December is the time when publishers traditionally shut their doors and tidy their desks - writers get a lot of their MSS back, along with their customary rejections, at this time of year.
This 'tradition' begins at the printers - who, back in the 1840s, began the habit of closing down their presses early for Christmas and opening them up again around mid January. For some odd reason, this practice still persists to this day!
I guess everyone deserves a break - but many writers don't like it!
Below is a short video I put together for the local writer's center. I didn't know they were going to ask me for the footage when I filmed it - so it's a bit rough. If I'd known beforehand...
Anyhoo, you'll see that South Australia has more than its fair share of successful writers - Sean Williams, who writes Star Wars novels, for one. DM Cornish, whose Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy has a Hollywood option. Robyn Opie, author of 85 internationally published books, Janeen Brian, author of 75 picture books, the list goes on.
Wannabe professional writers should find this encouraging.
Christmas is a time for giving, they say.
It's a time when we take a break from the usual helter-skelter rat race and pause to reflect on the real purpose of our lives.
That is, to help each other.
You hear this so often it's sometimes hard to grasp what it actually means.
Does it mean volunteering at shelters or involving yourself in community projects? It might. Does it mean coaching your local kid's soccer team or organizing garage sales to raise money for the needy? Perhaps.
These are the more obvious manifestations of charity and giving. They can smack of unpaid work and a necessary short term duty.
I prefer to think of giving as a vocation that we can all participate in - all the time - in our own way, using our own personal talents.
Rich businessmen for instance might find their real purpose is to give back to the community by using some of their money to fund humanitarian causes... some do.
In a perfect world, lawyers and doctors would spend at least some of their time working for free (we can dream)...
Working people can, through little acts of kindness, make the day easier and more pleasant for everyone around them...
But what can artists, writers and musicians do?
It's rare that artists have any spare cash - and time away from their work is a luxury few can afford.
I would argue that the most an artist can give is to focus on his or her art. The more artists work on their projects, the more they are giving - to the community, to the world at large.
The act of creating is the greatest gift we can give to each other, to the Universe, to whatever you conceive as God.
Because art can bring light into the darkness, true understanding, and joy into the hearts of us all.
What better gift could a person hope to offer?
It's scientifically proven that happiness can make a person stronger, more resilient, more ambitious, a better, more giving individual.
Plus, like the endless Mobius strip, being a better, more giving person can make us - individually and collectively - happier.
Happiness is apparently infectious. Viral, if you like.
You might think that Robyn and I are a couple of old hippies at heart. But actually we like to think of ourselves as just slightly ahead of our time.
We believe that, as a culture and a civilization, we are on the brink of a new era of 'Universal Consciousness'.
A time when materialism and technology merge with a new spiritual awareness of ourselves and our place in the cosmos.
A time when greed and self interest become less important for the majority. A time when focusing on compassion and responsibility will literally change our view of reality and help us all to become 'new millennial citizens' of our universe.
We see these subtle changes in consciousness everywhere - and you might argue that's because we want to see them, even if they're not really there. We don't agree.
Personally, I've always believed that true happiness and personal creativity are inextricably linked.
Whenever I speak with people who are unhappy and unfulfilled, I always try to discover the central cause. Underneath all the surface reasons like perceived poverty, workplace angst, family problems and esteem issues, there is always a spark...
That little fire that knows instinctively we would we be much happier if we were free - and had the time - to simply create.
More and more people are seeing the light of that fire and following their passions - whether that's by starting their own craft businesses, or painting for pure pleasure, or writing on a vague promise of eventual success.
I always encourage people - especially writers, musicians and film makers - to follow their instincts and simply do what their heart is pushing them to embrace.
Because I believe, only through creativity - which spawns real fulfillment, true happiness and a more spiritual understanding of the human condition - can we hope to repair the ills of this world and manifest ourselves as the true noble citizens of the universe we've always been destined to become.
Make this Christmas a time when you reflect on these important issues.
By doing so, I believe you can begin to make a real difference to your own life - and by extension, everyone else's - in 2011.
On that note, you most definitely need to...
Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write
THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:
"You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer."