Hark! Christmas is nearly here, and all the wonderful things that go with it. Unfortunately, it also brings with it some tinsel-covered pitfalls.
A key component to keep your adulting merry and bright is self-awareness, which comes in a variety of forms. For career professionals, it’s knowing what does, and perhaps more importantly does not, work within the confines of your professional life.
For writers of all fonts and typographies, that means quitting cliches. Yes, Virginia, it’s true. Sometimes, we writers resort to cliches. Bah, humbug.
John E. McIntyre, a copy editor with the Baltimore Sun, has had enough of holiday cliches. McIntyre writes a regular column/video blog (do they still call those vlogs? Because that used to be a thing.) called You Don’t Say, which is an entertaining guide to grammar and how to use it like a good human.
To that end, he recently chose Christmas cliches, because, well, ’tis the season. ’Twas the night before my deadline, thusly, let us all adopt resolutions to follow his advice and leave those old chestnuts roasting by a fire. (Provided that would not be in violation of any local fire codes.)
Before simply saying, “You’re a mean one, Mr. McIntyre,” keep in mind that that such tired phrases are a poor way to deck any halls, proverbial or otherwise.
If you think about it, there’s no real reason to repeatedly sound such seasonal cliches, even if the sounding does bring you joy. On the first day of Christmas, at first glance, this attitude might seem Scrooge-like. But take a closer look, and you’ll see that’s just the ghost of phrases past knocking about. In fact, one might suggest it’s instead much more miserly to hoard up such cliches and only permit them during the most wonderful time of the year.
All such trite phrases, the tall and the small, should bother you more than all the Whos down in Whoville irritated the Grinch. Don’t touch them with a 39-½-foot pole.
Imagine a silent night without such fearsome phrasing? O, night divine, indeed.
The best way to spread Christmas cheer, other than singing loudly, might well be to gift our readers with words and phrases they don’t expect to hear.
This will take some effort. No, sadly, we won’t just be able to rock our way around the urge to cliche. Better not cry, or pout, because, well, that won’t help. It’s hard to break out of old habits, but, I believe in Christmas miracles.
Just make your list of no-no phrases, both naughty and nice (obviously, be sure to check it twice), and send it to the Isle of Misfit Toys. Resist the urge to call the list home. Others may try to dissuade you from this. Don’t let even the jolliest of elves, elderly or otherwise, persuade you from your resolve. Else, you could be swimming with the swans. No one wants that. (And Jack Frost might nip at more than just your nose if you go swimming when there’s all this white stuff lying about.)
After all, these cliches and all the trimmings may make us sound a bit like turkeys. Better a turkey than a partridge in a pear tree, but still not ideal.
Need inspiration? Clear your head with a one-horse open sleigh ride, because those are easy to find I’m sure, and take in the yuletide carols. Jingle some bells, which will likely have the side benefit of endearing you to your neighbors.
Drink some hot chocolate, or maybe some eggnog, or whatever inspires visions of originality, sugar plums and all-around Christmas magic.
When talking to each other, go ahead and stuff your stockings with as many season’s greetings as you like. But once the writing begins, hang up those phrases by the fireside with care. Or just throw them in. Make the world sparkle with your shiny new turns of phrase, and you’ll be sure to make Santa's “nice” list. And then we can all sleep in heavenly peace.
Once you ring in the new year, you can always re-evaluate your resolution and see whether it lasts till Jan. 2.
So, though it’s been said many times and many ways, Merry Christmas, and happy writing. The journey to self-awareness is worth the slog.