It’s that time of year again: time for lights, eggnog, lots of traditions—aka, the holiday season. Working in a field that requires as much self-motivation and self-structure as writing does can be extra-challenging during this time. It’s easy to push writing work to the side for so many reasons, including the fact that there’s less time to accomplish everything and there are a lot of other things demanding our immediate attention.
In the world of publishing, December is considered to be a bit of a wash. Given the temptation to just call it a day and start fresh in the New Year, I’m here to push you to do the opposite: go the distance and find a way to meet your writing goals for the month. That said, here are some friendly tips to help you make it happen.
Set Realistic Goals During the Holiday Season
Given that NaNo just ended and there’s a lot happening (and on a deadline, since presents, for example, need to be bought by certain dates) this probably isn’t the time to decide you’re going to write an 80k novel. Not that it’s impossible, but I see it a bit like that stack of books I always optimistically take to the beach with me each year: sure, I could get all those books read, but I would miss everything else. By trying to do too much, there’s a good chance you’ll end up feeling burned out and throw in the towel.
Instead, set realistic goals of what might work for your writing schedule. If time you would normally take for writing might end up being eaten up with different activities, maybe try to find other places you can sneak in a writing session or two. Lower your word count goals. Maybe attempt to edit some of your work, rather than starting a new project from scratch.
Re-Evaluate Your Yearly Accomplishments
A lot of the time, we have the tendency to make New Year’s Resolutions to accomplish things in a yearly time frame that we really don’t have any control over. These could be something like: “this coming year will be the year I get a literary agent,” or “this year, I’ll land a six-figure book deal.” If December hits and these things haven’t happened, it doesn’t mean you should throw spaghetti at the wall now and see what sticks. Here’s an article to help you focus on goals you can achieve and things you can control: A Modern Writer’s Life: The Intersection of Art and Industry.
Instead, it’s a good time to realize those lofty goals may not have been something you could guarantee, no matter how much work you threw into it. Take the time to think about what you’ve been able to accomplish instead and keep working on that. For example, you might have greatly improved your ability to plot this year. Spend some time in December continuing to hone that skill. Or maybe you got better at writing sprints. This could be a good time to do a few. Each of the things you have accomplished make you a better writer.
If we’ve learned anything in this year of Covid, I hope it’s that we need to learn to be flexible with our plans. This year, more than others, has shown us that when we plan something, the rug can be pulled out from under those plans quicker than you can blink. But it’s also taught us that we can be innovative. Being flexible is an asset when it comes to planning. It gives you the opportunity to come up with new ideas. It’s also important for mental health because, ultimately, flexibility allows us to be kinder to ourselves and to others when plans fail.
So as you approach this busy time of year, just remember the holidays are about enjoyment, thanksgiving, and celebration. And the best present you can give yourself: treating your writing as something important that you can keep working on, being proud of what you’ve accomplished, and giving yourself the freedom to enjoy the life that inspires your writing in the first place.