For those who celebrate Christmas, today marks the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas, a measure immortalized in our culture by 12 pipers piping, 11 drummers drumming…and a partridge in a pear tree.
This is a time of family get-togethers, gift giving and receiving, traveling to meet friends and relatives, dealing with snowy and icy road conditions, drinking egg nog, and other observances of the season. It’s also a time of heightened emotions, poignant feelings, remembering those we’ve lost, appreciating and honoring more fully those who may not be with us much longer, and luxuriating in the feeling of a new love kindled.
Because of the heightened emotion and sense of presence the holiday season often brings, the time can also be ideal for writers, artists and musicians to lay down new stories, poems, paintings, sculptures, drawings and lyrics. It’s always such a joy to chronicle the season, to find nuances, angles or relationships, match them with setting and write your own Christmas or holiday stories.
I’ll be teaching a Christmas story-writing workshop Tuesday night, always an enjoyable occasion. In advance of that event, I’d like to share 12 prompts for writing Christmas stories:
1. What moves you this season?
2. What event, person or circumstance stirs you and reminds you of the most important values and virtues of the season?
3. Ask an older relative about his/her first Christmas that he/she remembers—and create a short story around that setting
4. Take your older relative’s memory and compare it with a modern-day Christmas. Note the differences … but also the similarities.
5. What is the most surprising Christmas present you’ve ever received—and how did it change your day, week, year or life?
6. Who is the craziest person ever invited to a Christmas event you attended? What made them crazy? What did they add to the day? Characterize them as they interacted with you?
7. What was (is) your favorite Christmas dream or fantasy? Hanging on the North Pole with Santa? Building toys? Hijacking the reindeer? Become childlike for a couple of hours and write a fantasical story
8. Spend the next two weeks capturing specific images of this particular season in your journal — settings, faces, moods, storms, twinkling lights. Write little vignettes or poems, then string them together into a commemorative chapbook of your holiday season.
9. Where is the coolest place you’ve ever spent Christmas? Deep in a snowbound New Hampshire forest? Rubbing your toes in Hawaiian sand? Take yourself back there and write a Christmas travelogue.
10. We all seek to extend helping hands to the less fortunate during this season. Remember the person who needed your help the most—and received it? What was his/her story? Recount the story, with your interaction as the plot line. Show the dance of giving and receiving in its most significant form.
11. During which holiday season were you immersed in the deepest love of your life? This season? Or another? Take your lover by the hand (literally or in words), walk to a fireplace, sit or lie with each other, and write as if you’re staring into your lover’s eyes and every word is a beat of your heart. Go deep. Feel all. Be smoking hot. Embrace the love.
12. Dig into your stocking of ideas, pull out some of them, and treat yourself to the special gift of storying out these ideas, either entirely or in preparation for a fast start to the 2008 writing season.
See what you can write during these Twelve Days of Christmas … and I look forward to hearing all about the collection you put together!
Writes of Life: Using Personal Experiences In Everything You Write — $10.95
Coyotes in Broad Daylight: New Poetry & Essays — $11.95
Shades of Green: Selected Poetry & Essays — $11.95
Freedom of Vision, edited by Stephen Gladish and Robert Yehling — $15.95