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Just because we turn off the computer to prepare for the holidays, it doesn’t mean we should or even can turn off our minds. We are blessed to carry our best writing tool wherever we go. My family once gave me a custom tee shirt that said, “Just because I’m not WRITING doesn’t mean I’m not WRITING.”

As we scour the Christmas wrapping paper, we can stretch our vocabularies for as many descriptions of red as we can from blush to burgundy. Then there’s the saffron-green of the sun-starved, rain-logged shoots, or the nearly black-green just before dawn awakens the leaves.

While we tie the bows on gifts, we might consider the alternatives for tying up the loose ends of that story after the decorations come down.

Remember the feeling of frustration of standing in the post office line, shifting those packages from one arm to the other. Hold on to that ache; it might come in handy in that scene you want to strengthen with some sensory detail.

As we wrap that wool sweater for great uncle Dave, remember how your hand sinks into the cloud-like weave. What would you call that gray? Is it gun metal, mouse, or driftwood gray?

Until the timer goes off for those cookies, try a word association exercise. Not the linear kind that is so limiting, but those sometimes referred to as spider web or starburst. I like to think of it as a dream catcher. In the center of a blank sheet, write your key word, a diagonal slant, and the antithesis.  For example, bridge/gap, or arid/flood, etc. Now circle those. Think of as many words as you can from each of the words and let those start its linear line. For instance, from bridge I might put washed away, grandpa’s teeth, construction, covered, game, and one and on. For gap, I might start with generation, trendy clothes, Reconciliation. Follow each of these, and you will see story ideas forming. The nice thing about this exercise is that it is perfect to work on in the short spurts between cookie batches. If I succeed in uploading the photo of my exercise, you’ll see that everyone one of those threads can inspire a story.

And, oh those scents of Christmas everywhere: what reaction do you get? Did it bring a tickle in your nose? Did a familiar scent bring an incident to mind? Christmas is a virtual feast for your senses. It’s a good time to expand our descriptive capacities. That’s a gift that will keep on giving all year.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy, Productive New Year.

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