Whether we’re ready for it or not, tomorrow marks the beginning of the 2016 holiday season. Between the end of November and early January there are dozens of celebrations, both religious and secular, and chances are a few of them apply to you. While the world at large is planning menus and wrapping gifts, we writers are worrying about how to get our word counts in on top of all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. For some of us, the holidays simply mean a couple of extra work gatherings and an extra day or two of family time. Others of us are orchestrating elaborate gatherings or are travelling great distances to be reunited with loved ones. Writing during this time isn’t impossible, and I’ve compiled a few helpful hints for you:
Take your time management skills to 11. Plan ahead and do the holiday tasks that can be done early so you’re not in a stress-induced panic later. Stress is not the muse’s friend, nor does it enhance your holiday fun. Bust out your Google Calendar or Franklin planner and put in *everything*. It will make your available scraps of time more apparent so you can use them to your advantage. You have 20 minutes? Use it. Case in point? I wrote the first draft of this very post in the King Sooper’s parking lot. I took my 4-year-old with me to do the Thanksgiving meal shopping and she fell asleep in the car. Rather than rouse her, I busted out my trusty notebook so she could get some rest. Also? Carry a notebook. Always.
Prioritize Holiday Activities. You can’t do every holiday tradition and function justice every year. Pick and choose what is important to you and your family so you can really enjoy what you’re doing. Lose your Pinterest guilt. If you don’t make the Christmas-Card-worthy gingerbread house from scratch every year, you are not Scrooge. The minute you begin to loathe going to another party or making another craft is the moment you’ve overscheduled.
Prioritizing Writing Activities. This is not the ideal time to begin a new project or to schedule a million events, so decide what’s important. It’s not always possible to avoid conflicts, however. You may have a book to launch over the holidays or edits due (I’ve been in both situations) and you have to do your best to get as much done in advance on your projects as possible. Creating launch memes early and having packing lists for book signings are all little things we can do to reduce stress when we can’t minimize our writing life in December.
Keep writing goals realistic.This is key, in my mind. You may not be able to keep up your usual pace, so think about what you can feasibly accomplish. 200 words a day instead of 2,000 for the two weeks your kids are off school? Fantastic. Those are 2,800 words you didn’t have before and you “touched the ball” each day, which is key in staving off writers’ block once you return to your projects in the new year.
Remember, family (biological and otherwise) should come first. For many of us, we wouldn’t be able to be successful in this crazy business without the love and support of our friends and family. If they want our time during the holiday season, we should do our best to honor it. Plus? You never know what stories might be waiting for you around the dinner table.
Wishing you love and peace in 2017,
Any other, 'write through the Holiday' tips for us, WITS readers?
Love this, Aimie - great points, all!
Years ago, I tried getting all the Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. This year, I had them all wrapped before, too. It made for the BEST holiday season ever. Like when you were a kid, you can just relax and enjoy, instead of freaking about the last minute crap that happens every year!
Plus, Fae Rowen is coming to visit me for a week, in a week!!!! *clapping in excitement*
I pushed to finish my WIP as well - got it done yesterday.
This year, it was more critical than ever to be organized - I'll have 11 in the house for a week - and if I can keep Boomer out of the Christmas tree and keep food in the house, I'll be doing well!
May have to demolish the house and rebuild after that week, but it'll be worth it!
Well done, Laura!!! I was telling my husband that I wish we could swap this week and next. I need exactly one week to finish this draft of my WIP and would have been able to *really* relax this Thanksgiving. The good news is that I will have most of December to focus on my family and Christmas!
Yow! Laura, I'm impressed! I am on track this year -- haven't even decided what to buy yet. However, it won't be as bad as the year I actually shopped on Christmas Eve. Never again! I have a friend who is as organized as you; oddly, her name is Laura, too. Maybe you guys could give lessons.
Happy holidays! I love this time of year. For me, this is a planning/plotting time. I try very hard to not have a writing project ongoing but am writing my scene beats and gathering my wool to start writing the next book after the New Year celebrations end. That keeps me thinking of my story arc and character development without causing me stress over word counts and such. So far, that plans has worked out for me but I haven't had any outside deadlines from editors or agents in several years now.
That's a great idea, Betty - since I just finished one, I'm going to try that!
An excellent plan, Betty! I hope to be doing the same over Christmas. Some reading for research and character sketching, but no real stress. It's the ideal way to make progress in a busy time!
Great tips, Aimie.
I have to remind myself to be realistic about what I can achieve during the holidays and then be kind to myself about what doesn't get done.
Bahahahaha Orly! Like you're going to become realistic! I'm dying over here....
Orly, I completely agree. There is no sense in over planning and making yourself hate the holidays. I focus on the stuff we really care about and coming together as a family.
One year I did a two retreat on the Maine coast (Freeport). Did all my shopping at LL Bean and the outlets, walked the beach and ate amazing seafood - All shopping done by the last day of September. In December those rushing around hated me.
So smart! This is my latest start to shopping in ages. Having a baby due in early November 4 years ago led to some early shopping the past few years!!!
Excellent post, Aimee. thanks for offering some perspective and excellent tips. I especially liked prioritizing. One year I did a book signing in December and it was a good signing, but I nearly had a complete meltdown.
These are all great points, especially as I'm looking at 6 weeks off school with the kids (it's summer here) and the word count just won't be able to keep up.
[…] Speaking of the holiday, Buzzfeed’s Jarry Lee shares the books that 16 famous writers are most thankful for, and Aimie Runyan has five tips for writing through the holidays. […]
I start hyperventilating when I think of all I need to do, and yet writing is on the top of my list. Like Laura, I got most of my gifts bought and tagged by Thanksgiving. Phew. But my ideas of how many words to get in every day, and how many chapters to have ready by the end of 2016 are not realistic. I know that. I'm going to take your advice and try to relax about it a bit...and stop hyperventilating! 🙂
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