Belated Happy holidays. Holly, jolly holiday season. It was that time of year again. The Christmas adverts were out, Christmas films were back-to-back on the TV, we had Christmas snow (or, in the case of my hometown, a slippery slick of sugar-coated sheet ice), the same five Christmas songs were on a loop in all the shops, tinsel and fairy lights drenched everywhere, and people shopped like the world was about to end. The more acceptable time of the year to have a Christmas tree is coming to an end, Christmas holidays, Christmas, Christmas and now we’re all stuffed from eating lots of food and socially exhausted from spending time with our family and friends. It’s also the time of year where poor students have been busy cramming for preliminary or end-of-semester exams and pulling all-nighters for essays or other deadlines. If you’re a performer, you’re probably silently relieved that Christmas has finally passed and you’re not now limited to just the festive playlist, which of course had to be about Christmas or you would have appeared as though you had crawled out from under a rock.
I learned this the hard way two years ago. Picture this: a small, rustic pub in Ayr is hosting an open mic night. At this point in my life, I’d read out at a few of these kind of events, most of which I was the only poet there. I’d read my poems aloud in the pub and sang a few songs, and I was received well. The host was a silver-haired guitarist who I had a good rapport with. It was going to go well this time, right? What better a poem to read than a relatable poem about the Black Friday sales, which is only somewhat related to Christmas in its gross commercialism. Hubris was not the word! Against the host’s good advice, I eagerly took it to the mic and was largely ignored. They didn’t want to hear my cynical pseudo-communist propaganda on their piss-up. They wanted to wrap themselves warm in a fuzzy materialistic cinnamon-smelling cocoon. After singing a carol or two to clear the air, I slunk away home, vowing to never perform at Christmas again.
Since then, I’ve been hesitant to perform anything during Christmas and this year has been no exception. I have little to no stories or poems to perform during the holiday season. I’m surprised I’ve got something to even share on my social media during December. At this stage I don’t have that great a selection to read aloud, and I’ve slowly been expanding my festive themed portfolio.
In hindsight, I could have read my flash fiction, ‘Executive’, which was part of a set of three flash fictions centred around characters talking about a fire. A should-be retired CEO’s family Christmas is distracted by his many work commitments, which costs him dearly. It was probably readable at a spoken word event, but at the time I was only performing poetry. It wouldn’t have been cheery enough anyway.
I’ve made other attempts at writing Christmas themed stuff, including a narrative poem written in triplets where a woman’s husband cheats on her on Christmas day, and an erotic short story at a holiday resort. The ideas were good in theory, but I didn’t have the motivation to follow them through. I was not the biggest fan of Christmas at the time, though as I’m getting older I’m enjoy it more. There were always deadlines and the stress of Christmas that stopped me from sitting down and writing something good. Besides, I had lots of other things to write and do to worry about writing something festive, right?
During December of last year, I wrote four Christmas themed flash fictions for the 52 Week Flash Fiction Challenge. This is a Facebook group, where you write a flash fiction a week based on a prompt word. It was incredibly useful at the time, and probably something I will come back to in the future. The desire to write something festive was more a frivolous whim than part of a bigger goal to ‘write something for Christmas’. Most of them are light hearted: Mugged tells the story of a surreal twist of fate after a Christmas night out, Sermon is about a boring church service and Love is Blind (which is still being redrafted) is based on a misunderstanding related to Christmas shopping. However, I Know the Effects of Gravity is quite a bit more depressing: it tells the story of a female medical student who attempts to end her life during the Christmas period.
This month was a tricky one to figure out what to write for the blog. I knew it had to be Christmassy because everything in December really should be somewhat related to it, but it also had to be relevant to my life. Through writing this piece, I suddenly realised how little credit I’d given myself. Yes, I made the mistake of misreading my audience at one event, but I’ve learned from that. I’ve slowly accumulated a small collection of festive flash fictions, which I might just read aloud next year at the right event for them. Considering how much else I was working on, of course a Christmas poem would slip under my radar.
Trying to think of ideas has given me fuel for what to write in next year’s Christmas blog post. Maybe I’ll have more festive stories and poems to share on my social media? Maybe I’ll do some reviews for Advent? In any case, I have the rest of the year to plan it all and then some.
What were you up to on your winter holidays? Have you tried to write something for Christmas? How successful was your attempt? Tell me all about it in the comments or on my Twitter. I’m going to be reading a lot of thick, heavy books for next semester so any little short stories, poems you guys have to offer are greatly appreciated. Send them to me on my social media, and I’ll be sure to give them a read. I also made a Spotify playlist of alternative Christmas songs, feel free to give it a follow or send in some suggestions of good ones I might have missed.
If you’re interested in hearing more from me, Jen Hughes, you can follow my social media below or check out my portfolio of short stories, flash fictions and poetry on my website: dearoctopuswriting.wordpress.com.