This won’t be a long post today. It’s Black Friday and we all have things to do. You might be shopping today. You might be working today. You might be cleaning up after a massive family event from yesterday and gearing up for about seven more before the New Year.
Today I’m decorating the house for Yule and Christmas. I’m wrapping gifts, writing cards and baking cookies. My goal for the next month is to spread as much holiday joy for my friends and family members (especially the furry ones) as I can.
But I need to remember, and you need to remember, that we matter too.
We deserve to enjoy the holidays.
We deserve to have fun and play like children.
We deserve to find magic this time of year.
We deserve to say no to anything we don’t want to do.
We deserve joy.
And I’m telling you right now that no one is going to make space for your joy if you don’t make it. No one’s going to clear your calendar. No one is going to make time for you if you don’t make time for yourself.
I’m not saying that the people who love you are slacking. I’m saying that what counts as joy for us isn’t always obvious. It is up to us to spoil ourselves. To make our joy happen.
So please, tell me what you’re doing today to make space for joy. I’m drinking a peppermint mocha latte while I read A Christmas Carol on my couch. What about you?
Maya Angelou is one of my personal heroes. She was such an incredibly strong person and absolutely fearless. She was beautiful, body and soul. She is still one of the most influential poets in America, despite leaving us in May 2014.
Ms. Angelou’s life was astounding. Which might be why she wrote so many books about it. She worked with Dr. King, with Malcolm X. She was in LA for the LA riots. She has seen so much history, much of it unpleasant. But through all of it, she spread beauty with her work, her singing, and her life.
I love reading her books. In each of them, I find bits of my own story within hers. I was also a young mother. I was also a child pawned off on relatives during my early life.
I’ve learned so many lessons from Ms. Angelou. Today, I want to share just three of them that may help you be a better writer. They will almost certainly help you be a better person.
Fake it, then make it.
I’m astounded by how often in Ms. Angelou’s life she applied for opportunities or was offered projects that she had no qualifications for. As a teenager she applied for a job as a cajun cook, having never cooked cajun food in her life. As a grown woman she calmly said she’d produce a tv series, having never done so before.
In both cases, Ms. Angelou was calm and assured of herself. Then, she went home and taught herself how to do that thing.
I wonder how often we assume we can’t do something, so we don’t. I wonder how our lives might change if we started saying yes to things, then putting in the effort to learn. I know that this attitude got me a job at Haunted MTL. And it got me to self-publish my books. Hell, it was that kind of attitude that inspired me to start this blog.
There is so much power in simple language.
When you read Maya Angelou’s work, you’re not going to find yourself tripped up much. Her poetry is in simple terms, and so is her prose. I think a lot of writers are afraid of simple words because it feels like we should be writing with bigger words. We should be using strange words like pejorative, just so people know we know what it means.
Don’t do that. Use simple words. Trust simple words. Because simple words can break someone’s heart. They can speak to a specific moment. They can make someone see exactly what you were seeing in a moment, and feel exactly what you were feeling.
There is so much power in loving yourself.
One of my favorite Maya Angelou poems is Phenomenal Woman. It’s a glorious hymn of loving yourself. Not accepting yourself as you are. Not telling yourself that God loves us all as He made us. It’s saying that you are fucking beautiful. You are powerful. You are phenomenal.
So what do you think? Who inspires you to be a better writer or a better person? Let us know in the comments.
You know what time it is. It’s November 11th and I’m willing to bet that at least one person reading this has already had a mental breakdown over the holidays. Well, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, not suffered through.
I have for you today a list of holiday dos and don’ts. These are the same ones that I go by, though I usually need a reminder around this time of year. Really, I do this for myself as much as for all of you. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in all the expectations of this time of year and forget that the point is to have fun. The point is that we just spent another eleven months dealing with inflation, family-breaking politics and scary world changes. We get one month out of the damned year to commit ourselves to joy, and so help me we’re going to take it!
Yes, this list is going to look a lot like some of my previous ones. But I become a better writer every year, so I’m going to go ahead and repeat myself anyway. It might sound prettier this year.
Spend time with the people you love. I mean the people you actually love, not the ones you feel obligated to.
Prioritize your joy. What do you love about the holidays? Do you love baking cookies, or reading holiday classics? Do those things to the fullest. Personally, I’m all about seasonal coffee and reading any holiday book that isn’t a romance novel. I also love a good holiday movie or special. So, I plan on doing those things as much as possible.
Find little things to make the holidays better. A mug that you love, a set of really pretty stickers. I’ve been all about these ambient videos recently.
Yes, the holidays are great for big meals, events, fancy clothes, parties and all that sort of thing. But there are so many little joyous moments to enjoy as well.
Be kind to people. Actually, this should be something you do all the time. But especially during the holidays, be nice to people. You can buy someone’s coffee in line and donate to charities if you’re financially able to. Be kind to people in the service industry. Be kind to everyone you come into contact with if you can. It’s the holidays, just be nice.
Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like shit. A lot of people have gotten better about this through the year, but seem to find it harder during the holidays. So if you feel like you need someone to give you permission, consider it granted. You don’t have to see anyone who is a dick to you, ever. It doesn’t matter if they’re family. If they can’t treat you well, you don’t need to be around them.
Don’t skip your self-care just because you’re busy. And I totally understand that this time of year is busy! But if you’ve been spending this year putting good self-care habits in place, don’t wreck them now! Keep up with your yoga, daily walks, journaling, face care, meditation, alone time. Whatever it is that you do to take care of yourself, keep doing it.
Don’t overspend. Again, this one I need to hear more than anyone else. I get the desire to overspend. Especially on my pets. I swear I am such a sucker for anything holiday-themed for these spoiled ass animals. Oh, and my husband I guess. But overspending just puts you in a bad spot come January. It’s a spot I don’t want to be in again.
Don’t let other people make you feel bad about how you celebrate. Not even me! Look, I have some strong opinions about people who put their Christmas decorations up before Black Friday. But it’s honestly none of my business. Put up your decorations whenever you want, however much or little you want. Don’t put anything up at all if you don’t want. Celebrate whatever you want to, or don’t celebrate however you want to. Whatever it is, don’t let someone else tell you what it should be.
Don’t get hung up on the details. And yes, this is one I struggle with! I spent weeks searching for chestnuts because it just could not be Fall until I had baked some damn chestnuts.
But there is every chance that, just like the last few years, you might not be able to get something you want or need due to serious supply chain issues. We’re going to have to make some exceptions. We’re going to have to be flexible. Because if we decide it just cannot be the holidays without this one thing, and that one thing is out of stock, we’re going to be sad for no good reason.
Don’t think that your holiday has to look like someone else’s holiday. Right now, Instagram is my best friend and also my enemy. I am in love with this specific holiday aesthetic of red gingham and burlap on white furniture with candles and red trucks with Christmas trees and labradors. Oh, but I also love this all-natural Yule look with clean pine trees decorated with cinnamon sticks, cranberry strings and dried orange slices.
I am not an Instagram model. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that. I will never have that perfect aesthetic, no matter how much I try.
You as well will probably not have that aesthetic that you want. Your holidays will also not look like your mother’s, your grandmother’s, or that one-in-law who is perfect and a bitch about it. Your holidays are going to look like yours. And that’s practically perfect in every way.
Halloween is over, Thanksgiving creeps ever closer and Nanowrimo has begun. Pages and word counts are climbing, and so far I’m feeling great about my new novel in progress.
Some of this excitement is because of the story itself. It’s a good one, I think. Some of it’s the positive peer pressure on social media. There’s something great to be said for a bunch of people working towards the same goal. Some of it as well is the energy of the season. I’m super pumped for the holidays and doing my best to put that creative energy to good use.
But I think we all know those incentives aren’t going to last. Seasonal excitement in particular is like a sugar high. It’s great while you have it, but eventually, you’re gonna crash.
Writing is my favorite thing to do, but it’s also exhausting. Especially when we get closer to the middle of a tale when I’m running low on ideas, and when the word counts are looming. Then, of course, we remember that it is the holiday season and I’m up to my eyeballs in crafts, cooking, and cleaning.
All good thing, but quite time-consuming.
When my energy starts to wain, when the work begins to feel like work, when I start thinking I’ll just take up stamp collecting after all, I need something more substantial to sustain me. And what I have are the words of authors who have gone before me. Writers who I admire and respect.
To that end, I made a reading list for myself for November. I might not get to all of them since I’ll be switching over to Christmas reads after Thanksgiving, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t run out of inspiration. Some of the books I’ve read before, some I haven’t. All are from authors who inspire me to do what we all love to do, write.
On Writing by Stephen King
It’s the first book on writing I ever read, and it’s still one of the best ones I’ve read. I don’t want to waste a lot of time here because I’ve already talked about this book so extensively. If you haven’t read it, and you want to be a writer, go read it now.
Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg
What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? So many writers credit this book with inspiring them that it’s impossible to count. I can’t help but feel inspired to write deeper work that goes right to the bone.
Gather Together in My Name by Maya Angelou
This book and the one after are autobiographies by the unparalleled Maya Angelou. They’re not writing advice books, but they inspire me nevertheless. Seeing how such an impactful author lived her life can’t help but make me want to be a better writer. And a better woman.
All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou
Ditto for this one.
So that’s it. It’s a pretty short post today because I know we’re all busy. But if you have a moment, I’d love to know what book inspires you most as a writer or artist. Let us know in the comments.