I love the holidays. Parties, surprises, decorations, spending time with people one loves. However, in the flurry of shopping, wrapping, tree-trimming, house cleaning, cards, seeing friends and family, it’s hard to find time do much else. Writers, being self-employed, have the advantage of being able to carve out time for holiday preparations. However, that makes it all the easier for holiday preparations to take over one’s life.

One of the ways I wish I was more like Mélanie is her unflappability as a hostess. I’m sure Mel would sail through even the modern version of the holidays effortlessly. Or at least, it would appear effortless. As often with Mélanie, the emphasis is on appearance. I’m having my family over Christmas night (I love hosting holiday events). Ten of us, and everyone brings something, so it’s relatively easy, but I still need to make lots of lists to make sure I’m organized (come to think of it, I’m sure Mel makes lists too). The tree is trimmed, the house is decorated, the decoration boxes (which had rather taken over the house) put away. But I still need to make one more shopping foray to the mall, wrap packages, grocery shop, and clean the house, in around various holiday get togethers in the next week. And somewhere in the midst of all this, I’d like to get some writing done.

I’m inspired by the tweets and Facebook posts from writer friends who are managing to write during the holiday season. My friend Monica McCarty has a January 1st deadline. I’m so impressed with how she’s managing to juggle everything (my mom and I had a January 1st deadline once; it’s the only time I’ve ever worked on December 25th). I’ve finally decided the way to get writing done in the midst of holiday chaos is simply to make oneself carve out time for it. Friends help. Last week I had another writing date with Veronica Wolff. As we did last time, we met at a Border’s café worked for a couple of hours with laptops and lattes, adjourned to lunch, talked a bit, and wrote some more. I got some timeline issues that I’d been struggling with in my current book ironed out and emerged feeling productive and energized. Later in the week, after I’d spent the evening trimming the tree, I sat down in front of it and dove into a new research book.

If you celebrate midwinter holidays, how are your preparations going? How do you find time for writing or other activities in the midst of holiday chaos? I’m thinking of making next week’s post a list of holiday gifts my characters might give each other today, and I’d love some help, so if you have suggestions of what Mel, Charles, David, Simon, Lady Frances, and the others might give each other let me know!

Warmest Midwinter wishes. Tonight I’m going to mark the winter solstice by sitting down at the piano and playing Rodgers & Hart’s “The Shortest Day of the Year.”

And speaking of Midwinter, this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter Raoul writes to Mélanie on December 20, 1812.