Do you have a writing plan for the holidays?
The holiday season is a whirlwind and it's really easy to get off track with your writing. As we count down to the end of the year, many writers beat themselves up because they haven't written in a couple of weeks, they didn't meet their word count goals, or they haven't accomplished everything they wanted to in the course of the year. January starts, and they're full of doubt over whether they're good enough—not inspired to set writing intentions to succeed in the year ahead.
I don't want that to happen this year to any of you, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite ways to stay connected to my writing when I'm super busy.
Set or revise your writing intentions
The holiday season is the perfect time to revise or set writing intentions to reflect your different schedule. Whether you're hosting or traveling, your daily routine will change and (for most of us) it's unrealistic to expect to keep the same writing schedule.
I write every day until I hit 1,000 words on my WIP. I do this Monday through Friday, usually in the mid-afternoon because the morning is my most productive work time and I need to pay the bills. It's not realistic for me to keep this schedule when I'm traveling, so I might give myself permission to take a writing break for the time I'm gone, or I might replace 1,000 words on my WIP with another writing goal, like keeping a travel journal if I'm going somewhere fun.
It doesn't matter whether you decide to lower your goals, shift them for the holidays, or pause on writing altogether. What matters is that you have a plan that's realistic - and you feel good about it. No negative pressure, please.
At first, it may seem scary to set aside your WIP for a long weekend with the family. That inner critic can start shrieking about how "real writers" write every day, damn the holidays. Or how you'll lose your flow/voice/plotline by taking time off.
That's fear talking, and you can choose not to listen.
I find the opposite is true, often as not. Taking a break lets me recharge—and it allows me to experience the world, which is key for inspiration. Since I've given myself permission, I skip the guilt trip. When I return to the page, I have more energy and enthusiasm.
Take joy in the time you do have
Traveling at any time means a break in your routine. If you're a creature of habit—and many writers have superstitions around their writing practice—this can feel uncomfortable.
The nagging urge to work on your writing can rise up even if you've set writing intentions for your vacation. Once you start thinking that you should be writing, it's easy to feel guilty or get distracted from spending time with family members or old friends you only see around the holidays.
Seek out those little moments where you can be alone with your thoughts to write, read, journal, or think about your work in progress, even during a busy Christmas break.
Maybe you find solace and solve that nagging plot problem when you walk the family dog. Maybe you catch up with your favorite writing podcasts on the plane home. Perhaps you stay up late in the night falling in love with a book, the way you used to. Or maybe you have a productive morning over coffee before putting aside writing for the rest of the day. These schedule shifts bring little pockets of time; if you plan to maximize them, you can maintain that connection to writing over the holidays - or any other time you're busy.
Consider these little breaks of time your permission to cultivate your craft and stay connected to writing through the busy holiday season.
Decide whether to talk about your work
Do you dread when well-meaning non-writers asking you what your book is about? I sure do, especially if I'm in the planning or first-draft stages of a project.
I don't even know what it's all about even if I have an outline. Testing out the concept, whether it's on a friend, partner or parent, brings out fears of being judged on an incomplete concept - an idea.
Usually I mumble something that bears a resemblance to the truth, like "Oh, my novel is about a group of coworkers in a restaurant and the problems they face."
Snooze-fest, and not exactly a confidence builder.
I've switched to not talking at all about first-draft projects, a technique recommended by Alan Watt who does the 90-Day Novel (a book I highly recommend, if you're looking for something to help you get through that first draft).
Watt's theory is that the writing process is highly subconscious and by talking about our projects, we risk letting other people's judgments affect us. An offhand comment like "that doesn't make sense" may lead us to doubt we have the skill to execute our vision or to abandon our work.
So when someone asks how the writing is going, I talk about something else, like an essay I'm revising, or I say that I'm working on revisions or waiting until after the holidays to start something big.
Decide which way you want to handle it ahead of time to curb your stress in the moment. If you've got a supportive creative community at home, talking about your work in progress can ignite that passion and get you pumped to resume work when you get back home. If you're more of an introvert, keeping it to yourself can be the better way to keep that connection alive during a time when you can't get much writing done.
Once you make it through whatever year-end holidays you celebrate (for me, it's Christmas and Hanukkah), draw a few deep breaths and invest in some self-care. You made it through the holidays! The shortest day of the year has passed! You can now look forward to the dark days of January and nourish your inner light.