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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Holiday Balancing Act

I'm usually a pretty disciplined person, but if anything can disrupt my writing, it's the holidays.

Summer? No problem. Birthdays, anniversaries--all short term distractions. The Christmas season is another story. From Thanksgiving to January 2nd, it seems like I slip further behind until I get my momentum back after the new year begins.

I realize this post is a bit of a departure from our norm. Usually, we try to give out information in our QT blog posts, but today, I'd like to be on the receiving end. Help me out here.

How do you balance the distractions of the holidays and your writing? Do you get as far behind as I do, or do you have a schedule or technique for being productive as a writer as well as a "real" person.

Please leave your tips in the comments, or if you don't want to give out your trade secrets publicly, feel free to email me at marylindsey@QueryTracker.net.

Have a wonderful week!



Stina said...

I'm obsessed about writing. I miss my characters if I'm away from them for more than two hours. Sad, I know. Fortunately I have a very supportive husband. He doesn't complain when I disappear for an hour or two (as long as he gets to have a nap). Plus I promised my kids we'd get them a cat if I was ever published. And they really want a cat. So I don't have a problem finding time to write. Also, I get up at 5 am so I have some quiet time before the kids get restless. :D

Okay, that wasn't very helpful advice. Sorry.

Unknown said...

I have no trade secrets or techniques for you. I just wanted to say that I actually think it's productive to give yourself some down time. I slowed down about a few weeks ago to focus on the holidays and hang out with my family -- also, I gave myself permission to read several books that had been sitting in my stack for too long. Reading for fun felt like a guilty pleasure but totally recharged me. Reading something great is always a great motivator me.

So much so, that I spend the last two nights up until 1am trying to finish revisions on my ms. Taking time off helped to excite me again. So I say, enjoy the down time, read for fun, and you'll be back at it before you know it. Happy holidays!

DL Hammons said...


My novice experience has shown me that my time to write takes a hit during the holidays, there's just too many distractions and people pulling you away from the keyboard. But I've come to anticipate the slump and work like a dog (lots of late nights and early mornings) in October and early November to ensure I'm ahead of schedule going into the season. That way I don't feel guilty when I'm not writing. Don't get me wrong, I still write some, just not at the level I'm accustomed to.

Just as agents & publishers take it easy during this time of year, so should us writers.


She Wrote said...

My first piece of advice: shop all-year-long to get the people on your list taken care of early and avoid the panic rush (and sense of loss of control over your life). Most of my gifts have to be mailed out (adult children and grandchildren so there are LOTS of gifts to be bought which is crazy for a budget). Then, I set one weekend aside to wrap and tag everything that has to be mailed - because I set the Monday after Thanksgiving as "Mailing Day." Believe me, once I've gotten that checked off this Santa's List, I can begin to enjoy the Christmas Season.

Then it's on to decorating my house and planning for my Annual Christmas Open House for friends, family and neighbors, which took close to two weeks this year. And I still had my weekly Writers' Group meetings, submissions and critiques (during which I had a submission date).

Needless to say, after the Open House, plenty of time to write, read and collapse (which I am in the process of doing). I do think having younger children in the family, or having my immediate family members closer would challenge this schedule (reduce mailing deadlines and costs, too.) But in the overall scheme of things, taking the time to think about and reflect on the True meaning of whatever holiday (Christmas or Chanakah) one is celebrating should be a priority this time of year. Don't you?
Glenna Fairbanks

Beth Camp said...

Usually I'm up early, well before anyone else, and do my writing then. A good hour or two sets up the rest of the day, and I feel centered and ready. But three days ago, my husband had a stroke and is now in the hospital. So, holidays and writing are set aside. I'm feeling distracted and disconnected, but I'm also at peace. My husband is doing very well. I know my writing time will return; for now, my family is first. We all have such full lives that the "balancing act" can be difficult, but our creativity is part of every other part of our lives.

Liesl Shurtliff said...

I'm so with you. No matter how hard I try to simplify, Thanksgiving to New Years always overwhelms me. So I just stop kicking against the pricks and let some of it go. I shoot for every other day instead of every day. Part of me thinks it's a good opportunity to get some distance and let things simmer a bit.

Anonymous said...

I rot from Thanksgiving to New Years. Just too much chaos going on! But now that everything is done and it's about waiting, I'm back to doing some piddling on the ms. Not heavy duty yet, but at least I'm looking at it every day. LOL! Can't get too immersed because the second I do, I will get yanked away to do something, see something, cook something, wrap something, buy something...
Have a great Christmas, Mary!

Rebecca Knight said...

I think an important thing to remember is that we can't do everything, and shouldn't try :).

Give yourself permission to have some peaceful moments this Christmas, and write when you can, and your mind is calm.

Happy holidays, everybody!

Unknown said...

That's easy! I give my kids (ages 20 & 16) gift certificates for the mall and on Boxing Day, they're out the door, headed for the sales.

As soon as that door slams, out comes the laptop & I'm in writing heaven!

Happy Holidays to you & yours Mary.

Bethanne said...

Holidays are my chance to reconnect with family...to make memories and be inspired. Living is still part of the writing process, so I don't beat myself for not getting too much done. Little bits everyday will have to do for now. Someday, my kids will move out and I'll have Christmas with just me and my hubby...

I'll wonder what the heck to do with myself!! LOL Have a wonderful Christmas. Take care.

MAGolla said...

I started writing a serial story on my blog. True, I don't get much traffic, but it helps me delve into my middle grade world before I start my next story. If you're bored, hop on over. . . http://fantasycrapshoot.blogspot.com/
Scroll down to 12/21--part one of the story. Enjoy!
Or, better yet, try it yourself!

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

It was fun to come home from a 6 hour car trip to find such excellent advice in the comments and in my inbox. You guys are fantastic!

Brooklyn Ann said...

I try to get as much shopping done as early as possible, (never enough!) And then I alternate my nov/dec schedule with writing and holiday stuff. Example: Monday is dedicated to Christmas preparations, tuesday: writing and so on. It seemed to work. I finished my shopping, wrapping, AND my current project on time!
Good luck to you all and merry Christmas!

jo v said...

I have a rule these days. Anything that I haven't bought before Thanksgiving gets bought online. That keeps me out of the stores and saves me the hassle of mailing anything. Huge time saver for me.

Suzette Saxton said...

Great post, Mary! And awesome comments, all. Ideally I would like to take December off from writing, but work all the other months of the year. Didn't happen this year, but perhaps next year.

Brenda Drake said...

Wait. Are we supposed to be writing? Whoops! Too much spiked eggnog, I guess. (Actually, I try to comatose my husband with the stuff so I can write the entire day after Christmas.)

Higley Browne said...

This year, it worked out Great. I finished my current project, including a major round of edits, so now, this entire week, I'm giving it a rest and giving myself some much needed down time.

I enjoy the holidays, and with four rambunctious kids ages 4-12, I have plenty to do. They're home from school, my DH gets a week off work, and we have time to reconnect.

Anonymous said...

One thing I've discovered with my current WIP is that I can stare at the computer for hours and struggle to write 500 words or I can grab my digital recorder, go for a walk and come back with 500-800 words in 40 minutes. Something about walking takes up just enough energy that it allows my mind to focus. No matter how busy I am, I always get my walk in, so this is like killing two birds with one stone. You can also use it in the car and while doing other mundane tasks, like wrapping presents. I use Panasonic RR-US450. If you don't have time to type up the notes immediately, it's no biggie. You can store 99 separate files on the unit, and it's designed so you can't accidentally tape over something important. You may not get a lot of polishing done, but at least you'll have some raw material to work with when things slow down.

Skeptic said...

Most people would find my ability to stay focused during the winter holidays unpalatable. I don't celebrate them. Yes, I send money or some sort of computer-geek-gift-certificate to my son, but there is no tree, no roast beast, no caroling, and no family invited over to roast chestnuts on an open fire. For me, Christmas is "happy holiday pay" (health care industry knows no holidays).

I don't miss the the festivities. I'd rather appreciate my loved ones a little bit every day rather than have one (or more) giant bash in December. It is far easier for me to stay focused without the seasonal distraction and pressure to do those expected things society heaps onto the masses at this time of the year.

It has been 12 years since I celebrated the winter holidays in a traditional sense. I like my way. :)

Lesley said...

I can totally sympathize with you! I'm still trying to get my momentum going again after having family in town for the holidays, hosting way too many dinners/parties during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve (what was I thinking?) and exhausting myself entirely by doing too much for others and nothing much for self.
I have made a mental note to think long and hard before I commit to anything in 2010. I am going to write another book in '10, so I need to stay focused!!!