As I sit down to write this, the holiday season upon us, what I want to say — or at least what I think I should say — is that I always feel a festive creative spirit calling this time of year. But the truth is, the last thing I want do at the moment is write a holiday song. And that’s odd because I’m a songwriter. It’s strange to not feel an impulse tugging at my sleeve. I should be inspired, right?
The day after Thanksgiving there’s a Christmas playlist resounding in every mall I enter, every restaurant in which I dine, every gas station, supermarket, nail salon. They’re inescapable. A guilty little voice in my head whispers: “Every songwriter on earth must be writing one today. Why aren’t you?” Yet I’d much rather window shop. Or bake cookies. Or sit by a fire and read while Nat King Cole serenades me. What’s wrong with me? Making music has never been work.
Come to think of it, the holiday songs I’ve written in the past, like “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” for Glee, have all been conceived in the summer so there’d be enough set up for Santa’s arrival. But end of year my creative brain needs to shut down. It simply runs out of gas.
There are other holiday-related activities I enjoy: wrapping gifts, decorating gingerbread houses, ornamenting trees, finding the quintessential balance of rum and nog, taste-testing my friend Fran’s Chanukah Latkes. But picking up my guitar? My journal? Sitting at the piano? Not so much.
For me, December is about reflection, taking stock, disengaging, rejuvenating, alphabetizing my spice rack (I actually just did that), cleaning out closets and giving away items I purchased in haste. Making room for the new. Donating to those who lost a home in a fire.
Maybe taking time off is the best thing we can do for our creativity. A recharge is an investment for the future.
After the holidays are over, when I take down my tree and put the box of ornaments back on the shelf where they’ll rest for the next 12 months (thinking…wasn’t it just yesterday that I put them away?), I’ll be more than ready to get to “work.” I’ve got an album to make. A show to get off the ground.
Come January, I’ll be rested, my mind and heart ready for a fresh look at the world, at time flying by, at love and laughter. I’ll be ready to make peace with my demons, reacquaint myself with my better angel. The seasons they go round and round and so another year will begin —all superb fodder for new material. But cheer about cider on the stove, carolers at my door, reindeers, sleigh bells and mistletoe? I’ll leave that to my colleagues who can’t slow down.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no humbug. I adore dressing up and going to holiday parties. I get a kick out of leaving salt and carrots on a plate for Rudolph. I love giving and receiving. I live for romantic holiday Rom-Coms set in New York City. (In fact, I wish I was at Rockefeller Center right now watching the ice skaters glide under the big Christmas tree.) I yearn for a long walk through Central Park in the snow, a hot chocolate nestled in fuzzy gloves. I miss the cold. I miss the stuff New Yorkers are sick of. Christmas isn’t the same in Los Angeles.😔
Uh oh — what’s this? I feel something shifting inside me — a flutter in my heart. Maybe it’s all the New York talk making me feel nostalgic. Where’s my capo? Where’s my pick? I do believe I’m tuning to an open D.
What is happening? A song is what’s happening. After all, no matter what we say, no matter how we may try to give it a rest, let’s face it: When lightning strikes, a writer writes.
Happy holidays, everyone. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re working or playing, revving up or cooling down, may next year bring you all the hope, the love, the laughter — whatever it is you need — to start again.