Christmas Creep…For Writers

September is in its final act this year. October is checking itself out one last time in the backstage mirror before making it’s entrance. (And there is my quota of theatre metaphor’s for the day.)

The Halloween stuff has been out for two weeks or so. But just as October lies in wait to take over for September, the masks, candy corn, plastic skeletons and witch’s cauldrons  in the retail world don’t have to crane their metaphorical necks very far in order to see partially open boxes marked “Christmas” stacked up in the store rooms.

We, too, the consumer shall see the Christmas stuff trickle onto shelves and displays in a matter of weeks or less.

Christmas itself may not quite be around the corner, but “Christmas Creep” certainly is-the concept of retail businesses providing Christmas-oriented sections of their store, complete with decorations in some cases, in a theoretical effort to spark an early start to extra holiday spending. Though, as retail friends of mine have also explained, starting early is also a necessity because there is much less time available during the actual holidays. Fair enough.

So there are economic and practical reasons for Christmas Creep. And if you love Christmas, or have had a rough summer for some reason, you may find yourself poking around your Christmas playlist a bit early any given year, for a pick-me-up, if you like Christmas. So there’s a fun/spiritual element to it as well.

As the temperatures around here very slowly but noticeably drop, and the inevitable retail shift I described becomes imminent, I’ve been thinking about how author’s sometimes experience something similar to Christmas Creep. Sometimes we think about and plan for, and in some cases actually construct the ending of our stories before the rest is finished.

I would have love to shared a clever title for this phenomenon, but “Climax Creep” sounds pornographic, and “Denouement Creep” sounds either like a chess opening strategy, or something so pretentious that few mere mortals can process it.

The point is, it’s understandable in many cases; the climax or the final scene in our fiction, especially in longer works like novels, is one of, if not the most important parts of our story. I myself often have a notion of the ending of a piece even before I start work on the first draft. I feel free to change it, but I often do not.

Yet I try not to jump right into the ending. I knew how my first novel, Flowers of Dionysus was going to end for years before I finished it, and even before I started it. Not that I have a problem with writer’s who do so. If writing the ending first helps you write something to completion, I am all for it. I’m just trying to say that though I understand the temptation to start early on the end for which you are so fond, especially after you’ve been dragging through the dreaded middle, I don’t usually choose to try that myself.

Just as I don’t choose to do Christmas whole hog until it truly is Christmas time. I’ll admit to listening to a few Christmas songs in the early fall, and sometimes as a gag for a “Christmas in July” sort of thing. But I don’t decorate, generally don’t watch movies, and I don’t put up a tree. (Though my guess is virtually nobody does this months in advance, though one never knows.)

Setting aside the obvious depressing possibilities, Christmas will of course come, whether it creeps into early fall or not. Even in retails stores, people would still begin to spend more liberally come November, even if the Christmas stuff wasn’t out until after Thanksgiving. I look at writing a piece the same way. It may seem like it’s taking forever, and a lot may change in the middle, but the ending will eventually come. You’ll arrive at the exciting part eventually, unless you abandon the piece. (I have no Christmas metaphor for this, however.)

Who knows? Maybe some day I will jump right to the end of something I’m writing, and work backward, or otherwise in random order from there. If this is something you do, I’d be interesting in hearing about your process. But for now, I try to let the calendar of both the year, as well as my creative output, unfold in a linear fashion.

Merry Christmas.

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