Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
No getting around it, the holiday season is here. Next week is Thanksgiving, families are gathering, and stores are already playing Christmas music. The joys, the stresses… here they come.
What does this mean for writers? This season can easily lead to frustration for people trying to juggle a busy life on top of their writing. The time available for your writing dwindles and you start to feel behind and get stressed that you’re not meeting your goals or deadlines.
It’s time to make a Holiday Writing Plan.
Let’s face this time of year head-on with a strategy that will take us through to January 2nd with the least amount of stress possible.
What should your Holiday Writing Plan include?
First, take a look at the next month on the calendar and assess about how much time you’ll have for your personal writing pursuits. Then, divide that in half, and assume that’s how much time you’ll realistically have.
Next, set reasonable goals for this time period. Is it a word count? Is it simply to have a certain amount of time each week to enjoy writing, without having an expectation of results? Keep in mind that a good goal for some people is, “I will put away my WIP until January 2nd, at which time I will come at it with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of energy.”
The key is to set goals that are attainable given your life circumstance, so that you don’t end up with frustration or a sense of failure amidst the holidays.
After you’ve set your goals…
Make a plan of action for how you’ll meet them. Schedule the writing time on your calendar, or put Post-It notes on your desk or bathroom mirror reminding yourself of your writing hiatus.
If you’re contracted for a book or article and you have deadlines during the holidays or immediately after, then your Holiday Plan is even more important. Be intentional about which activities you can reasonably let go, and which you’ll keep. (To borrow from Marie Kondo… which activities truly spark joy?)
You may want to delegate more of your usual holiday tasks—cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping. Most importantly, don’t go into this season simply assuming that “somehow” you’ll get it all done.
You want to go into the holiday season with realistic expectations about what you can accomplish. The holidays are stressful enough without adding to it with impractical goals!
I recommend Kathi Lipp’s handy little book, Get Yourself Organized for Christmas. I normally avoid obvious promotions here on our blog, but I read it a few years ago, and now I keep it handy every year. It really helped me keep control of my holidays.
Tell us about your Holiday Plan!
How will you handle the balance between your work and your life? What are your goals? Put your plans in writing and share them here!
Image copyright: subbotina / 123RF Stock Photo
For me, no holiday time off could be better than getting to write full time. Setting aside my WIP until January 2 wouldn’t be a vacation. Even reducing my writing time would be a punishment.
*The right hardware is one solution to that problem. We’ll be driving 700 miles one way to visit my husband’s family in the Texas hill country, but I’m prepared. I have a new 11” laptop with a 10-hour battery life. I’ll still take the DC/AC adaptor that lets me charge a drained battery while we drive, but I may not need it with my bali blue beauty.
*Many parts of Texas are lovely, but from my perspective, the Permian-basin oil fields when the cotton that grows between oil pumpers has been defoliated and stripped is not among them. Great place to use that laptop!
Oh, Carol … have a wonderful visit in Texas. 🙂
I always do, Shelli. The family land is west of Waco. I’m hoping to have my husband drop me off at ACFW in Dallas next year while he visits them. I have GOT to meet you in person sometime even if it isn’t at ACFW.
I know! If you ever come through the Dallas area, holler at me. 🙂 I know it’s hard when your traveling though. But I’m planning on being at ACFW 2017, since it’s here in Dallas. I hope you get to come. That’d be awesome. 🙂
I love the summer for the chances to get out into the natural world, explore and be inspired. So many story ideas come to me while walking in God’s own garden. But, I also love the winter, and especially Christmas time. This is a time to share with family and show how much we love and appreciate them. It is a time when the pressures of the world seem to lift and lose importance; a time that reminds us to be kind and helpful to others.
*As for me, this time of year is all about the Christmas build up. Christmas markets, wrapping presents, Carol singing, wrapping up warm and enjoying a warm hot chocolate in a cosy cafe.
During this time I like, as a birthday treat, to have a day on my own to go shopping. I will start the day in a quiet coffee shop and write for an hour. I get another chance to write when I stop for lunch.
After, I get less time for writing and will put it away until after the festive season. There might be a chance to snatch an hour or two after Christmas, but usually my mind just isn’t in the right frame. I won’t worry about it. It is a time to pause normal life and spend time with others. The novel will be waiting for me when life resumes in January.
“The novel will be waiting for me…”
* What a sensible approach! Love the way you addressed this.
Like Carol, I write daily. That daily time may shrink during the holidays, but it doesn’t go away (I like the phrase Andrew gave us a few days back: “touch your work daily”).
*But I also have some days scheduled off work. Glory of glories, more writing time! Writing that doesn’t have to end at a magic stroke of the clock. Days when I can read through the whole chapter before I build that transition paragraph. Days when I can take all the time I need to tweak that troublesome sentence. Days when page after page flows at one sitting. Thanks be to God!
Yes! That’s exactly how I feel, Shirlee!
Great post, Rachelle. I’ve been floundering this fall when it comes to having a good writing plan. Last week I heard an online class that gave some great suggestions for ways to better allocate time for writing. Your suggestions here add to those.
*I’m going to sit down today and look at my calendar for the rest of the year, and schedule in writing. And the suggestion to cut that proposed time in half? Genius. Because realistically, that’s what will probably happen. 🙂 After I look at my calendar, I’ll know what realistic goals I can set up for the rest of the year.
*One of the personal things I will need to do is prioritize where my time is spent. We have some added “stressors” this particular season this year, and I will account for those so that I don’t walk through these coming weeks a stressed-out-mess. 🙂
*I just ordered the book by Kathi Lipp. Thanks for suggesting it
Well, this is going to sound insanely arrogant, but what the heck.
* Christmas is about giving, and the only gifts I have left to give are the care of my dogs, and my words. To hold back either would be shirking a duty.
* Seriously, with a sanctuary for abandoned dogs based in the house, there’s little time or room for much festivity, and since every day is a party – especially mealtimes, though sometimes it’s more like a WWF Grudge Match – we don’t need to do much entertaining.
* The schedule perforce goes on as it always does, and given the circumstances it’s for the best. Barb will have some holiday invitations, and since I can’t really enjoy outings any more, I’ll stay home…
And to you, Rachelle, the staff at Books and Such, and everyone out there who celebrates the US Thanksgiving, I hope you have the best of days tomorrow.
* And to those who don’t have tomorrow as a holiday, I wish you the best of days as well!
I won’t be taking a break. I’m editing some on my first novel. And even if I just visit a few pages a day, I’m okay with that. Progress.
*Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, from Texas. So thankful for y’all.
As far as writing goes, the last couple of months have already been crazy enough for me, however, my Christmas decorations are up, we’re eating out tomorrow, I shopped Black Friday deals online this morning and my kids won’t be home until the week of Christmas, so…. I have no excuse not to write.
*I hope everyone has a safe and delightful Thanksgiving!
I’m hoping to take a weekend and get away alone to a hotel to have some concentrated time to write, write, write and hopefully finish my first draft. If I can do that, I then plan to put all writing aside except for my one monthly blog post commitment, and just fully be with my people. Be fully present without mentally scolding myself that I should be writing. Be fully present without begrudgingly fulfilling my God-given responsibilities at home because I would rather be writing. Be fully present and celebrate the fact that I reached the goal I set for myself.
If I can’t do the hotel thing and finishing the first draft thing until after the New Year, I still plan to put most of my writing aside and STILL be fully present in these precious days to come because babies don’t keep, and marriages still need love and while God did call me to write, He called me to be a wife and mother first and foremost – a fact I forget all too often.
Wishing everyone here a truly wonderful and refreshing Thanksgiving!
Yes. That balance is so tricky. It seems like most of us let writing take over our lives for a while, until we just wear out … and then, we go back to somewhat of a balanced life. And shedding the guilt … boy … that’s hard too. But that getaway sounds dreamy! 🙂 Let it be totally guilt-free.
My holiday writing plan? Well, I am learning to do three things outside of the focal point of writing, as I have mentioned in another comment: Scrivener, LeadPages, and podcasting. I’ve been practicing recording my talks to learn pacing and expression, and how to communicate warmth in my vocal toneation. I’m committed to a daily input of one session talk per day until all sixty are completed. Thirty are handwritten and just need the formalities completed. I will continue my blogging 2 X per week using new
material. My goal is to start podcasting on Dec. 1st. Podcasting may be my ticket to connecting with my readers. My way of expression is that of a storyteller. It’s fun to think about.
Have a lovely Thanksgiving, Rachelle.
Your foray into podcasting sounds exciting and ambitious to get 60 ready before you launch. I haven’t considered that since trying to add something new to the history site (a Roman pumpkin or squash recipe for Thanksgiving) and one new post to my blog site each week eats up time. We’ll all be interested to hear how the podcasting works out, Norma.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Thank you. I also want to record an audio version of my one published book. I’ll share as I go. There are some technical issues to be met as I move forward with this. May your Thanksgiving be delightful.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Tomorrow is just a Thursday for us, but Happy Thanksgiving to you Americans!
But, I will be baking pie, to mail to Faraway Son.
As for writing? I sure hope so!
The holidays can just go hang;
with festivating I am through.
It’s writin’ sonnets is my thang,
and that’s what I’m gonna do.
Don’t get no gilded invitations
to no fancy yacht-bound parties;
that stuff is above the station
of a hidebound arty-farty.
And so you’re gonna find me here
just poundin’ out the rhymes
and drinkin’ red wine mixed with beer;
these are the best of times!
Drop by if you’re passin’ through,
and I’ll write a poem ’bout YOU.
Janet Ann Collins
Since I live in the part of California where PG&E keeps shutting off our power it’s VERY difficult to make writing plans now. But, as the saying foes, when all you can do is all you can do, then that’s all you can do.
I loved seeing all of our old responses! *sigh* What a sweet gift.
Shelli, I just can’t resist…
“What a sweet gift.” – well, it takes one to know one.
I hope that you know how much of a gift you are to everyone in this community, how you have strengthened hope and faith with your gentle and immensely strong words…and how very thankful we are to share this time and place with you, in our lives.
Janet Ann Collins
Andrew, that is so true!
Jan, I think Shelli deserves her own sonnet, don’t you?
I pray that she likes it, and that it pleases the God who made her.
A humble daughter of the faith,
she stands so very, very tall;
the words she offers, offer grace,
and she is beloved of all.
She is the stalwart friend we need,
the Mom that all might wish they had,
planting kindness’ holy seed
a shining light in world gone mad.
Her example points the way to Christ,
a loyal disciple, bright and true,
a symbol of what He sacrificed
for the promise of a world renewed.
Dear Shelli, when I’m lost in fear,
your words help me to call Him near.
Our big family gathering is at Thanksgiving this year. Prepping is well underway for that, in fact close to done (except last minute shopping and, of course, five days of grandkids and others for longer). It will be our biggest gathering yet, as a sister will come and a cousin has moved to our town and will be with us.
Come the Tuesday after Thanksgiving I should be back on my regular writing schedule. I want to finish a short story that’s close to done; publish the finished Leader’s Guide to my already published Bible study; and finish helping a retired missionary self-publish her second book of stories (all done except final formatting and actual publishing). This week I completed research reading for my next novel, and I hope to start on that before the end of the year. 1,000 words a day is my hoped-for minimum between 3 Dec and 23 Dec. A short trip after Christmas, then pick-up again on 2 Jan.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Well … I’m doing NaNoWriMo again and so that means getting up early on Thanksgiving morning to write. I need to be better about getting my words done early in the day to accomplish this during the holidays. As far as December goes, it is a revision month for me. I’ll be revising a different ms. than my NaNo project. Again, if I can drag myself out of bed at 4:00AM, I know that I can squeeze the writing time in around everything else.