The holiday season is upon us and I, for one, am having a hard time concentrating on anything that doesn't sparkle or sing a Christmas tune. Luckily for me, I turned in my latest manuscript before Thanksgiving and have been able to enjoy time with family, decorate the house, and curl up with holiday-themed novels during December, which has been a welcome reprieve from the busy-ness and productivity that I, and most of us, demand of ourselves during the rest of the year.
It's always a hard shift for me to make because I truly get a lot of enjoyment out of checking items off my goal list and hitting new word counts, but it's also more necessary to take time away from it all than most of us want to believe because WE HAVE STUFF TO DO AND BOOKS DON'T WRITE THEMSELVES.
Maybe you're already planning on setting aside your work-in-progress for the next couple of weeks. Maybe, with the kids on holiday break, you don't have much of a choice! Or maybe you're stressing because you have deadlines--self-imposed or otherwise--that have to be met and you don't know how you're going to find time each day to dedicate to your work. Maybe you want to try to take advantage of the extra time as much as possible.
Whether you're planning to work or not, it doesn't have to be lost time for your writing ambitions. Here are 5 ways I'm making the most of the season:
Take a Break. It's been several weeks now since I've written anything and I have to say, taking a break from writing--by choice instead of out of anxiety or procrastination--is a breath of fresh air! Believe me, a not-writing Jamie is not usually a happy Jamie, but it's good for the heart, mind, and soul to rest once in a while, in anything. With the professional world slowing down for a couple of weeks, now is the best time to CHOOSE to give yourself some time off (we have the most demanding bosses, don't we? 😉 ). Whenever I do this, I find myself itching to get back to the writing. Already I feel it, and I know I'm going to come back to my work in 2018 with a renewed sense of excitement for all my writing goals.
If you have an external deadline, this may not be possible, but if your deadline is self-imposed and you're feeling stressed about hitting it, you might consider pushing it back and enjoying this slower time in whatever way feeds you. (Suggestion: binge-reading all the books you planned to have finished for your Goodreads Reading Challenge.)
Work on Something Fun. I won't be ignoring writing completely, though. I plan to brainstorm ideas for my next book whenever the mood strikes me and I have a few minutes to myself. With constant goals and deadlines, it's rare that I (and maybe you?) allow the writing or brainstorming or outlining to happen just because I want to, when I want to, and now is a great time for that. If there's a side project you never have time to work on, or a short story idea that's been bouncing around in your head, you could give yourself the gift of purely joy-driven writing, with no outcome in mind except that it makes you smile. Believe me, the side effects of this will absolutely benefit your writing career when you come back to your work with your well refilled.
Reconnect with Your Relationships. Do you ever forget that the writing we do is ABOUT people and FOR people? I do. I have a bad habit of getting so caught up in the tasks of writing work that I run out of time to reconnect with the people who encourage and inspire all this work--my friends, my family, my writing community. Take this time to remember what it's all about. We don't do it for our to-do lists. We do it because we love people. Our people. And the time we spend with them motivates us, reminds us of why our work is so important and, if your family is anything like mine, gives us plenty of fodder to draw from the next time we come to the page.
Review the Past Year. It's natural for us to think about how this year has gone as it draws to a close. What did we accomplish? What didn't we accomplish that we wanted to? What worked? What didn't? This is good. This is healthy. It may not be easy--we tend to focus on what didn't happen like we hoped, don't we?--but there's so much we can learn from so that, hopefully, we can make the coming year even better. And please, do make sure to spend a good amount of time thinking about what went right.
Think About the Year Ahead. Whether you do this formally, with structured goals and resolutions for 2018, or have a loose idea of what you want to accomplish or improve upon, use this time to brainstorm how you want to take your writing career to the next level in the coming year. Yes, I know, some of you may despise resolutions or be completely disillusioned by setting goals that never seem to come to fruition, but if we aren't at least trying...if we've given up hope completely...well then, what is it all for? The thing that keeps drawing us back to stories--that draws us back to writing--is the promise that people can grow, that we can reach our dreams, that we can fall in love, that we can heal, that we can know ourselves a little deeper. And what is the holiday season for if not hope? I, for one, believe in us all.
Wishing you a very merry holiday season and happy new year! I look forward to all that we will accomplish in 2018!
How do you use the holiday season to benefit your writing? Do you have writing goals for 2018?
* * * * * *
Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, was released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.