the un-decorating, the friends with their timely hand-written Christmas cards and home-made sugar cookies from scratch that make me feel like I never got the proper domestic gene.
For me this busy time of year starts in early October, when we haven't even fully settled into the school routine yet, and I suddenly need to plan my daughter's birthday party. Then comes Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. My other daughter's birthday. Valentine's Day (which is a stress-free holiday unless you have school kids who need to do 30+ valentines each). And then, finally, I get to breathe a sigh of relief and focus on non-holiday things for a stretch.
So, by this time of year, when the Thanksgiving "what dishes will you bring?" emails are going around and the stores are already celebrating Christmas, I'm already tired.
But I'm happy to say that this year, it's different. While the holidays and family time matter, they aren't the center of my days this time around. This year, my days are spent writing first, and planning and shopping second. And not the kind of writing I was doing last year at this time, the "I sure hope someday somebody takes a chance on me" writing that I had been doing for years. This year it's all happened. Someone did take a chance on me. In the past 12 months I've gotten a literary agent, revised The Art of Adapting word for word with his excellent guidance, dug deep and dumped my fears and found out what I really have inside me. I'm proud of the novel I ended up with. The Art of Adapting is the best thing I've written. And then came the book deal. Getting a publishing contract has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. The kind of dream that's so big and so unlikely that you never think about what happens after it comes true. This holiday season, my days are filled with discovering what happens next.
And what happens next is this: looking over copyedits of my novel for my publisher, going back and forth with them as we try to find the perfect cover design, and writing my next novel. I pulled off the birthday party, Halloween was great, Thanksgiving's just about all planned out, I've even started some Christmas shopping. And my anxiety about the whole thing is practically nil, because every morning I wake up not thinking about all of the holiday tasks I need to complete, but how I need to trim that lengthy backstory passage, or work in a hint at a character's secret through dialogue, or find the best words to describe the scent of a summer morning.
The holidays are still barreling straight for me, like they always do. My kids are right this second sitting on the couch with notepads on their knees making epic wish lists for Christmas. I'm shut inside my office, trying to drown out the Disney Channel, writing. I will not be sending out Christmas cards. I won't be making sugar cookies. I will be writing, putting the finishing touches on my second novel, proofing the layout of The Art of Adapting, settling on the right cover design, continuing the outline for my third novel. And wishing all of you the best kind of holiday season. One where your days are spent doing what you love most, visiting with the people you love most, and where the stress of all that you "should" do to prepare and celebrate gets forgotten. Happy holidays!