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Weekend Writing Inspiration: How to Keep Writing During the Holidays

December 7, 2018
5 min read time
“Got any tips for how to make it through the holidays without hurting my writing habit?”

With the holidays looming, our time for writing can become thin, compressed and feel all but impossible to find. Holiday parties; family gatherings, personal traditions, gift and food preparation, and even a seasonal cold can have a big impact on our writing schedules at this time of year.

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your writing during the upcoming holiday season: 

Start with one overall writing goal

First, think about the big picture: How do you want to finish the year in terms of your writing? Is there a goal you’d be deeply satisfied to reach by the end of December?

Go deeper by checking the page counts you’ll need to hit that goal — whether you’re revising or writing new pages — and estimate how much time you’ll need to put in between now and the end of the year to make it happen.

Be intentional about when you’ll write

Now let’s make it realistic. You’ll want to be intentional about when you’re writing during the holidays. Many writers leave their decision about whether to write on a given day to that specific day — but it pays to decide in advance when you’ll be writing.

Get out your calendar and look at the coming month (all the way through the first week or so of January so you don’t leave out New Year’s Eve and Day). Make sure you have all your upcoming family and work-related holiday events noted, including travel days and when the kids will be out of school, if you have them. Which days will be impacted?

If you decide to take time off during the holidays (when you know you’ll be making a roast for the entire family or you’ll be holed up at Auntie Greta’s house for three days straight, as examples) decide right now that those are days off and make a plan for which days you will be writing.

If you subscribe to the “don’t break the chain” model for writing (meaning, you aim to write every day no matter what), make a plan for how, where and when you’ll be doing so even if you’re on the road or otherwise managing super busy festive days.

Use rock bottom minimum writing goals where needed

When time is tight, you can use what I call a rock bottom minimum writing goal. This is what you do when you’ve decided you’re writing no matter what on a given day, even with a tight schedule or even if things go sideways on you (e.g., your cousins insist you spend the day out with them or your kids come down with a winter bug).

Decide in advance what your absolute minimum amount of writing is and make that your must-do goal for the day. You can aim for five minutes, 15 minutes, an hour or more — it’s up to you. Keep in mind how your minimum compares to your regular writing routine, and remember this method works well for “don’t break the chain” writers.

Be creative about sneaking in writing time

Even when you’re staying in Aunt Mabel’s guest room with a house full of family members, you can sneak in time to write by getting up early and writing before you reveal yourself to your hosts. You could stay up for a little while after everyone else has gone to sleep, or even slip away for an afternoon “nap” to write. Of course you can always come out and say what you’re doing, too.

Be ready to write on the road

If you’re on the road, you’ll want to be ready to write. This means having an organized “to go” writing kit. What you’ll include depends on you and your writing, but it could mean bringing research materials; your laptop, notebooks, favorite pens or pencils, ear buds, soundtracks, and more.

Think now about what you’ll need to make it as easy as possible to write while you’re traveling and get it set up so you’re ready to hit the road.

Streamline where you can

In general, having a workable writing schedule is tied to a certain amount of organization in life. This is even more true when it comes to the holidays. If you plan ahead and streamline tasks like shopping; gift wrapping, food preparation, laundry, and any other holiday-related duties you’ll have to tackle this season, it will be easier to write.

For example, I tend to buy gifts in batches and online, early in the month and then stage my gift wrapping over the course of the month so I’m not rushing to do it all at the end and sacrificing my writing time (or sanity) in the process.

Make a writing plan

Once you’ve got your holiday plans organized and corralled, layer in your writing plan with actual time for each day. On your barely-impacted days, you’ll have essentially “regular” writing days. On the heavily-impacted days, decide now: Will you write or not? If you’re writing even on those tough days; when, where and for how long will you write?

Schedule your writing time on your calendar right now to help you preserve it (and if you’re traveling, bring that calendar with you).

Be determined and compassionate

The holidays can be a stressful time. Joyful and sorrowful emotions get stirred up during the holidays, in addition to the sheer logistical challenges of fitting all that holiday revelry in. As you set your goals and writing plans for the holiday season, build in some self-compassion and reasonable expectations and goals alongside your determination to write.

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Your weekend writer’s assignment

Start by mapping out your holiday commitments and making decisions in advance about which days are writing days and which are not. If you’re a “don’t break the chain” writer, you may want to implement “rock bottom minimum” goals. If you’re taking time off, be 100% clear with yourself when you’ll write again. Then, set your overall writing goal for the season, calendar your writing time, and gather anything you need to make it easy to write if you’re on the road. And enjoy your holidays!

Got questions you want answered?

After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting; trust yourself as a writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your most pressing questions to finaldraft@calledtowrite.com or via Jenna’s online form and she may choose your question to answer in a future article. 

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