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Artyness columnist Barbara Henderson says it's almost time to step away ...

By Barbara Henderson

Ooft! Nearly there. As you read this, Christmas is upon us.

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

The last few weeks have been bitty for me.

I spent some intense weeks editing the new book which is hopefully rolling off a printing press somewhere as I tuck into my turkey. Line edits, copy edits, proof edits – you name it, there is a process for it!

I was feeling smug. Press ‘send’ – that’s it. Step away. Rivet Boy is off my desk! Time to return to my abandoned half-finished Mary Queen of Scots story.

Oh, wait no! The teaching resources for the book!

They need to be ready when it comes out in February.

Back to the manuscript while it’s all fresh in my mind.

Just a few more days… Done. Step away. No, wait again!

I’d forgotten the meeting with the publicist. There is much discussion about angles and key demographics for Rivet Boy.

Pitch me some feature ideas, Barbara: Victorians? Libraries?


Engineering? Squirrels?

And what about opinion pieces? Have you contacted bloggers for a blog tour? Could you compile a list of key dates?

With a deep sigh, I set to work. Tick, tick, tick, and done! Whatever hasn’t been pitched or written yet can wait until after Christmas, right?

In the top right corner of my computer home screen, the poor, ignored Mary Queen of Scots stares down at me accusingly. ‘When are you going to hang out with me?’ she seems to ask with arched eyebrows and regal disapproval.

Christmas presents – make time to enjoy everything at this busy time.
Christmas presents – make time to enjoy everything at this busy time.

Frustratingly, I am waylaid a third time: first by a sickness bug, and then by some sort of feverish reaction to my Covid and flu vaccine.

And now there are presents to buy and food to organise and rooms to clean for returning youngsters and …


My friend Christine shared a graphic recently. It features a to-do list with the instruction ‘Buy presents’, but the print has been partially crossed out in corrective pen so that it now reads ‘Be Present’. Sternly, I tell Queen Mary she’ll have to wait. Instead of flogging myself to tick yet another box off my be-productive list, I take advantage of a free FutureLearn course on Mary Queen of Scots, to refresh my memory and rekindle my love for my story.

Now it is Christmas, and I am determined to be present for the ones I love, and to remember the reason we celebrate.

Peace to you all.

And step away!

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