Welcome to Holidailies 2011! This is the 12th annual edition of this lively community, started almost by accident when one enterprising blogger decided to post something each day in December as a gift to her readers. I participated for the first time in 2004, so this is my 8th time. Things got off to something of a shaky start this year. It’s a lot of work, and the original organizers didn’t want to be involved anymore. Interested persons have taken the reins, and I thank them, because a commitment to “doing Holidailies” pushes me to keep on keepin’ on here, despite distractions, despite the notion that I have said everything I can possibly say (and I do repeat some “classics”), despite a melancholy that overtakes me sometimes in these darkening days.
In my own holiday practice, I try for what I once termed “just the right mixture of jingle bells and Jesus.” I use a journaling guide called Make Ready the Way, first published in 1981 but now out of print. (There is a copy available on eBay for $1.99.) It’s a book meant to be written in, although my preference is to write in my own journal and note what volume and what page that particular idea is addressed. When I opened it on November 27, the first Sunday of Advent, I paged through it, looking at where I had indicated that I had actually used a particular meditation or writingÂ prompt. I noticed a lot of gaps, and I wondered just what my Advents were really like, as reflected in my journals.
I recently started Volume 35 of the journal I have been keeping since 1980 â€” quite haphazardly from 1980 to 1992, but then steadily, seldom leaving a gap of more than a few days. As an Advent practice, I decided to read what I wrote, to see where I have been, to perhaps have a clearer idea of where I should go.
I used Make Ready the Way for the first time in 1986. Lynn had just turned one, and I’d gone back to teaching after being at home with her for a year. Sr. Jean, the author,Â had been a teacher of high school students for a number of years, and the format of the book attracted me. The graphics reminded me of Cordette, a literary magazine for Catholic teens published by the Conventual Franciscans in Indiana during the 1960s. I wasÂ developingÂ the habit then of rising very early, before Lynn,Â to have C&C (Coffee and Contemplation), get myself centered before stepping into the day.
Here is what I wrote on that first Sunday of Advent, November 30, 1986:
Last Wednesday night we bought a computer. This relationship with a computer happened very fast â€” in the summer I expressed a wishe for a new typewriter. Typewriters of the mechanical sort which I have are obsolete. I wanted an electronic kind which shows you a line or so of text before it prints. (Maybe $250.) Then there are “word processors” for $750. essentially a typewriter with a memory for a whole page before it prints. Then at school I began using a p.c. (personal computer) with a program that allows you to write a whole paper and make corrections before you print anything. After some exhausting (though not exhaustive) research, we discovered that a real computer with a Near Letter Quality printer could be had for $1000. So could new carpet, but somehow the computer won!)
There is neither jingle bells nor Jesus in that passage, but it certainly indicates what I was about that Advent twenty-five years ago. A few days laterÂ I wrote:
There has been a revolution in the writing process in me. In only forty-eight hours from the time word processing software entered the house I produced a full-page essay on a topic which had been in my mind more than two years. This output represents roughly five times the amount of creative writing I had done in a year heretofore. I feel exhilarated and excited about writing, and I feel the urge to drop everything and just devote all my free time to writing â€” much like falling in love suddenly.
That was, it seems, the advent of my writing career. I wrote my first short story three years later, undertook a second master’s degree three years after that, worked hard after I finished that to lose the academic flavor that my writing had. I began blogging in 1999, declared myself a full time fiction writer in 2003, and saw my first literary publication in 2011.
And what a long strange trip it’s been. Come with me into this Advent. There are bells to be jingled, and the Christ Child to be welcomed once more.
Thank you for reading, so much, so often.