Saturday, November 22, 2008

Putting the Important Ahead of the Urgent

The holidays are upon us -- waiting just outside the door, leaving cloven hoofprints in the snow. The end of the semester looms -- with pages and pages of grief and anxiety before the final projects even hit. And then there's football. And way too much scotch, butter, and really bad music in the offing. Then, on December 24, there's the shopping.

It's a dreadful time. Each year I debate my approach -- whether to officially put the whole thing off, remove it from the calendar, or gamely smile and step in on the right foot. Of course it doesn't matter. The holidays will win. We will all be sodden with drink, sleep deprived, and weepy with family drama before long. It's been lovely knowing you all.

Needless to say, writing suffers. But does it have to to?

I try to follow a basic plan throughout the year. "Important comes before the urgent". This means writing for myself, going outside, breathing, and similar activities get a place in my life even when they don't seem fated to happen. Stopping to smell the roses is important because it works. It keeps you functional. The rose of the day might be dinner with your boyfriend, or going to see a play, or simply a day at the desk with the wifi turned off and your screenplay in front of you.

Inevitably these things end up making life run more smoothly. Sure, you'll spend all morning suffering through what should be an easy scene. But you'll remember what the scene's about or maybe even learn something about your character. Inevitably you'll listen to the rest of the day with a new ear.

Please don't quote me on any of this in a few weeks. But I do try to formulate a survival plan for the important around this time of year. I'll spend an hour writing before I hit email. I'll make food at home. I won't go to more than two holiday parties in a row. I'll spend some time choosing presents and trying to remember what this is all supposed to be about. There's an abundance out there worth being grateful for -- even around the holidays.

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