The tree – fake, prelit, about five feet tall, $50 on Kijiji – is up. Fifty dollars, tbh, seems a bit high for a hand-me down tree. I mean, you don’t need it anymore because you bought a $300 or $900 new fake tree this year. You should, by rights, be paying me to take this unwanted, inferior tree away from your house. No? You really need that $50 to recoup your original 1990s costs or to offset the cost of your new $900 tree?
Yes, Virginia, there are $900 artificial trees. And, there are $600 trees on Kijiji. I quote: Prelit 7.5 foot Christmas free – some brand I’ve never heard of – $600. Ad text: Like new. Paid $900, asking $600.
Kitten. You may have been dumb enough to pay $900 for a Christmas free, I’m not dumb enough to pay $600 for a used Christmas tree. (Not even if it’s vintage or antique—but it’s not.)
Anyway—Christmas tree is up, the one glass ornament we bought is already in a thousand pieces and in the garbage. Within minutes of the tree’s erection (ha ha), the cats liberate two or three plastic red apples from the bottom branches and bat them around the house. I feel good. Almost in the mood to put on Christmas carols. Or, at least, Wham.
It’s a good day: hell is thawing and the temperatures are hovering around zero Celsius and not -100.* I’ve been up three hours before the crack of dawn and I’ve already worked and I feel guilt-free and entitled to take a 20 minute writing break. Funny thing about my job btw: I’ve been hired for my writing expertise but I don’t write enough at work to maintain it. None of us do. We work, hard, for sure, but nobody on my team has ever written at the pace a journalist with a daily or a romance novelist writes – the pace that really hones the craft and expertise and kills the myth of writer’s block. There’s something to be said for the expertise and practice sheer volume (and the fear of real deadlines) gives you.
In my prior life, a light month would have me producing 10,000 words of long-form copy – and that’s just the stuff that would be published. When I’m working on a novel, that’s the weekly – or weekend – word count target.
The end result of all that practice is that even when I’m bad and inspired, I’m pretty good at getting the words out – and fixing yours.
A few months into the now not-so-new job, I noticed that I wasn’t writing enough to stay where I want to be. It’s not like riding a bicycle. It’s more like running competitively. Just because you’ve trained to run a marathon doesn’t mean that ability stays with you once you stop practicing. So I’ve incorporated additional writing practice into my slower workdays, on top of my Morning Pages and my personal writing. I write and rewrite headlines and leads as I read industry articles. I write ad copy for ads we’ll never publish. I’m turning my work bullet journal into a mini blog. I have to keep my claws sharp.
Flora: Workaholic, also, I think I’m starting to see where some of my issues might come from.
Jane: You know what? I’m sick and tired of people who don’t love their jobs and don’t excel at what they do calling people who are really committed to doing good work workaholics.
Flora: Don’t yell at me. I see my future and it’s scary.
Jane: It shouldn’t be. Mastery is intoxicating and flow is the best high.
Back to writing: I’m prepping notes for a couple of new writers’ conference presentations and looking for a new way to say the same old thing: Practice, practice, practice and also, find yourself a ruthless editor who will strip you of your ego and make you understand that the only thing that matters is whether the story works…
Flora: Speaking of, what is this story about?
Jane: Our new Christmas tree and me having a good day. Stop interrupting.
So it’s a good day because I’ve worked and I’m writing and it’s not too cold outside and the cats haven’t toppled the Christmas tree yet. Also, coffee is delicious and my new writing nook is adorable. I found it – or rather, its contents – at a thrift store ($25 for the table, $25 for the chair) while looking for a non-$600 Christmas tree.
I still kind of feel I overpaid at $50. But I understand – inflation, also greed. I don’t regret it. It’s a one-time expense and I’ll likely leave it in my will to Ender. Or post it on Kijiji in 2050 for $900: Vintage Christmas tree, only slightly pre-chewed by cats. You know you want it.
*written December 8, before hell froze over again