CHRISTMAS WEEK—A SUITABLE TIME FOR THINKING (WITH A LITTLE FUN THROWN IN)
Subject to some notable exceptions like my beautiful sister Lucy and her family—and fortunately the list is expanding—my family is so difficult that I tend to focus on friends during Christmas week—which, roughly speaking is December 23 until midnight on New Year’s Day.
True, that is slightly more than a week, but let’s not get technical. The point is that it is a natural break and a chance to reflect upon what one has done last year—and one’s hopes for the next. And when you reach a certain age, you start thinking about death, and what you can accomplish before that time comes—or at least I do.
I hate the thought of dying without completing a book I’m working on. How frustrating for the reader! And, bear in mind, that the first reader of every book is the author.
Ironic to die while wondering what comes next in your own book—but entirely possible.
A further factor to note is that the author does not necessarily know in detail how his story ends. I always know in general terms, of course, but the reality is that the story normally grows on the page. By that I mean that the actual process of writing stimulates creativity to the point where unplanned ideas are introduced, and where significant plot changes take place—and, in addition, characters have a vote and a volition of their own.
Writing, for most of us, isn’t a cold sterile process where you merely assemble ideas—and then expand on them. It’s a much more dynamic, interactive, emotional and creative business which can be as surprising and spell-binding to the author as to the reader. Nonetheless, I will confess that one’s characters—no matter how complex—are still easier to handle than real people. I became a writer for good reason.
I have always thought of friends as people I liked and respected, could talk frankly to, and trust. Over time, I have learned that it is much much complicated than that—and, for instance, where many people are concerned—friends are no more than well connected people who constitute a route to self-advancement.
I have never been able to adopt the latter philosophy though I have come under great pressure to do so on multiple occasions. It’s who you know that counts. In purely careerist terms, I suspect that is true, but it is a depressing way to live. It’s a kissing cousin of greed—and life has to be better than that. Just for starters, greed lacks values and is impressively boring.
Throughout my life, despite every adverse circumstance, good friends have been a constant in my life. Christmas week seems to me to be a good time to think about them—and communicate with them. I never do quite as well as I would like; and sadly, some are dead. Still, as with life, you do what you can.
The trick is to remember the good times—and there have been many of those—and they were a lot of fun. But I’m understating the importance of friendship. The real trick is to recall the intimacy, the camaraderie, the warmth and the trust—and that fleeting sense that one does not live, and die, alone. Of course you do—but it is a heart-warming thing to be fooled for a time.