It was rather disconcerting to munch on Thanksgiving turkey and realize that, within the next four or five days, I needed to write my "Christmas" editorial! Somehow, even though I've now wrapped up my fall decorations and dragged far too many boxes of "Christmas stuff" out of the closet, I'm finding it hard to get into the "Christmas spirit."
Possibly it's because, as everyone seems to comment, this year seems to have flown by. I used to believe that this was simply a symptom of "aging" -- the older one gets, the faster the years seem to pass. Forget about how "time flies when you're having fun." Time flies when you're getting old. But this year, I've heard the same complaint from people of all ages. (Well, adults of all ages; I haven't conducted interviews of anyone under age 10.)
I suspect that it's not a matter of getting older, but of getting busier -- and we are all getting busier, no matter how old (or young) we are. It seems that the more "time-saving" gadgets we acquire -- handheld devices that enable us to simultaneously talk to three different people, surf the web, set up tonight's TV shows to record and, quite probably, wash the dishes and walk the dog -- the less time we have. If we can now do five things in the same amount of time that was once required for one, we now feel we must do five things instead of one. And so, following that logic, we're now doing twenty-five things where once we did five, or fifty where we once did ten, and so on. Time flies when you haven't any!
Which perhaps explains the spirit that I do find myself "in," which may or may not be precisely a "holiday" spirit. While I absolutely love Christmas, I always find myself just a little bit impatient to get it out of the way so that I can move forward, into the year to come. This is a time of year when I start to feel like "closing out" the old year so that I can start fresh.
This year, I find this mood expressing itself in a desire to "clear things out." On the home front, I'm cleaning clutter from closets and cupboards. (Wow, did that turn out to be an alliterative phrase...) Books I no longer want are going into the "sell on Amazon" pile; books that have sat far too long in that pile are going into the Goodwill box. Tasks that have gathered dust for months -- file this, scan that, sort the other -- are being cleared away. I can actually see the surface of my computer desk!
I'm also clearing out my project lists. I found not just one but three "to-do" lists on my computer, and spent an afternoon sorting through them, striking off the things that either had been done or never would be done. I now have one, admittedly rather long, list -- but instead of looking back at all the things that haven't been done yet, this new list looks forward, at the things I genuinely want to accomplish in 2012.
And this, I think, would be a good way for any writer to address this turning-point of the year. Take a day, or two, or however many you need, and take a look around. Look at the piles of clutter that have gathered around your workspace. If there are things that seriously need doing, get them done so that they no longer continue to "loom" into the new year. If there are things that are more in the "I should probably do this, but I'm not sure when" category, consider tossing them straight into the recycle bin.
Do you have a stack of books that you feel you "should" read, because, surely, they'll make you a better writer or a better person? Think about how much good they might do someone else -- and how relieved and refreshed you'll feel when their presence is no longer a guilty reminder of something you think you "ought" to do. Do you have an inbox full of e-mails that haven't been answered in months? Anyone who hasn't heard from you in that long has undoubtedly figured that they won't -- so start deleting.
Take a look at your project list, and take note of those that have been on the list for months, if not years. If you haven't gotten to them by now, chances are that you never will -- but as long as they stay on your list, you're going to feel guilty about them. So take them off the list. If you have projects that just need a tiny bit of effort to finish up and tidy away, see if you can get them off your plate altogether.
In short, grab a broom. Make this holiday season a time to do the proverbial "clean sweep." Sweep out the odds and ends, the shoulds, the maybes, the sooner-or-laters, the one-days. Trim the to-do list as well as the tree. Deck the halls and clear the decks.
And maybe, just maybe, next year won't seem quite so cluttered.
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