Ten Tips for Taking Time Off

Wendy Lawton

The holidays are looming—Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Epiphany. How will you celebrate? Hopefully you’ll take a break from your WIP and spend time with family and friends.

Do you know why this is important? It’s because you can’t write about life if you don’t take time to live it. And if you can take a break you will be ready to write like crazy when the new year comes.

Some of you may be up against impossible deadlines but if not, this is the perfect time to recharge your batteries and stoke that creative fire. Here are ten tips:

  1. Do something totally non-writing related. Something you’ve wanted to do for a long time. Just make a promise to yourself you won’t collect dialogue, jot down setting descriptions or find a quiet corner to sneak in a little writing time.
  2. Request at least one non-writing related gift. You might find that a non-writing-related gift is just the thing to get those creative juices flowing.
  3. It’s okay to go to your writer’s group Christmas Party but promise to attend other parties where no one has a clue which books are on the New York Times Bestseller Lists. Non-writers may have some interesting insights. (It could happen.)
  4. Sit through an entire holiday meal without correcting the grammar of a single guest.
  5. Read like crazy. Nothing will whet your writing appetite more than reading great books.
  6. Read a classic to a little one. (Remember that wonder and imagination?)
  7. Do some of the chores you neglected because of deadlines. Your family will love you and nothing gets a writer unstuck faster than mindless work.
  8. The new year is a perfect time to rethink your direction. Dream.
  9. Don’t fall into temptation. Leave that Nanowrimo masterpiece in the drawer. The time apart will only give you perspective.
  10. Have fun! Laugh. Enjoy your family and friends. It will make you a better writer.

Your turn. What do you plan to do over the holidays?

74 Responses

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  1. Anne Love says:

    I plan to stock the fridge and enjoy cooking for my family!
    Watch some great movies. Laugh hard. Stay up late and sleep in.
    Go for a walk with the family. Play games. Visit about life.

  2. Okay,one by one…
    1. Yuh. Like what? Does laundry count?
    2. But I got my present early. It’s a tablet. And I don’t mean a Tums on a plate. HOW am I supposed to ignore the Kindle app???
    3.We’re too far apart to actually get together. But umm, I’ll be at a few hockey parties. And come ON, “interesting insights”??? Hopefully no one brings up the loud woman yelling in Spanish at the French Canadian ref. Cuz, like, WHO would that be? Yo no se.
    4.Still laughing at this one!!!
    5. THAT I can do!!
    6. My little one can read in two languages. And he’s up to my shoulder. Maybe I’ll get him to read to moi.
    7. Skipping this one…
    8. Dreaming of June 10th. Just me,my mom and the Mediterranean. I’m actually sniffling while typing this…
    9. Didn’t write one. Was slightly out of town.
    0. Was this intended? Did I just correct your grammar? Is numbering considered grammar? Is correcting an agent’s numbering skills a great way to get a query shot straight to the bottom of the slush pile? Or is that grounds for you printing out a query and sticking it on the bottom of the bird cage???

    And I think I can find a way to have fun. Just put me in a room with a live, coherant human and who knows what can happen. Well, actually I do. Trouble, with a capital J.

  3. I’ve been convinced to try skiing, pray for me. (And for anyone in my path.) 🙂

  4. Jeanne T says:

    Have you been talking to my husband or my doctor? In the last two days, they’ve both talked to me about my schedule. 🙂 My husband asked me to take two weeks off from writing to catch up on things around the house, take care of Christmas details, catch up on sleep and get back into walking. Yesterday, my doc reminded me (again) of the advantages of sleeping more. Hmmmm, there’s a common message in all of this. 🙂 Rest, relax, give myself permission to slow down and catch up on life.

    Spending time with friends and family, watching fun movies, reading, yea, I’m liking that. My honey is also taking me away for a few days right after Christmas. I’m definitely looking forward to some “him and me” time.

    I was praying for refreshment and a new excitement about my story come the week after Christmas. Thanks for the other great ideas, Wendy. I’m glad you posted this. 🙂

    • Enjoy the away time!

    • Ya know, Ma’am, when the doctor backs up the husband, they ***might*** have a point. Maybe?
      Slow down, chill and cuddle. And that is from the the voice of authority. You know why?? My husband has the same name of some guy who was once Prime Minister of England.

      So there. 😉

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I hear you. Getting rest is one of my biggest challenges.

      I believe that the richest stories come to the rested mind. In our society we’ve somehow come to devalue sleep. You always hear people bragging about only needing five hours sleep or that they pulled an all-nighter.

      Science shows us the folly of this with everything from weight gain to out bodies not being able to regenerate properly. Winter is the perfect time to correct bad sleep habits.

  5. Tari Faris says:

    This is a great list and since the end of NaNoWriMo I have been working on many of these. Although with my birthday last week I have probably indulged more in the reading for fun and less in chores.
    The most encouraging thing I have done this season has probably been the online Christmas parties with my writer friends. Although in person would be preferred, we pretty much span the country so online is a nice alternative.
    This is a great list and I’ll have to make sure and try a few others too.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Birthdays are the perfect time to indulge. (I’m also a December girl.) Will you also be taking time to Skype with Burundi?

      • Tari Faris says:

        Oh yes. They are in a new house and the Internet is so much better. That is a Christmas gift for everyone!

  6. Definitely going to read like crazy, especially to the little ones. Our Christmas books have been packed away for ten months, so we’re excited. Wonderful stories like Max Lucado’s The Crippled Lamb and The Legend of the Candy Cane (can’t remember the author) and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And I have a few mainstream novellas that have been waiting for me.

    I’ve also been thinking of taking some time off of blogging, perhaps the week of Christmas and maybe the week of New Year’s. I normally blog three times each week, so this would be huge for me. My only hesitation is that I don’t want to lose any readers, yet I wonder just how many would be reading anyway during all the holiday busyness. Well…I’ll confess I’ve also thought I could use that time off blogging to do some blog planning and extra writing on the WIP. Is it ever really possible to turn off a writing mind? 🙂

    • I CANNOT read The Crippled Lamb. Or listen to/watch The Little Drummer Boy. I cry like a baby. ALL the horrible memories of living in a tenement as a child come rushing back at the first few bars of Little Drummer Boy. I’m ready to lose it right now.
      The Crippled Lamb is too much.
      Grabs kleenexes and runs away…

      • Yup, I killed that buzz, sorry Meghan.

      • I completely understand, Jennifer, and I’m sorry my comment was difficult for you. I would edit it if I could. We all have circumstances both past and present that make some stories difficult or downright impossible. I’m sure there are stories, songs, or movies that you would enjoy that are emotionally charged for me. (This is why I commented on Rachelle’s blog the other day that leaving comments is so difficult for me. Sigh.)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I don’t think we can turn off our writing selves. To be a good writer we need to see things from many angles and that becomes a habit but Christmas reading traditions are a wonderful way to shut off the editor and read books filled with memories.

      We try to change our blog focus after we close our offices for the season. One year we shared our Christmas decorations, another we talked about family traditions. This year we are each going to write about one of the symbols of Christmas. It just feels good to take a hiatus of sorts.

    • Your comments were perfectly fine, it’s the memories that were difficult. I see them as two different entities. Truly.
      As for the Christmas Carol, have you seen the Muppet version? LOVE that!
      There was a Australian/Canadian mini-series done waaaay back called “The Golden Fiddles” that was SO GOOD!!! We watched it at Christmas and I loved it.
      I also find that Last of the Mohicans fills me with cheer. AHem, I meant HOLIDAY cheer..yeah, that’s it.

  7. Lori says:

    1) Forget reading great literature for pleasure, I’m going for the trashy romance.

    2) Read (again) to my my little one, who is actually my Westie, “McDuff’s Christmas”. Maybe this year she will actually be interested in it. Most years she starts off listening and then half way through she like I had enough of this.

    3) Exercise again and again at Curves or even at home. Don’t want to put on pounds and inches from all the chocolate, food, and cookies I will be eating.

    4) Of course I will be dreaming. Dreaming that I will actually complete my book and then and only then I can dream about getting an agent and getting it published.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      1. Hear, hear. I don’t like the trashy ones so much as the sentimental romances but I always read a Christmas novella or two and watch a couple Hallmark movies. I know. I know.

      2. If you intersperse doggie treats with pages your little one will listen with rapt attention.

      3. Somehow this one didn’t resonate with me.

      4. Most important of all. who knows what 2013 will bring?

      • Hallmark movies = my guilty holiday indulgence. 😉

      • Lori says:

        I love sentimental romances too but I usually prefer to watch them as movies (Affair to Remember, The Bishop’s Wife, etc..). Though I may read a Christmas romance or too this month. Last year I went for a Christmas mystery.

      • Wendy Lawton says:

        I agree, Lori. Christmas mysteries. I always read Anne Perry’s though they are far from sentimental. (Perry is one of all time favorite authors.)

  8. This is a wonderful reminder to focus on what is important, Wendy. Right now, I just finished two projects, and I’m okay with not getting right back at it with a new one. I need time to enjoy the little ones’ concerts, our upcoming overnight trip to NYC, and my family and friends.

    One of the things I try to do this time of year is read just for fun. Because I review books all year long, I want to pick up something I don’t have to review and read it. I usually review it anyway, but without the expectation I will, it’s much more enjoyable.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      ::Jealous:: I love NYC at Christmas. Having been raised in a big city (San Francisco) the bustle and sparkle just feels like Christmas to me. After we pick up our daughter at the airport we are going into San Francisco to see the decorated store windows.

  9. Good advice, Wendy! I have been going, going, going like crazy the last month–working full time, freelancing, finishing the draft of my novel, and singing this week in our Christmas musical (so rehearsal every night and 5 shows this weekend). Yikes.

    I’m taking off from Dec. 22-Jan. 1, from work and writing. It’s going to be glorious. I plan to hang out in my pjs all day reading, watching movies, and spending much-needed time with the hubby and friends. Walking my dogs. Just hanging out, few plans. Ah. I can’t wait! It’ll give me the energy I need to power through and get this book revised so I can start submitting it! 🙂

  10. I’m going to have to force myself to take a 1-week break for holiday travels, celebrating, etc! In the throes of finishing my next book, and I’m trying to get 40K words written between now and the first week in January. My hubby tells me I need a break, but he also knows me well enough to know that nothing will stop me at this point!

    I did permit myself a blogging break during Dec. AND I’m trying not to do too much blog-commenting (yet here I am…).

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Of course if you are at the end of a book that’s when the story flies off your fingers. You can schedule breaks after so many words to do the fun things of the season.

  11. Amanda Dykes says:

    Such fun! Your words, “you can’t write about life if you don’t take time to live it,” so perfectly reflect one of my favorite quotes, that I had as a background on my desktop for months: “Taking time to live your life will only inspire your work.”

    I’m so glad you posted this, because it’s started my brain’s wheels turning. I think my goal for the “downtime” season is to invest in the people around me. Write letters, invite friends over for tea I’ve been wanting to re-connect with or catch up with, learn what God is doing in their lives. It’s something that’s been increasingly on my heart lately, and your post gives me the idea to start making it happen over the holidays.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      And you have little ones– a preschooler and a fresh little baby. We love every era, but for me those were the most precious years of Christmas. If I could do it all over again I would make those minutes slow down so I could enjoy every second.

      I need to do the same when it comes to catching up with friends. (We get so busy. . .)

  12. Sarah Thomas says:

    Much of my holiday “special” stuff is taking place pre-Christmas. We had our Women of the Church party on the 4th, writer’s group party on the 9th, I was the “teacher” in the children’s program at church last Sunday evening and we’re having our annual Christmas party for friends this coming Saturday. All that’s left is gathering with family on the 25th. And I’m not even expected to cook!

    So the thesis of my argument is that I haven’t been able to keep to my writing schedule since before Thanksgiving and those days off work after Christmas?? Oh, please can I write and write and write?

    • Well, let’s see…you’ve done all kinds of stuff WAY in advance, right? And you’ve got time off, right?
      And you certainly don’t want to waste valuable and commitment-free time, right??
      I say go for it and write, all guilt free and crazy, until you have to go back to work.

  13. Wendy, I love your comment “the richest stories come to the rested mind”. Being with family and making special memories promotes this kind of rest for me.

    My eight year old suggested that we sit in a circle as a family, hold hands, and give thanks to Jesus. What a great reminder of the posture the Lord wants me to have before, during and after the holidays.

    I’m reading Little House on the Prairie to my daughter, and we just finished one of my favorites, The Little Match Girl.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      She will remember that forever. I can trace my love of books to my mother. I can still remember her reading Beatrix Potter books to us. I identified with the good bunnies– Flopsey, Mopsey and Cottontail. 🙂

    • Sarah Thomas says:

      For me it was mom reading Heidi over and over and over again. I still have the book she read from–it was a gift to her when she was a child. I’m hoping to share it with my niece soon.

  14. What I plan to do:

    1. Jesus time
    2. Family time
    3. Me time


    Watch old movies (like Magnificent Obsession with Jane Wyman & Rock Hudson, Enchanted Cottage with Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with Howard Keel and…oh, who was his co-star?)

    Read from my massive collection in my TBR pile.

    Brief blogging break.

    Do something completely out of my comfort zone. (Our daughter has suggested rock climbing. :0)

    Write. Because I cannot NOT. (Wait! Is this for a grade?)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Great list.

      Someone recently suggested doing something you’ve always loved but rarely take time to do. For me that would be visiting museums with collections of eighteenth and nineteenth century lifestyle, textiles and fashion.

    • Jane Powell!!!
      I kept thinking Betty Hutton, but she was in Annie Get Your Gun.

      Roman Holiday?
      The Sound of Music?

      I used to rock climb. LOVED it.Go for it Cynthia!! You won’t know you can do it until you’re at the top!

      • Jeanne T says:

        Love both of those movies, Jennifer.
        Cynthia, I’ve been wanting to try rock climbing. I hope you have a GREAT time! Will you take an introductory class first?

      • Lori says:

        Roman Holiday is a great movie however have you ever seen “Princess O’Rourke” with Olivia DeHvailand and Robert Cummings which is what “Roman Holiday” is somewhat based on? It was released in 1943.

  15. Navdeep Kaur says:

    1. Check. Here’s my to-do-list: laundry, cooking, cleaning my room so I can find things again, reorganize my space—I really need to set up some sort of work space in my room because I write more in my room than at my actual desk.
    2. Already got one, a photo frame. Maybe I’ll catch up on my scrapbooking. It’ll be great for story ideas!
    3. No parties for me, I work full time.
    4. Most of my family’s dinner conversations are in Punjabi…it’s usually my grammar that gets corrected.
    5. I’ve got a line of books waiting for me. I feel so special having books lined up to be read by me.
    6. I don’t have any little ones, but I will try to share some precious books that I enjoyed as a child with children I know and maybe even children I see on the street. What better gift for a child than a precious book, right?
    7. Refer to #1
    8. I’m sure I’ll resume dreaming now that the academic semester is coming to an end. I just need to sleep, sleep, and sleep. Hibernation time.
    9. My NaNoWriMo piece makes me sad, so I’m avoiding it. I may be a bit on the tall side, but my NaNoWriMo is quite short. 🙁
    10. 🙂

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Oh Navdeep, you are a writer after my own heart. I love reorganizing and refining my work space.

      When you get your Nanowrimo writing out again after this break you may be surprised. Even if it needs work (And what first draft doesn’t) you may find the bones of a great story.

  16. LOVE this list, Wendy. What a good reminder about this being a good time to re-evaluate direction. Such an important step for any writer–especially today!

  17. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this good encouragement. Sometimes, I struggle with taking breaks.

    I am looking forward to our annual Christmas trip to Iowa to be with my husband’s family. A whole week to love up my nieces and nephews, and play with my kids and the whole gang.

  18. Great tips, Wendy.
    Thank you.

    #1 I’m prayer walking through the neighborhood after four weeks off due to my rib injury. Just me for another four weeks until the doctor says I can walk the doggies again.
    #2 Requested and received early ~ a new Photo Shop program for my computer. Going on daily exploration adventures, learning as I go and relishing every minute.
    #3 My writer’s group party was Dec 1st. First we give, then steal books from each other. Lots of laughter. Am enjoying party hopping with the hubby, his office dinner is tonight. Is it cheating if I donated one of my children’s books for the raffle?
    #4 One I will have to keep working on. Old habits are hard to break.
    #5 Reading the books I ended up with in the book thievery game.
    #6 My grandson is too little for a classic but he listens when I read to him every Monday for Grandparent Day. Five Little Monkeys.
    #7 Neglected chores ~ Extra work on the black slate floor and granite shower in the office bathroom. Okay, so the double oven needs attention too, and the baseboards.
    #8 Dreaming for 2013 in an unlimited capacity!
    #9 Temptations ~ biggest one is to quit exercising, must walk, swim, jog, forward…
    #10 Enjoying my family and friends! Went to the production of Home for the Holidays by the Sacramento Orchestra and Choral Society. 1700th century English hymn sung by the children’s choir ~ enchanting. Going to a Wassil and caroling evening too. Pure joy.

    Many blessings, Wendy and all!

  19. Kiersti says:

    What wonderful tips–and good reminders, as yesterday I was thinking, “Yay, Christmas break, I can get lots of writing done!” (I work at a community college, so get their school holidays.) But I think I needed to remember that it’s good to take a little time off too, especially this time of year, and focus on family, friends and the Reason for the season. Thanks, Wendy! Oh, and I like #7–so true. 🙂
    As for having fun–I think I may be going ice-skating for the first time. Hopefully Kathryn and I won’t have too many tumbles. 🙂 And as others have mentioned, it’s hard to beat really good Christmas books or movies. We’re a story-loving crowd, aren’t we?

  20. This is GREAT advice. I think we all get caught up in the writer life pretty much 24/7 and it’s hard to break away sometimes. Hoping you a blessed time off.

  21. I love this, Wendy! Thank you. #5 is easy. I’m reading a great book right now. #4 is more challenging–although I don’t generally correct other people’s grammar’s out loud. I do it in my head all the time though. So I’ll try to turn my brain editor off.

    I hope you can have fun during the holidays as well.


    • I don’t suppose you’re coming north for Christmas, are you???? If you were, I’d load up the van and come visit!

      • Ooh! Thank you, Jennifer, but no. I am getting a passport this holiday, though. (As you can see, I know how to live the vita loca!) So hopefully I will get up to N.B. sometime between 2013 and 2014 and would love to get together with you. When I get some definite plans, I’ll let you know. I hope you and your family are fully recovered well in advance of Christmas. Have you considered coming south for some Florida sunshine? And orange juice. You get free orange juice as soon as you enter the state. 🙂

  22. My son will arrive on the 19th. I’m so excited. He’s completing a PhD, so I don’t get to see him that often. I’ll be busy. Of course, I will prepare all his favorite meals. And all the Christmas goodies that he loves. A 20-something young man has a lot of energy. It’s finally cool enough in Texas to run around Caprock Canyon State Park and maybe the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. I want to build great memories during every minute of the time he’s here. It could be six months before I get to spend time with him again.

  23. Peter DeHaan says:

    Wendy, you’ve posted a great list — and prompted me to make some “adjustments” for the next few weeks. Merry Christmas!

  24. Leah E. Good says:

    I’m a December baby, so I’m looking forward to lots of time with friends and family.

    This month is my first break from college is twenty months, though, so I can’t resist using the free time to write.

    • Navdeep Kaur says:

      I feel you. I’m finally getting a break from classes, and even though I should take a break from writing, it seems like the chance is too good to pass up. I’ll try to stay free though.

  25. You read my mail Wendy….I’m so bad at number four! I thought I was the only person in the world who was obsessive compulsive about the way other people talk! Thanks!

  26. Julie Garmon says:

    Needed this one today. My BFF has given me instructions on how to have fun and turn “it” off for a few days. 🙂

    Great post.

  27. Rene Diane Aube says:

    I’m going to TRY to ride my horse…haha! (late learner with lots to learn!)

    I am also going to work on painting daisies on Daisy…oops…is that too close to my writing? Hmmm…