Who’s excited about the holidays!? So much food that you can eat for weeks, colored lights glistening on roof tops, and catching up with old friends and family. November and December almost seem to be magical, full of thankfulness and hope for many. But with all that fun, it also brings a jammed packed schedule of shopping, family visits, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and wrapping gifts. Did I miss anything? Probably. If you have a spouse or children you also have their schedules tacked on to yours such as: office dinner parties, school plays, and sports. Let’s not forget that most of us still have full-time jobs as well, besides writing. That’s not including the volunteer work for churches or charities, and anything else that we normally do along the way.
Anyone would be a tad overwhelmed right? For a writer, especially a new writer, it can shoot us straight into panic mode. How will you find time to write amidst all the turkey gobbling and the sugarplums dancing? It’s a lot easier to push your writing off for another day than to justify it while trying to juggle the holidays.
However, too many “tomorrows” send us directly to the middle of January with nothing but a pile of blank pages and the thought of “where did the time go?” Never Fear! Here are some suggestions that I’ve compiled:
- Do as much of your holiday shopping online. Imagine how much time you’ll save with no traffic, crowds, parking spaces, or endless checkout lines. As soon as you’re done you find yourself already in front of your laptop to write. Easy.
- You enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping? Does it help you get more into the spirit or did you simply just not find what you needed online? No problem. Checkout different dictation programs for your computer or an app for your cell phone. No hands…no worries. If you want to go old school, bring a small recorder. Who cares if people look at you! You’re a writer and soon they’ll be standing in line to buy YOUR book for the holidays!
- Delegate some of your holiday tasks to others if you can. Is it really necessary that you do all the cleaning, shopping, decorating, cooking, and gift wrapping? See if your kids or spouse can help. Order the desserts you needed from the bakery or let the store clerks wrap your gift at the mall before you leave. Those small amounts of time you save can really add up into quality writing time you never imagined to have.
- Instead of constantly badgering yourself with negative thoughts on how you didn’t write at all one day or didn’t get to “X” amount of words in a certain time frame, try another approach. Keep track of the amount of words you DID write for that day and know that no matter how small or large the number, you accomplished more than if you hadn’t written at all. Remove the pressure of the clock even if you’re normally rigorous at your writing timetable. Breathe…and give yourself some slack. Any writing is better than no writing this time of year.
- Remember to be FLEXIBLE. Of course your weekly calendar is exploding at the seams and you feel as if you might bust with it…but I say again…breathe. Flexibility is a secret weapon for a writer if they’re simply open to it. Take inventory of any free time you might not have realized you possess: your lunch hour, the time you spend waiting for your children during holiday play rehearsals, sports practice, sitting at an airport waiting for your flight, or even those last minute doctor visits before the holiday is here. Using this “found” downtime to write doesn’t take away from any holiday tasks you might need to accomplish. This in turn, will help you be less likely to feel guilty about working on your writing projects.
- Okay…put the TV remote down. Back away slowly. I know how much you love those old holiday classics but this is 2014. DVR it, buy it on Blu-ray, or simply replay it in your head cause you know you have them memorized. I promise with all the technology around, you won’t ever truly miss your favorite movie, sport, or TV show.
- Now that the TV remote is down think about other time-wasters and ruthlessly cut them out. I know I said to shop online to save time but don’t go overboard. Just think, “SCBGO: Search, Click, Buy, Get Out”. Sometimes the internet is NOT your friend and for writers it can be a major distraction. You start out researching something for your novel and you end up paying your bills or creating a picture collage of little Suzie for dear sweet grandma. Ah hem…you were saying? Or perhaps, when you start reading a dozen emails that are simply jokes or forwards that have nothing to do with anything. Do you feel better now that you’ve forwarded the email on to 5 of your friends and because you did in 10 days you’ll have unending riches? Negative. Dedication and focus go hand and hand with writing, ESPECIALLY during the holidays, so snatch back the time stolen from those little time-wasters.
- Last but not least, reward yourself for getting any allotted time in for writing during these hectic days. Whether it’s a big piece of chocolate, something delicious to drink, a warm bath, or simply a nap, don’t deny yourself these things. Take care of yourself as well by getting adequate rest, eating well, and yes, a little exercising if possible. This will boost energy levels, helping you to stay focused and be less overwhelmed while you accomplish your holiday and writing to-do lists.
Above all, remember what the holidays are truly about. A writer is never just a writer. We are many things. We have to be, not only for our family, friends, and co-workers, but for the stories we write. It is our greatest blessing and our most unrelenting curse.
I hope this helps and lets you breathe a little lighter. Something I learned from my endeavor at the Writer’s Digest Conference is that writers are a tribe. We all have something to contribute, all have each other’s back, and we can learn from one another. Writers are a mysterious magnanimous group that I am truly honored to be a part of. Happy Holidays Ya’ll!!!