Writing in the Margin

Every year, after I put the leftover cranberry sauce in a plastic container and eat the last slice of pumpkin pie, I face the same same dilemma: How do I fit in writing with the planning and executing of my daughter’s December birthday, all the holiday gatherings, visitors coming to Austin as well as any unforeseen events like, say, a death in the family.

The answer: Not well.

Because I don’t do it well, I get grumpy and out of sorts. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays. I sing all the holiday songs loudly around the house (much to the dismay of the teen). But when I usually spend many days alone drifting around words and stories, I feel a bit off balance (read: grumpy) in the crush of the holidays.

What worse than a writer not writing? A grumpy writer writing.

So here’s my resolve for next year. (Remember, we are now approaching the season of making resolutions.)

As I eat that last piece of pie on November 28, 2011, I will read a book. And another book. And another. I will fill the month of December 2011 with reading books because reading is the perfect thing to do in the quiet spots of holiday merry making. And I will commit to writing for five minutes a day. The five minute commitment comes from Kathi Appelt. When she was a mom with young children, she made a commitment to write five minutes a day. “I could do that much,” she says. “I could make that commitment.” And so she did. Of course that five minutes led to more minutes. But she never gave up her five minute commitment. She could do that much. I can do that much.

So next year, I will be gentler with myself. I will read more books and be glad to write in  a five minute margin. Sometimes, that’s what you have to do as a writer: write in the margin.