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Monday, November 10, 2014

How To Survive Writing Through The Holiday Season

As I sit here, watching the guy crawl along the edge of the roof across the street, I’m reminded that the holiday season is upon us. That’s right, he’s setting up the Christmas lights for the house. And as I edit my manuscript and think about the other project I want drafted by the end of the year, I’m slammed by a daunting thought: how the heck am I going to survive?

Regardless of which holiday tradition(s) you celebrate, our writing time is often the thing that suffers the most. Unlike during the summer when we have to deal with the kids at home, we now have more expectations thrown at us. There are school performances, Christmas party invites, work parties (including those for your spouse). There’s holiday shopping, wrapping presents, cooking, visiting relatives. If you have relatives visiting you, it also means more shopping and don’t forget to clean the house. Plus you’ll need to entertain them. Watching you write isn’t entertainment.

In addition to these above demands on your time, our kids have school off, often for two or more weeks. And maybe you’re planning to travel to a hotter locale or to visit family. All of this will keep you from writing. All of this will also have negative consequences on other aspects of your life, including your health.

Tips to Survive the Holiday Season

1.    Set up a reasonable goal

Writing wise, what do you want to accomplish by the end of the year? Maybe it’s to finish the first draft of your current project. Maybe it’s to finish editing your book so you can begin querying agents in January. Maybe you’re working on a proposal for your agent and want to send it to her January 2nd. Now you know WHAT you want to accomplish, you need to decide if it’s feasible at this time of the year. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you want to write the first draft of an 80,000-word novel (that you haven’t started yet), and you’re not the fastest writer to begin with. This goal might be feasible in February, when you don’t have as many demands on your time. But at this time of year, you’ll want to rethink it and maybe set a goal of 50,000 words by January 1st.

2.    Set up a schedule

Pull out your calendar and figure out all the dates when you know you won’t be able to write. These include school performances, Christmas parties, the kids’ vacation (especially if they aren’t old enough to entertain themselves while you write), vacation time, relatives visiting. Also, pencil in the days when you know your writing time will with be cut short. For example, your in-laws are flying in on November 26th for the Thanksgiving weekend, and you haven’t organized and cleaned your house since their last visit in July. You’ll need to schedule a day or two for house cleaning duties. And don’t forget to schedule the cooking/baking you want to finish prior to their visit.

Schedule in your writing time. This is especially important if you won’t be able to write every day (for example, you tend to write four days a week). You’ll be less likely to forget that you had planned to write that day and fall behind on your goal.

Allow for flexibility in your schedule for unexpected events. For example, your boss moves up the deadline for a big project, and now you have to put in extra hours to finish it. You might need to rethink your priorities so you can make up the writing time. Instead of watching TV in the evening, you can write. Watch only those shows you can’t survive without (like the ones everyone talks about on Twitter as soon as it’s over, and you want to watch it before you see the spoilers).

3.    Reward yourself

For some of us, writing is a reward unto itself. We crave to write and get cranky if we go too long without working on our current projects. We don’t seek a reward for getting in our daily word count. That is our reward. If you’re the type of writer who can easily walk away from your writing without feeling guilty (until you realized you’ve missed the deadline for your goal), set up a reward system to motivate yourself to write on your scheduled days. Have small rewards for your daily goals and larger ones for your weekly goals. If you have a group of writer friends who are also working on their projects, you can update each other on your progress as a form of motivation (some people do this on Twitter and their blogs).

If you miss a day of writing because something unexpectantly came up, don’t berate yourself. Either pick up the slack another day or readjust your expectations. This depends on your goal. If you’re on deadline, you’ll be making up for this setback on another day, and will sacrifice something in your schedule that isn’t as important.

4.    Take time to exercise

It’s so easy to drop exercising from your schedule when you’re busy. Many an author has gained weight when faced with a fast approaching deadline because their exercise schedule was the first to suffer. On top of that, they don’t have time to cook, and rely on quick-to-prepare junk food. And at this time of year, we have enough delicious temptations to mess up our daily caloric intake as it is. The added benefit of regular exercise is that it helps with the stress many of us feel at this time of year, and helps with the creative side of writing. Whenever I get stuck on a plot point, I find running helps me figure things out.

Do you find the holiday season impacts your writing goals? How do you usually cope (or do you)?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.


Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great advice! We are moving in December so that will make it even harder to keep up my writing, reading and exercising time.

Stephanie Faris said...

I freelance write for a living, so if I don't write, I don't get paid. I've been working my butt off this first three weeks of November to make up for things being slow the last week of the month. As for fiction writing--I try to at least get a page in each day no matter what's going on.