A Christmas Lagniappe

by | Dec 25, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

I’m giving myself a little grace for Christmas this year. My older daughter’s name is Grace, and she was born four years ago. So you can surely give me some grace, too, and forgive the lateness of this prompt. We had a lot of wrapping to do, between Christmas for two kids and a birthday, and besides we always get a ton of gifts for each other. This year, my husband gave me a bass guitar. I’d never even picked one up before. Now I think I’m finally cool: 40 and taking up playing bass in the family band. 

Being late can bring pressure, especially since this is the last prompt of the first year of Write Away Weekly. Number 52. And I haven’t asked anyone to resubscribe. But instead of the pressure of being late, and the pressure of ending, I’m holding it lightly. I’m giving myself–and everyone whose subscription would otherwise end with this issue–a grace period, until I figure out what’s next for Write Away and Studio Friend. Asking for people to pay for another year, and trying to attract new subscribers, is just not where my energy is right now. Instead, I’m going to keep everybody on the list to get the prompts on Saturdays, for the time being at least. Call it a gift subscription from me. A lagniappe. Turns out I like giving gifts a lot more than I like selling things.

Mark Twain writes about learning the word lagniappe in Life on the Mississippi:

We picked up one excellent word—a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word—”lagniappe.” They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish—so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a “baker’s dozen.” It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop—or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know—he finishes the operation by saying—”Give me something for lagniappe.”

The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor—I don’t know what he gives the governor; support, likely.

Grace period, grace notes: a little something extra. A cushion. We could all use a cushion right now. Thus your prompt. 


Give yourself grace. Give yourself grace for the writing you didn’t do this year, or didn’t finish or get just right. Give yourself a grace period for meeting your writing goals. A few weeks ago, your prompt was to skip the beginning; skip the ending also. Take the pressure off, let the light in. 

Give yourself a lagniappe, too. I had a whole prompt worked out in my head in which I recommended that you write a real “looking back” letter to yourself, and took stock of what good you did and wrote in 2021, but it seems a bit much, a bit heavy. 

So instead, just write yourself a lagniappe, a bit of licorice-root or a spool of thread. Write it down: something small but sweet or useful or charming from your year of writing. . Here are some ideas for your lagniappe. Don’t write a whole letter; write a grace note. Such as:

  • Find a nice sentence (or a couple sentences) you wrote this year. Reply to this email with what you found, or post in the Studio
  • Revisit something you published, and tweet it again or share it again or reply to me here and link to it so I can see. 
  • Take a quick inventory. Scan back through your notebook or Files or Notes on your phone and notice that you wrote more this year than you might feel that you did. 
  • Give yourself a little compliment. What can you do, as a writer, that you know is special? What’s the little secret that keeps you doing this?

You’re the governor of your own writing, after all. I don’t know what he gives the governor. Support, likely. Throw yourself a bit of support. A lagniappe.