Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas on a Deadline

I'm out of practice with writing to deadline.

I haven't really had a hard and fast one for a long time...not for fifteen years, in fact, when I working to complete Named of the Dragon to fulfill my two-book contract with Gollancz. That was the first time that I'd ever sold a book before I'd written it.

With all my other books, I've signed my contracts after finishing the manuscript, which means I'm used to writing to an ever-shifting deadline of my own creationif I need a few more months, I just re-set the goalposts and keep going, so I never have to hear that famous "whooshing sound" that Douglas Adams used to claim his deadlines made as they flew by...

But this time I signed contracts first, and so I have a deadline, and not only can't I move the goalposts, but I have to watch them getting closer, day by day.

Which isn't terrible, by any means. I love this book I'm working on, the writing's coming well, and there are few things I love more than spending time within my story. But...

It's Christmas.

And this year, since I'm working to a deadline, I've been spending more time in my writing room, and letting everything else fall behind.

My Christmas cards (the paper ones) are sitting on the kitchen table, waiting to be signed and sent. I only got the tree up this past weekend, and I still don't have my mantelpiece cleared off, so we can hang our stockings.

Normally by this time I'd be well into my Christmas movie-watching spree, but this year all I've managed is Love, Actually.

I've felt like I've been chasing after Christmas all this month. I'm having to do everything in fits and startsa moment here to wrap a gift, a moment there to put my little birch-log reindeer on the porch, but never time enough to truly catch the Christmas spirit that I wait for all year long.

And then tonight, as I was rushing out to buy, of all things, dog food (having spent the day too wrapped up in my novel to remember that I'd used the last tin yesterday), I found myself for those few minutes driving past the houses in our neighbourhood, all lit up with their Christmas lights, so beautiful against the darkness, and the radio began to play "Christmas is Calling" by Roch Voisine, and all of a sudden, well, there it was: Christmas.

The feeling I'd waited for. Fragile and perfect.

The Grinch knows whereof he speaks. Christmas will come, whether I'm on a deadline or not. So this year it may not be the wallowy sort of a season I'm used to, with time to indulge, time to read, time to visit. I'll still find it, moment by moment.

What moments make Christmas for you?

(Come back Thursday, when Christmas will be even closer, and Julie is posting.)


  1. When I plug in my Christmas tree lights for the first time,,,while listening to Christmas music...and getting hugs from my kids...

  2. Usually it is my cookie and decoration baking extravaganza but this year I haven't had the chance. I am snatching Christmas moments as they fly by. The Pogues and Kirsty McCall on the radio. My mother's panicked phone calls for goose fat as there is none where she is. The lights of Oxford and Regent Street plus other streets. Catching up with friends.

  3. I love the run-up to Christmas - almost more than I like Christmas itself! - and all the preparations are what make it special for me. I love watching the presents accumulate under the tree (we don't do stockings), the decorations going up one by one, and the lights in the neighbourhood windows as everyone puts up their trees or twinkly lights. Despite the rain, it's all magical!

  4. I'm on the retail front lines this year -- working in a book store -- so it's been a strange experience. It's like I'm a spectator rather than a participant.

    My Christmas spirit was sorely lacking. And then it happened! With the choral strains of "O Tannenbaum" creeping out of the radio, I heard Snoopy's Sopwith Camel whir to life. As Snoopy went up in search of his foe, and the Baron shouted out "Merry Christmas, my friend," I started grinning like the world's tallest little kid.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.

  5. I think we've been having similar Christmas seasons, Susanna. I could have written that post, and you've put a big smile on my face.

    I think my Christmas bell rang right now, reading this. Thank you.


  6. Thanks everyone, I'm enjoying your comments. Tonight's goal, for me, is to get that mantelpiece cleared off and dusted...

  7. i am so with you this year...I haven't written a Christmas cards or finished the Christmas letter, or made the Christmas cake, or....but the family is gathering and all will be well :-)

    Good luck with the deadline and with the magic of Christmas.