When I was six years old, Santa brought a big, rectangular package so large it was hidden under a white sheet. He had taped a note to it that read, ”Merry X-mas, Alissa!” in green and red bubble letters.
I could not imagine what might be under that sheet. Someone–maybe my mom, and maybe my cousin (he did call Santa once and tell him not to bring my presents)–suggested that it might be a baby hippo. I really, really wanted it to be a baby hippo.
It was a desk. A wooden desk, painted white with blue knobs on the drawers and rainbow decals around each knob. (Although now I can’t remember if it came painted, or my mom did that after Christmas). In the family photo album, I stand next to it in my Smurf nightgown with my hands on my head, my hair sticking up every which way, and a look of absolute joy on my face.
My very own desk. Where I could write.
For a few years, I wrote endlessly at that desk. But at some point I started to think that everything I wrote had to be great on the first try. I sat down in front of a blank piece of paper and waited, certain that great things would come out of my pen. I just didn’t know what they were.
I forgot that I just had to write. Often, and even badly, just because it was fun.
I still forget that. Lately, I’ve caught myself thinking that I just don’t have any ideas. Last week, I finally started giving myself assignments. Ten minutes of writing inspired by a new song. Ten minutes about a guy who lives in house full of plants, each one left by a different ex. It started to get fun (that last one just might turn into a story).
So imagine my delight when I found The Twelve Days of Christmas–twelve days of writing assignments, for no other reason than having fun. It’s the perfect assignment for a nerdy writer like me, who loves desks (even if I don’t write at them) and the shape of words on paper. I can’t wait to start. Anyone want to do it with me?