Saturday, December 5, 2009

Don’t Let the Holidays Mean a Holiday from Writing

Every writer has to deal with distractions on a daily basis, but the holidays present a unique challenge. It’s easy to get so consumed by the parties, shopping, cooking, traveling, and visiting with family that your writing suffers. People tend to work less during the holidays no matter what their line of business, and writers are no different. The result is that you lose touch with your work-in-progress and slow the momentum that had been pushing you along the previous ten months.

Here’s how to stay on track with your writing and enjoy your holidays, too.

Modify Your Writing Schedule. Unless you’re emulating Stephen King and decide to write every day including Christmas and your birthday, accept the fact that you are not going to get as much writing done during the holiday season. Plan accordingly by taking a proactive stance. Decide now, before the holiday chaos begins, what your writing schedule will be for the next six weeks. Take out monthly calendars for November and December and pencil in a scaled back version of your typical writing schedule. If you normally write five hours a week, plan on three. If you normally write three times a week, plan on one. Identify the days that you already know you will not write and cross them off your calendar. This exercise will alleviate guilt while also ensuring that you will get some writing accomplished over the holidays.

Modify Your Writing Goals. Along with your modified schedule, temporarily lower your word and page count goals. If you normally write 2000 words a day, lower it to 1000. If you usually shoot for five pages a day, aim for three.

Review Your Progress. The key to achieving any goal is to continually monitor progress. If you feel like you are getting totally off track as the holidays move forward, set aside five minutes and review your modified goals. Did you bite off more than you could chew? If you scaled your writing schedule back to three times a week but discover that you simply can’t do it because of holiday obligations, scale it back to twice or even once a week. Your aim should be to retain some semblance of your writing schedule—what that looks like over the holidays may be dictated by forces you cannot control.

Incorporate Writing Into the Holiday Lifestyle. Just as you weave writing into your day-to-day life at other times, strive to do the same over the holidays. Keep a notebook nearby to jot down witticism ms and snappydialogue exchanges that you overhear. Maybe eccentric Uncle Fred will spout out the perfect comeback line for your hero. Be alert. Families are steeped in tradition and complex relationships that all writers strive to get on the page. Take advantage of the dynamics swirling around you.

Touch Some Part of Your Writing Every Day. Even on days that you do not plan to write, touch some part of your writing life by making notes about your work-in-progress, thinking about a difficult plot point, or reading a paragraph or two in a craft book before you go to bed. Stay in touch with your writing self.

Be Present. When you’re writing, write. When you’re celebrating, celebrate. Be completely present with whatever you are doing at the moment.

Plan Your 2010 Work Now. Setting long range goals before the hype about resolutions begins often results in saner, more achievable goals. It also helps you avoid overextending yourself when the post-holiday slump sets in. The reason most people don’t keep their resolutions is because they set completely unrealistic targets. Setting yours before or right after Thanksgiving gives you a smooth jumping off point on Jan 1, 2010.

Taking a break for the holidays doesn’t mean you have to take a break from your writing life. Use these tips to stay in touch with your writing life and enjoy your family’s festivities, too.

©Kelly L. Stone. All rights reserved.

Question for comments: How do you plan to stay on track with your writing during this holiday season?


  1. I've been finding that these days are a good time to do things that take a smaller amount of time. I 've been sending a lot of queries these days as well as working on my essays.

  2. Hey Walt, thanks for the comment. That's a good approach-- when you have less time, focus on tasks that you can do in that shorter amount of time. That way, you still work toward your long term goals.