No time to write in December? Make lists!

It’s the week before Christmas! I’m taking a wild guess here that you might not have a lot of time to write this week. Am I right?

This time of year can be such a complex blend of circumstances. We can be busy and lonely. Sad and joyful. Mourning and celebrating.

We can want to write in our journals, or work on our books, but have a really hard time finding the time to squeeze it in.

And yet….the holidays are a special time for writers. It doesn’t matter if you write just for you or for publication. We are surrounded by even more stimulation than we have in our everyday, non-holiday schedules (hard to believe, I know), which means we have more material to pull from.

This time of year I recommend it’s time to bust out the list writing skills and use them for more than tracking your gift giving and meal making plans.

Here are some lists you could make this holiday season:

  1. What did you see while shopping? Who did you run into? What do you see people buying this year? Are people happy? Grumpy? How did you feel in the midst of the hullabaloo?
  2. Gatherings. Did you travel or stay put? Who did you see – and who were you happy about seeing? What stories did you hear? What smells spark memories for you?
  3. Your very own Grinch list. What are the things about Christmas that drive you crazy? No one has to read it. Let it all out. Use it for item 10 on this list later.
  4. Tree trimmings. List the ornaments that make the holiday special. Where did they come from? Are there any you want to get for next year?
  5. Food. What are the best things you’ve eaten this holiday season? What were the worst?
  6. Finding lost things. This time of year there are always one or two items I need that I know I have, but I have a hard time finding. This year I’m looking for the needle tip for the air pump, the special gift wrap cutter, and Christmas dishes. I’m writing them down this year. Now I just need to put the list in a safe place.
  7. Coping. What are the tough things about the holidays? Giving voice to the people and places you miss or mourn is important. I’m not saying pain will magically disappear, but I will say words, whether spoken or written, have power. Power to process and eventually to heal. Even the simple act of naming what you miss can make a difference to your holiday experience.
  8. Who do you want to write in your holiday journal? Do you keep a Christmas or seasonal journal you share with others? Make a list of people you’d like to ask to write an entry this year. Leave the journal some place where you can access it easily and keep a pen handy.
  9. Planning for next year. There’s something about being busy that can get a brain firing…soo…in the midst of a hectic December, we start thinking of what we want to do and accomplish in the New Year. In the spirit of being able to remember these great ideas later, try writing them down.
  10. Fuel for your fire. What do you have from this year that you want to burn? New Year’s Eve is a great time to burn documents you don’t need, letters you never sent, or even your day planner pages from a year you may want to put firmly behind you. Make a list of what you want to collect for the big night.
  11. What do you want your 2017 Christmas story to be? Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And they can start with an outline, which is a lot like a list. How do you want your season to begin? What happens in the middle? And how does it end?


Sara Marchessault is a writer, publisher, teacher, and mom who is on a mission to increase joy on the planet. Through the practice of self-reflection, we become aware of what brings us joy and what does not, and we make choices to move forward or stand still. Journal writing is a powerful reflection tool that can help any of us move forward, even in the darkest of times. For ideas on how you can get the benefits of journal writing without always keeping a traditional journal, check out Sara’s book, Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling.

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