Where Thanksgiving Thursday used to mean family, food, and football, now it means gearing up to get your gift face on. Black Friday, the day the gun goes off, signals the start of the holiday consumer season, marked by massive sales, a bombardment of email savings opportunities, and infinite pop-up ads.
The overwhelming sense of obligation we feel toward Black Friday and the culture of consumption has started to weigh on more and more people, making the holidays a particularly challenging time for many.
This pressure coupled with the onset of reduced daylight, which encourages seasonal affective disorder in up to 6% of people, either increased feelings of isolation or the stress of being overly busy, the emphasis on spending time and feting family and friends, which for those of us grieving loved ones who have passed can be painful, and the many months of the pandemic still leaving its mark can drain a person, particularly the creative person who needs time to process and make in order to feel whole.
Pause the Machine to Make Art
In an inspiring 2012 commencement speech, Neil Gaiman said, “When things get tough, this is what you should do: make good art.”
Our job as writers is to hold in balance the world on one side and our need to process our experiences, emotions, and worlds around into art. Pausing the machine of the outside world to do this is the most fruitful, restorative, and generative thing we can do- one that makes us better people and that makes those who encounter our work better people as well.
(It’s a wonderful speech; if you prefer to read it, here is the transcript).
Write What Feels Right
Dr. Gabor Maté, author of When the Body Says No, once said, “The opposite of depression is expression.”
By spending your efforts going inward, rather than simply spending, and having a conversation with yourself in a personal essay or with your past in a memoir, by hunkering down and interrogating your scholarly subject from a new angle, by creating an online course for your business or writing a self-development book to help your audience, or by channeling wants and longings into fictional characters and getting them into a world of trouble in a novel whether in this world or one of your own making, the ripple effect is one that keeps on giving.
Through making art, we root ourselves to the ground, find our centers, and broaden ourselves, and in doing this, offer the same benefit to those who read our work.
What Black Friday does is bombard us with too much of a good thing. Giving gifts to those in our lives can be fun and rewarding. But we also need to ensure we hold on to ourselves through it all.
Even 10 minutes of “you-time” writing can restore a your spirit and soul, so you’re fit and able to give and give some more.
Reading a short work that is outside of your normal arsenal is another wonderful way to restore yourself.
This short story by David Shields, called “Life Story” —built entirely out of bumper stickers—delighted me to the tips of my hair when I heard him read it live. Or make yourself laugh.
[download the full text of “Life Story” by David Shields]
As December descends, and shopping, visiting, considering others, and going and doing fill our days, it’s important to bear in mind that the time you carve out and give to yourself to make art comes back to exponentially give to others. And that is the best gift you can give.
When you’re ready to give yourself the greatest gift of all: support so you can write, please reach out any time. Your writing is important, and we’re here to help you do it.