Sunday, December 8, 2013

Survival tips for writing during the holidays

by: Joelle Charbonneau

I don’t know about you, but for me, writing during the holiday season isn’t just hard.  It’s near impossible.  Between the gift buying, gift wrapping, Christmas card sending, cookie making, tree trimming, outdoor light stringing, birthday (yes, we have a birthday in our house) celebrating, holiday school stuff and dozens of other things that make the holiday seasons festive, it is more difficult than usual to find not only the time, but the focus to get words on the page.

What’s a writer to do?

Well, here are five ideas that I have, which could aid you in your quest for holiday writing sanity.  Not all of them will work for you.  So treat this like a box of cookies and only consume those that are to your liking.  If the gingerbread cookie doesn’t ring your bell – don’t eat it.  (I will.  I LOVE gingerbread.)

1)  If  you don’t have a looming deadline and the holiday festivities combined with writing is making you feel like the Grinch that drop-kicked Christmas – stop.  Give yourself permission to take time off from writing.  Really…the holidays are about family.  If you don’t have a deadline and the additional stress of writing is causing you to be irritable and annoyed, ditch it and decompress with those you love.  The story will be there when the last tree is trimmed and the final gift is unwrapped.  Time with family is precious.  Don’t waste it.

Sadly, many of us can’t afford to stop writing for the next couple of weeks.  (I wish I could, but the INDEPENDENT STUDY tour approaches and I am pretty sure my writing time is going to be seriously impacted in the month of January.  YIKES!)  So, if you have to move the story forward, here are a few suggestions.

2)   Set reasonable-for-the-holiday-season goals and be happy when you meet them especially on the busiest weeks.  Don’t use your non-holiday goals for productivity during this time of year.  Trust me.  I’ve been there and done that.  All it caused was sadness and frustration.  Yes, you need to move the story forward.  Celebrate every day that you do that, but don’t expect yourself to write 5-10-or 15 pages every day.  (Unless you really are the Grinch and you closet yourself in your room and refuse to come out until after the New Year.  If so…ignore all of this.)  Set low benchmarks so you don’t set yourself up for failure.  Failure leads to unhappiness and stress.  And aren’t the holidays stressful enough?  Don’t add to it!

3)  Reward yourself—a lot!  For every page your write sneak a cookie or a chocolate covered pretzel or a wreath-shaped Rice Crispy Treat.  Treat yourself to blaring your favorite holiday tune.  Kiss someone under the mistletoe.  Whatever it takes to get you through.  Personal rewards are always a good idea to help self-motivate.  For this time of year, I suggest you bump those rewards up and enjoy each time you get one.

4)  Take a break from social media.  Let’s face it…as fun as tweeting and posting on Facebook can be, those things suck up time.  And time is precious during the holidays because there never seems to be enough.  So, take the fifteen minutes or hour or more that you spend on social media and use that to write.  Trust me when I say, most people are so busy during the holidays, they aren’t going to notice if you aren’t discussing your work in progress or whatever show you watched last night on television.   You can also stretch this to blogging and other online activities.  Scale back where you can and put the time you save from those adventures into writing and holiday fun.

5)  Make Santa and his Elves do the writing for you.  Sigh…sounds great, but none of us would ever actually allow someone else to write our stories.  So, instead, each time you pull yourself away from holiday preparation or make yourself leave a party early in order to get those pages done remind yourself of the reasons you write.  Go over the reasons that you chose this job in the first place.  Lord knows it wasn’t for fame, fortune and stress-free holiday seasons.  Think of each time you sit down at the computer as a gift you are giving yourself and a gift that you will at some point in the future give your readers.  It doesn’t make it easier to write the words, but remembering how much you love telling stories can ease some of the annoyance you might feel when you can’t watch It’s A Wonderful Life for the hundredth time.

Deadlines can be stressful.  The holidays, as much as most of us love them, can try even the most patient and organized soul.  The combination of the two can lead to some really unhappy moments if you don’t give yourself permission to make some adjustments to your writing routine.   You might be that super person who can work through the holidays at the same pace as every other time of the year, but if you’re not make sure you develop a plan that allows you to get the most out of the last days of 2013.  And if you have any other suggestions for writing survival throughout the holidays please share.  I need all the help I can get!


Scott D. Parker said...

Brilliant post. In this year in which I've learned how to write, it all occurred before this season. Now, I'm realizing how my new found writing ability has to adjust one of my favorite things to do in December: read Christmas-themed stories. I've already given myself permission to lower my output during this month, but it's a bit of a downer. I want to write more, but I also want to enjoy the season. So I'm enjoying the season and will kick back into gear around 26 December.

Mary Jo Burke said...

Excellent advice! The birthday in our house is mine.