It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Right? Well, maybe. It’s definitely a tricky time for writers, though, because we depend on isolation and big blocks of time dedicated to our craft in order to do what we do. So, how do you handle your writing life during a time of the year when family demands and social engagements are at their raging peak?
Schedule Writing Time
Planners, alarms, and schedule blocking don’t work for everyone, but at this chaotic time of the year, a schedule can feel like a relief rather than a restriction. If you start your day, look at your to-do list, and wonder how you’re going to get everything done, a scheduled writing time can help you do your thing with less guilt. It’s on the schedule, and it’s intentionally set aside. You aren’t stealing time from your family or ignoring your responsibilities. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing right here, right now.
Give Yourself a Break
Writing every single day usually helps writers compose with less stress, and it obviously boosts productivity. That said, the holiday season may just be the perfect time for – well – a holiday. Don’t give up writing for an entire month, or even an entire week, but consciously step back for a while. Lower your word count so you can hit your goals without stressing yourself out and give yourself conscious permission to take specific days off. Hanging out with the family the weekend before Christmas? Take a notebook for ideas and scenes that strike you in the moment, but leave the heavy writing tools at home.
Take Time to Plan
The holidays are the precursor to the new year. Don’t wait until January 1st to make your plans. Take some time to dream, and turn those fantasies into concrete plans. If you got a bunch of new notebooks for Christmas or Hanukah, dedicate each one to a particular project and write a due date for filling that notebook on the front page. Write monthly word count goals on post-it notes, decide which WIP you are going to finish first, and set some application deadlines. All this planning will also help you feel better about taking a little time off during the holidays.
Work on Something Fun
Challenging projects build skill and stretch your talents. The holidays offer enough of their own challenges, though, and throwing more pressure on yourself will help you achieve absolutely nothing, so don’t do it. Just as you give yourself permission to eat cookies and mashed potatoes during the holidays, treat yourself with a fun project. This might mean something as low-stakes as fanfiction, or it may be a children’s book you’ve always fantasized about creating.
Spending time with family isn’t always relaxing. For some, it’s a nightmare. Just as reading can be an escape, so can writing. Let yourself sink into another world, wear another skin, and just get away for a while. Reality can be overrated.
Take a Lot of Notes
For many, the holidays mean drama, and as everyone knows, drama makes great writing fuel. Even if you take time off from writing, keep your notebook close, because you’ll want to take notes. Cousins feuding? Record the best of their passive-aggressive barbs. How was your sister’s ‘unique’ contribution to the family potluck received? Give her hopes, dreams, and culinary aspirations to a character. Maybe your character can succeed where she didn’t, or vice versa.
The holidays are full of stress and opportunities. As a writer, be careful how you balance them, and take it easy on yourself. Real life picks back up on January, so even if you don’t hit your goals in December, you can make up for it with New Year motivation. Most importantly, take care of yourself.