I’m sitting on at my dining room table right now surrounded by flat rate boxes, cases of Rice Krispy Treats, bags of holiday candy, cookies and rolls of packaging tape. Cardboard shipping boxes from Amazon.com and my favorite on-line shopping sites litter the floor. A pile of tablecloths that never made it to the dry cleaners keep company with the stack of gifts waiting to be wrapped.  

It’s that time of year. Again.

I gulp down a blast of caffeine and wonder, what happened to that person who used to take twenty units in college, work twenty hours a week at the student bookstore, had a great social life and still managed to get decent grades? What happened to the person who used to work a full-time job and a part-time job, maintained a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, baked ten kinds of cookies every year at Christmas and wouldn’t leave the house without make-up?

I no longer read a book a day or peruse cookbooks and magazines. My TBR pile grows as does the stack of unread foodie and home décor magazines. I’m lucky to finish a couple books a week. The bedrooms I planned to paint remain unpainted and the walls are bare because I haven’t had time to get pictures framed. Why?

I started writing.

When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. I’ll catch a few minutes of the news and wonder how I can spin a story around it. And even weirder, when I’m sleeping, I dream about my characters and wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I should change POV in certain scenes to make them stronger.

Yesterday, I packed up care packages for my soldier contacts in Afghanistan and Iraq. I always include a note in the boxes. I’m not sure if they actually read the note or toss it aside and tear into the goodies. I tell myself I’m a writer. I create characters in a setting and spin a story that’s engaging and entertaining. (Hey, I’m entitled to a moment of grandeur!) But every time I sit down to scribble a note, I don’t know what to say. What in my life could possibly be of interest to a soldier? I worry about writing something too sappy, which will result in major eye rolling if my note doesn’t immediately end up in the burn pit and actually gets read. I want to write something heartfelt and sincere without being too familiar. And I want to be funny and hopefully make them smile.  

I always include a blurb about the contents of the box and explain why I added a bag of wasabi peas or the lime chili cashews. I tell them the flattened banana tastes really good with the graham crackers and a dab of Nutella. (It’s my secret mission to broaden their palates.)

It took over three hours to pack and tape the boxes, fill out the customs forms and shipping labels, and load them into the trunk of my car. How many words could I have written in those three hours? Lots probably. But they’d just be words on a page.

It’s not exactly time management, but I’m learning I write better in spurts. I can’t be creative when I know there are things that need my attention, like a dirty kitchen floor. Oddly enough, I find inspiration when I’m Swiffering the kitchen floor. (The kitchen floor is pretty clean these days!)

I’m hosting the horde for Christmas Eve dinner this year. Between now and then, I’ve got to finish putting up the holiday decorations, decide what to serve, and stand in line at the post office. If I’m really lucky, I won’t have to step foot into Costco. And somehow, I’ll find time to write.

Many thanks to my fabulous critique partners for their patience and valuable insight.

Happy Holidays!

Side note:  I stick to writing-related subjects on this blog, but I’m making an exception because it’s the holidays. I’m an avid supporter of AnySoldier. The program provides addresses of servicemen and women who’ve signed up their respective units to receive care packages and letters. Please think about sending a holiday greeting to a soldier, sailor, airmen or Marine and let them know they’re not forgotten. Something as simple as a card will make someone’s day.

Click on this link:  www.anysoldier.com and go to “Where to Send”. Domestic mail rates apply. If you include your e-mail address, they may send you a message of thanks.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!   This week on Romance University….

Christmas is right around the corner and Romance University is feeling the holiday cheer by offering another great line-up.  Lori Brighton starts us off with a two-book giveaway.  And you won’t want to miss the remainder of the week because we have an interview with Janet Evanovich (Yes, THE Janet Evanovich), and we will close out the week with our ever-popular Ask an Editor segment with Theresa Stevens

Mon, 12/13 – Crafting Your Career – Lori Brighton enlightens us with her take on self-publishing. The money, the promotion, the book covers. Lori will also be giving away two e-books!

Weds, 12/15– Anatomy of the Mind – Janet Evanovich answers some burning questions – who’s her most fun character to write?

Fri, 12/17 – Chaos Theory of Writing – Ask an Editor. Theresa Stevens returns with another reader submitted question

All Romance University lectures are generously provided by our Visiting Professors. RU is a tuition-free zone!

Best regards, Kelsey Browning, Carrie Spencer, Adrienne Giordano, Tracey Devlyn, Heather Long & Jennifer Tanner.   www.romanceuniversity.org