A Creative Christmas

When Christmas rolls around, I roll out the red carpet for creativity. I believe that Christmas should never be routine or boring.

Take my Christmas tree, for example. Since I’m a bibliophile, I built one out of my books. Maybe the photo from my den will inspire you to case your own bookcase for possibilities. Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Crank up the Christmas music, and heat up a cup of cider or coffee or some other treat for sipping.

Step 2: Take photos of the books on your shelves. This will make it easier to take down your tree and reorder your bookshelves after the New Year. (I order my books by genre, Pulitzer winners, and book club reads.)

Step 3: Decide what colors you want to stand out in your tree. As you pull books off the shelf, stack the right colors together. For example, I wanted the trunk to be dark, so I stacked together all the books with black or brown dust jackets, like my “Twilight” series. (I planned on having blue, green, and red tree branches but quickly ran out of books with those colors!)

Step 4: Start building! Take your time. Take a break – and a sip – when you need one. It took me several hours to get my tree just right, but the results? SPECTACULAR!

Step 5: Insert pine-scented sticks (e.g., Scentsy sticks) between the books to get a whiff of that fresh tree smell when you walk by. You also can use the sticks to hold garland and glittery balls on your tree. I did not use lights, because I did not want to risk a fire.

If you prefer a traditional tree, that’s okay too. How about spicing up your gift-giving? One year, I created headlines for small, inexpensive gifts,and each person got something from each category. The headline categories included: things you find in a flea market; things that make you go “hmmm”; grin-worthy gifts; wallet warmers; and things that make you look FABULOUS. My family loved it, and the shopping experience on my end was unforgettable.

This Christmas, I hope creativity rains down on you…and lots of love, hope, and anticipation for a blessed New Year.

‘Never eat more than you can lift.’ – Miss Piggy

When I opened my freelance writing business, I developed a list of operating principles, a code of conduct to help guide my performance and decisions each day. I figured, corporations have operating principles, so, why shouldn’t I?

Principle #5 on my list is I will take a break for lunch every day. Every writer knows the discipline required to “sit your butt down in the chair and do the work,” which is how author Ben Fountain describes the key to writing. I’m pretty good at following his advice, except for that one hour in the day when I disconnect from my WIP (work-in-progress), focus on chewing instead of creating, and fill up my tank.

Food is fuel—especially if it’s a leftover turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sandwich from Thanksgiving dinner.

Which Cliché Irks You Most?

I love provocative questions. Recently, I surveyed some of the best communicators I know and asked them: “Which cliché at work irks you most?” The responses rolled into my inbox and clustered into three categories:

  1. Clichés that make us giggle.
  2. Clichés that terrify.
  3. Clichés that really make no sense at all.

Clichés that Make Us Giggle
“I’ll circle back with you on that.” Every time I hear this, images of cowboys on horses pop into my head. And for some reason, this phrase sounds exactly like something Mister Ed would say to Wilbur.

“At the end of the day…” This one irks my friend Clare, a writer and professor. She says, “How about at the beginning of the day? Isn’t that a more productive time for a lot of people?

“Thinking outside the box” gives graphic designer Diana a “facial tic.”

“Do you have the shelf space for this project?” Yes, and I also have the bandwidth for it.

Clichés that Terrify
“I’m not ready to fall on my sword for that.” Uh, are things so bad that business people are carrying sharp objects these days?

“Let’s take that offline.” Shady. Very shady.

“Nobody wants to be the throat to choke.” My friend Janelle, who works in public relations, says this phrase makes her want to “crawl into a hole.”

“Business synergy” agitates my architect friend Greg. “When I hear that, it usually means they are combining two companies and firing 50% of the staff to pump up profits.”

“This will need to be escalated.” Okay, now I’m really scared.

Clichés that Make No Sense at All
“Let’s calendarize that.” Let’s not and say we did.

“We’ll need a granular approach.” We need to add sugar/sand to our strategy? I’m confused.

“Seamless integration.” Does anyone know what that means?

“Going forward…” Would any of us still have a job if we were going backward?

It Is What It Is
A family member recently “called me on the carpet” for saying, “It is what it is.” I admit: I’m guilty of overusing that one. In fact, I have it on a placard. After my dad saw the sign on my bookshelf, he crafted a better one: “It ain’t what it ain’t.”

Hmm. Until I come up with a better phrase, I’ll just “hit the reset button” and “parking lot that” for now.

This is where ‘noveling’ happens.

Writers can be finicky about the writing process. I know one author who can only work in a small, cluttered room with no windows. Another writer requires peanut butter cookies and diet soda to notch up her creativity.

When I write, I need lots of natural light, room to pace and no distractions. You won’t find me hunched over my laptop in a coffee shop or blaring lyrics to happy music, although, low-volume Spanish guitar does seem to fire up the noggin.

Most of all, I need a great desk.

Furniture maker Matthew Holdren used barge board harvested after Hurricane Katrina to build my writing desk. The wood was once part of barges that moved along the Mississippi River to transport goods. Eventually, local residents broke up the barges and used the wood to build shotgun houses and cottages.

My desk has a story, and that makes it a great place to write one.

Terri McAdoo
Email: terri@tmcadoo.com
Phone: 908-750-4156