So it's December 16 and I'm working on holiday essays. Am I a little (or a lot) behind? Don't I know that magazines work months ahead, that even newspapers need more lead time, and that websites too, usually want seasonal material at least a few weeks in advance? I do. The thing is, I'm not late. I'm early. I'm writing these pieces not to sell now, but to market for publication next year.
Sure, I could write Christmas material in July, back-to-school pieces in May, Valentine's Day articles in October, and summer-themed item in March. I've often done that sort of thing (especially when I worked in PR), but frankly I don't like it. It was always a struggle to get in the mood for Frosty when I was melting myself.
At some point, I decided to just write the seasonal, timing-sensitive essays while right in the thick of things, when I was surrounded by the sights, sounds, and feelings of the particular occasion. I began churning out first drafts of holiday essays in December, essays about graduations or weddings in June, back-to-school in September, Thanksgiving in November. I put them aside for a few months – highly recommended of course for any first draft – and then tackle revisions and/or rewrites a few months later. Eventually, I make the submissions.
It doesn't always work. Sometimes, when I pull out a piece, I cannot believe I ever thought that topic would work. "Who cares?" I berate myself, and decide to skip it entirely. Other times (alas, not so frequent!), it works out pretty well: I am delightfully surprised at what I had forgotten I had already come up with a few months before.
Sometimes, one year's seasonal essays don't sell in time for the next. But then, that doesn't really matter, as the very nature of these kinds of pieces is their evergreen status. As I've said to myself on more than one occasion when what I truly wanted didn't materialize under the tree: There's always next year. Plus, having a small "inventory" of such pieces around is sort of like having a bit of money in the bank – so long as I remember to make the withdrawal at the right time.