You are probably feeling that the last thing you have time for right now is writing. You still have to find a present for a man who doesn’t drink, read, wear socks or like sports; you have to send emails to all the crafty people who posted their cards last minute just to make you look bad; you have to source cranberry sauce for a gluten-intolerant diabetic with a fruit allergy; your fairy lights have fused and the oven has broken down … But you can do all this and write too, or at least flex your writing muscles ready for a quiet afternoon between Boxing Day indigestion and New Years’ Day hangover. Try these five dual-purpose exercises:

  • Put some detail into your last minute shopping lists and keep them to add verisimilitude to a Christmas story: Waitrose organic sprouts 2 kilos, 1 Battat Take-Apart Crane Truck, My Friend Freddy wrapping paper, glitter sellotape, rubbish bags, Coleman’s English mustard, Chantilly double cream (large), Alkaseltzer, mega-pack toilet rolls (ecru).
  • Write a few amusing lines of Yuletide doggerel for your annual Round Robin: it will go down much better with distant friends and relatives than bragging about Oscar’s Latin lessons or your last holiday in the Algarve.
  • Compose a rhyming couplet for your gift labels a riddle perhaps What’s in the bag? There’s a clue on this tag, It smells real nice, but it’s NOT Old Spice…
  • Choose your best and worse presents and jot down a description of them while everyone else is watching the Queen’s speech. Mine would be something like red 100% cashmere roll neck sweater from Brora (hint hint) wrapped in scarlet foil with a glossy black bow, and Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code Omnibus in hard back with inscription on the title page to prevent present recycling, tastefully wrapped in cutsie teddybears-playing-in-snow paper – I’ll let you guess which is best and which is worst.
  • Spend five minutes jotting down an image, sight, sound, smell, tastes and feel that summarises aspects of Christmas for you be it shopping, cooking, kids or tree decorating. You can do this on the bus, while the kettle boils, in the queue for cut-price turkeys. You get something like:

Christmas Eve looks like bright blue lights on a dark green hedge, sounds like the Kings’ College choristers singing sweetly, smells like cinnamon and spiced wine, tastes like a stolen chocolate tree ornament, feels like kissing a sleeping child’s warm cheek …Have a Merry Creative Christmas!

Ardella Jones and Jo Hepplewhite