I’m still looking for the sparkle in December this year—the Christmas spirit, the glisten, the glow. Back in July, I anticipated all the shiny parts of the holidays—baking cookies, decorating the tree, piling up silver-papered packages with red velvet bows—with excitement. I forgot, like always, that obligations double or triple this time of year, that the work-rest balance goes awry, and that by the time I get to the doorstep of Christmas, I’m feeling worn out.
Expectations (internal and external) are high—energy and time are low.
It doesn’t help that, for weeks now, my inbox has been flooded with promotional emails warning me that I’ve already waited until the very last minute for gift shopping. It also doesn’t help that here in Virginia, we’ve endured days and days of rain. (A few degrees colder, and we’d have piles of snow!) And, it really doesn’t help that I’m also feeling lackluster about my creative work right now. Rejections and deadlines never take a holiday. Also, it’s time to wrap up one project and start another—a transition I always find difficult to navigate gracefully.
It’s no coincidence that they come together, these dual doldrums. That magic-holiday-feeling that I’m missing is directly connected to my desire to create. So many of the little pleasures of this time of year are creative: singing, decorating, wrapping presents—even coming up with good gift ideas. I can’t expect to do any of these well when my creative reserves are low. But, if I nurture the creative energy, the writing and the merriment should both flow a little better.
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls this process “filling the well.” She points out that all of us who want to create “must learn to be self-nourishing,” and to “consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them.” The process isn’t about duty, though, so populating a to-do list might not help. “In filling the well, think magic,” Cameron says. “Think delight. Think fun…think mystery, not mastery.”
I start small at first. Maybe I make something. Anything.
One good line. A cup of tea. A decent lunch.
Then I go outside, even in the rain. Gloomy light is better than no light.
This week, I found:
A glossy-brown leaf that looked like polished wood
A sprig of green moss
A slice of sunlight between banks of gray clouds
I found beauty, in other words. Seeing beauty helps and writing it down helps a little more.
Also, I try small steps forward, but with an attitude of delight. Today, I wrapped one gift as beautifully as I could. Progress.
I’ve landed somewhere between Holly Jolly and Blue this Christmas. I’m okay with it. There’s a song for that, too.
Noelle Beverly writes poetry and prose, supports local writers in the surrounding community, and is a member of the BACCA Literary group. Photos by author.