Even though the holidays can be stressful for a lot of people, they don’t have to throw a wrench in your writing schedule. I’m currently working on a book proposal that I plan to have finished by December 31; naturally, most of my writing is going to occur during the holiday season. I’m not as stressed about this as I thought it would be, and I’m pretty sure I know why. This project is important enough to be worth working toward, even while navigating once-a-year family social engagement.
That’s about the only warning I have about writing during the holidays: make sure it’s something worth writing.
It’s not going to be easy to find the time, and there are going to be a thousand reasons to quit. For the projects that really matter, though, this can be a fantastic opportunity to prove your dedication to your craft and get some awesome work done.
So here are my top five tips for writing during the holidays:
Have a definite plan.
This means word count, chapter outlines, and pages per day for me. For you, it could be a time allotment: thirty minutes a day. My current project, the book proposal, involves a chapter-by-chapter outline of my book. I’ve split the chapters up by days and focus on only the assigned sections every day. On days that I have more time, I also work in the additional pieces of the proposal (the author intro, the market analysis, all the boring junk that’s not the story) so that by the time I hit December 31, I’ll have it all completed. My focus, though, is on the outline. While drafting my young adult novel, I worked with word count: 1,000 words a day on weekdays and 5,000 words a day on Saturdays. Pushing myself to achieve a pre-planned goal helped me feel accomplished and excited for the next day’s writing without overworking my muse’s muscles.
Prepare for the lost days.
Since I recently joined another family, the better part of Thanksgiving week is going to be spent traveling between family members’ houses and spending time with those we love. No matter what your holiday season looks like, it’s going to have lost days, where writing would only add to an already-stressful day. Instead of trying to follow your plan regardless of the day’s circumstances, plan around the lost days. Get in 2,000 words the day before your flight. Write an extra chapter outline or two in the days prior to your vacation. Plan for the lost days so that you can truly enjoy them because writing in a lost day usually does more harm than good.
Give yourself breaks.
As a Christian, these are built-in by my religion: Sunday is a day of rest. You’d be surprised how hard it is to rest when you have a plan that you want to pursue, but at the end of a day spent putting down projects and picking flowers, cleaning closets, watching TV or doing anything besides writing, your mind will be recharged and ready for the week ahead. So, pick a day and take a break (lost days don’t count! You’re spending those with family. You will be exhausted).
Work on different projects.
Similar to giving yourself a break, working on different projects protects you from burnout. If I feel myself getting unhappy or frustrated with my book proposal, I find something else to write. Essays, short stories, blog posts (yes, this one), and even poems can help my mind recover and prepare itself to return to the book proposal in a positive way. It’s kind of like gardening; in order to avoid stripping the soil of nutrients, you plant different crops that replenish the soil in their own ways. Having multiple projects replenishes your brain-soil and increases the chance that you’ll have a bountiful writing session.
Set aside time to read.
Inspiration comes from observation. Read good books, and you will find yourself itching to write. This is also a great activity for the holidays, because it’s a time of traveling. Read on the plane, listen to an audiobook on the car ride, bring a book for the days when you spend the night at a relative’s house. By ingesting well-written stories, you’re giving your brain the material it needs to creatively tackle your project’s individual challenges.
“Why are so many of these tips focused on doing things besides writing?” you may ask. I’m assuming you know your project better than I do. You want to write it as much as I want to write my projects. These tips are simply the structure I use to achieve results. I’m hopeful that they will be as helpful to others as they have been to me!
One last note: The holidays are a time when we share our lives and catch up with relatives and friends. This can be painful or difficult for many reasons, but one of the simpler struggles is that of a writer trying to share their work with people who might not be interested. I know, although I have incredibly supportive family members, it can be hard for them to find ways to support me when they’re used to sports events or visual competitions, not words on a page. If your family is willing, maybe share a piece or two with them this holiday season. If nothing else, trying to explain my work to my family has definitely helped me with my elevator pitches!
And know that, no matter how your holidays look this year, you have a community here that supports you, understands your efforts, and celebrates your writing journey with you.
Plus Writing Prompt
Write a 250-word piece that you’d be willing to share with a family member or close friend; if you’d rather, you can share it with us by posting it in the comments, sending it with the button below, or sharing on Twitter and tagging @ehillwrites!