Ah, the holidays. That time of the year when our writing goes out the window because we all have so much “stuff” to do. It’s a wonderful time of year, but it can really wreak havoc with your work. Family obligations, shopping, decorating, baking, and other fun stuff steal your time and your energy, leaving you on January first wondering what the hell happened to your mojo. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Nor should it be. There are things you can do to keep writing through the holidays, and reasons why you should make the effort.
How to Keep Writing Through the Holidays
Learn to say “No.”
No is the most powerful weapon in your writing arsenal. It’s tempting to take on all kinds of obligations this time of year, but you don’t have to. The holiday police will not come after you if you say no to the things that don’t matter to you. Pick the things you love, say no to the rest, and use the found time to write.
Tell everyone you have to go wrap presents and they cannot come in the room. Smuggle in your laptop and get some writing done. (Note that if you do this often, there may be a reckoning on Christmas when the number of presents doesn’t seem to match the amount of time you spent “wrapping.” Just say you’re slow.)
Write in transit.
If you must travel, don’t waste the time. Write on the plane or train, or in the car if someone else is driving.
Stick to a schedule.
If you have a writing schedule for the rest of the year, stick to it over the holidays. Treat it like a regular job. You can’t not go to your job just because it’s Christmas, right? Treat your writing the same way. If you normally write from 8PM – 10PM M-F, stick with that. Say no to things that interfere, unless they are hugely important.
I tend to think Christmas is too complicated and work to keep it as simple as possible. And that’s without factoring writing into the mix. Over the years, I’ve said no to many commitments, simplified my decorating and baking, and worked with friends and family on the gift exchanges so my shopping is limited (and the amount of money we waste and excess stuff we accumulate is greatly reduced). Take a look at your holiday routine and figure out places you can simplify things. Use the resulting time for writing.
If your house is stuffed with family and your presence isn’t immediately required, pack up and head for the library or coffee shop. If you have to lie and say you’re going shopping, do that. Just get away from the noise and demands on your attention for a while.
Cut yourself some slack. (But not too much.)
You know going in to the holidays that things are going to get crazy, so go ahead and give yourself some slack. Usually write 1,000 words a day? Promise yourself that you’ll be happy if you only manage 500 until New Year’s. If you usually write six or seven days per week, give yourself one or two non-writing days per week and focus on holiday stuff on those days. It’s okay to do a little less during this time. It’s not okay to do nothing.
Treat yourself like a professional writer.
Whether you are being paid to write or not, treat yourself as though you are a pro. For professional writers, this is their job and they can no more take a month off than anyone else who has a job can. If this is your job (or you want it to be), act like it and prioritize the work.
Write during life’s cracks.
You may not be able to string together your usual uninterrupted hours of writing time during the holidays, so use what time you can scrounge. Write while waiting for your kid to get fitted for his Christmas pageant costume. Write while the cookies are in the oven. Stay up late or get up early. Take your laptop to the airport and write while you wait for grandma’s flight to arrive.
Respect your limits.
Too much booze leads to a wicked hangover that can cost you a whole day of writing. Too much food can make you so miserable that all you can do is lie on the couch and moan. Introverts who socialize too much need days to recover. People who normally require a lot of sleep yet stay out late too many days in a row will eventually crash. Spending too much money leads to anxiety and guilt. All of this can cost you precious writing time. Know your limits and don’t overindulge in anything. If you overindulge, you’ll have to pay the price, and that price will be your writing time.
Why It’s Worth It
The holidays can make you crazy. Writing is one way to block out all the nuttiness and gain some peace. It’s also a chance to put particularly bothersome in-laws, coworkers, or Scrooges into your WIP and torture them mercilessly, or kill them off.
It keeps your momentum flowing.
Even if you only manage a few hundred words a day, or a little bit of editing, writing during the holidays keeps you from getting to New Year’s and saying, “Now where was I?” There’s nothing worse than having to recover lost mojo and “start over,” especially when you combine it with the post-holiday doldrums.
You’ll avoid the guilt.
Face it, the holidays are rife with guilt, usually of the family drama kind. Don’t add not writing to the list! If you aren’t working, you’ll spend a month feeling guilty and anxious that the work isn’t getting done. So just work and avoid the guilt.
That New Year’s resolution will be a piece of cake.
Think of it like dieting. How much harder is that New Year’s resolution to lose fifty pounds when you’ve spent the holidays adding to the total by overindulging? Writing is no different. That resolution to write more, be more productive, submit more, or whatever else it is you want to do will be so much easier if you’re not starting from a complete stop. Keep moving now so you can start the year from a place of strength instead of saying, “Ugh. Now what?”
You might as well master this skill now, because every month offers challenges.
Here’s the dirty little secret about writing. Every month has challenges and competitions for your time. There are always things that need to be done, family obligations, and other speed bumps on the road of life. You might as well treat December like the other eleven months of the year. If you give yourself “permission” to slack off now, you’ll just find it easier to generate excuses to avoid writing in March or June.
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