Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Writing – Bah Humbug!

by: Joelle Charbonneau

'Tis the season for shopping, baking, wrapping and singing. Well, it’s always the season for singing for me, but you get the point. The holidays are here and I love celebrating them with family and friends.

Unfortunately, the holiday fun also brings with it writing frustrations. The time I normally have set aside during the day for writing is now filled with baking gingerbread houses and wrapping presents. And now that my son is almost 3 – he wants to help, which makes everything take longer.

When I first started writing, I decided I didn’t need to write during the holidays. I would tinker a bit with whatever story I was working on the week after Thanksgiving and then I would put it away until after the New Year. With everything else going on, this seemed like a good plan. Besides, I was doing this for fun. It wasn’t like a job or anything. Until last year. Once my agent sold my manuscript, I decided that if I really wanted to make this writing thing into a career, I had to give writing during the holidays a shot. I had about 10,000 words to finish on my work in progress. Normally I write about 25,000-30,000 words in a month. 10,000 should be no problem right?


The book didn’t get finished until after the New Year. Yes, I got some writing done, but I struggled with finding time to write every day. If there is one thing I know about me, the writer, is that I need to write every day. When I don’t write every day it takes twice as long for me to write anything. So each day I forced myself to get at least one or two paragraphs written. If I was lucky, I would manage a whole page. I limped along forcing myself to try to write, feeling the ending so close and yet so far away.

Not fun.

As frustrated as I was with the process of writing during the holidays, I was glad I forced myself to do it. It taught me a couple of important things that I am going to use to help me keep sane while writing during this holiday season.

1) Finish a project before the holiday season arrives. This might not be possible, but if it is - do it! The desire to get to THE END can sometimes be all-consuming. Which means not getting to THE END leads to huge frustration. The holidays are already stressful enough, no matter how enjoyable. I will type THE END on my current WIP in the next day or so. Trust me when I say after last year's holiday writing drought I busted my butt to get it done before I started decking the halls.

2) Try to schedule your writing so you begin a new project during the holiday months. Beginnings are filled with enthusiasm and optimism. It is much easier to begin a new project during this time of year for me and for many other writers I know. That’s the time when the writing feels more playful and less focused. When the calendar year flips, you then have a solid base to start seriously building on.

3) Give yourself permission to take a day, a week or several weeks off from writing. Not writing can be frustrating, especially if you are trying hard to get pages done and things keep getting in the way. For me the best way to alleviate the frustration is to give myself permission to not write. This sounds simplistic, but the sheer act of choosing not to write instead of being forced not to write can make all the difference in the world. Choosing to take the day off means you’ll enjoy whatever task, party or family adventure the day has in store as opposed to anger at being separated from your keyboard. (I’ve been there and done that – zero fun. Trust me.) The one thing I have learned is that when I give myself permission to take a day off, the story is free to work out pesky little details in the back of my brain without me being aware of it. That’s a win-win all the way around.

I’m sure there are lots of other great tips for writing during the holidays. I have a feeling Steve Weddle has a bunch that involve eating lots of cookies. Feel free to share them with all of us. I know this year I will be making another attempt to type lots of pages while jingling my bells. That combo means I’ll need all the help I can get.


Steve Weddle said...

You made cookies? What the hell? Where the hell are my cookies?

Reading and writing during the holidays can be tough. Running off into the other room to read or write while company drinks the egg nog and since "Good King Worcestershire" by the stockings-hung mantle seems rude. But, you know, it's all about the priorities. And I love me some reading and writing. And cookies.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Your cookie plate is full, Joelle! Especially with a toddler. The holidays are crazy to begin with, much less trying to wrestle in writing time. But, I guess if we "schedule" it in, we can do it (easier said than done, I know).
Thanks for the excellent tips and suggestions ~ they are very practical.
Best wishes as you juggle shopping, baking, wrapping, singing & writing!

Mike Dennis said...

Good advice, Joelle. Especially the part where you give yourself permission not to write.

Blythe Gifford said...

First step, schdule deadlines so you don't have to write during holiday. When the best laid plans fail (as mine just did) try to regard the writing time as your personal escape from the madness.