The winter holiday season seems to be an engraved invitation to depression and desperation, all under the guise of jollity, and we writers are far from immune.
First of all, it’s winter. Anyone with even a hint of a whisper of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) has been feeling progressively more “blue” as the length and brightness of daylight wanes. In most parts of the US and Europe, it’s cold. It’s damp. It’s gray. Too often, you’re stuck inside so you’re not getting as much exercise as you would in a milder season. True, there are benefits to being cooped up with nothing better to do than to pour yourself into the novel-in-progress. However, more times than not, you’re stuck inside with piles of indigestible food and intoxicating drink, neither of which are conducive to good writing. (For those of us who are not Hemingway, anyway, and even then you could argue, as Damon Knight did, that alcohol never improved anyone’s writing.)
Second of all, winter is apt to be a lean season, financially, for writers. It’s a long cold time between royalty checks and editors are apt to take vacations just like everyone else. This occurs at the same time as the annual frenzy of exhortations to buy-buy-BUY, as if love must be measured by the price of gifts. For too many of us, the combination of gloom and slowdown and expectation of spending is more than enough to plummet us into feelings of inadequacy and paralysis. (Not to mention fears of becoming a bag lady in the next two weeks.)
For those of us whose families did not support or approve of our writing, the holidays amount to putting Miracle-Grow on those struggles. It’s painful to face yet another gathering in which the inevitable question is when are we going to get a “real” job, or the studied ignoring of our deepest dreams. I don’t mean to say that the winter holidays do not enrich our lives with time spent with loved ones, and a spirit of goodwill and renewal. I love lighting candles in the long dark nights; I love singing songs, even those belonging to other faiths. I was fortunate to have a supportive family (and children who are proud of my literary achievements). But I also know far too many fine writers who don’t get that acknowledgment.
This season, let’s band together to counter the gloomies and the nay-sayers. If you know a writer who’s having a hard time, pick up the phone or send a note of encouragement. Leave a supportive message on their Facebook page. If you’re local, suggest a time-out from the holiday madness for writerly shop-talk over a cup of tea. Send virtual flowers — or real ones, if any grow in your garden.
If your gift-giving includes the spending of money, consider the newest book from your favorite author, a magazine subscription, an audiobook or ebook, a membership to a local con. Don’t forget the things that only we writers can offer: how about the gift of Tuckerizing a friend’s favorite pet in your next story? Or a certificate for reading aloud (funny voices optional) from your own work? Or use your networking savvy to get a book plate autographed by the recipient’s favorite writer?
However your holidays unfold, remember to be kind to one another. The sun will return. I promise.
Deborah J. Ross has been writing science fiction and fantasy since 1982. Her recent publications include Hastur Lord, a Darkover novel with the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Jaydium, available in serialized chapters and ebook here on Book View Cafe.