It’s hard to make time for writing, even when our days are just their usual level of jam-packed. Introduce a holiday and it becomes virtually impossible, or at least it feels that way, to get any work done on a writing project. I’ve already talked about some of the ways you can sneak writing time into your day to day life, but I felt that the arrival of the winter holiday season deserved some special attention. With family to catch up with, rituals to get involved in and a complete upheaval of your usual routines, how can you make sure you also fit some writing in?
Make your intentions known
This applies especially if you have some people (or just one person) around over the holiday who you know will be supportive of your writing goals. In that case, you can see if somebody is willing to give you a gentle nudge about it at an agreed-upon point in the day, maybe just after a meal. Don’t put somebody in charge of ‘making’ you write, that’s not their job, but a friendly reminder can be very useful if you have someone around who wouldn’t mind playing that role.
Part of the difficulty of getting any kind of work done over the holiday period is that there can be a lot of pressure—internally as well as externally—to participate in everything that’s going on, or just be hanging out at all times. And it’s quite possible that you want to be doing that! I know lounging on the sofa and chatting with my family is one of my favourite things about being at home. Point being, that’s a hard thing to push aside in favour of sitting alone with a laptop or notebook.
So—what’s the point of letting people know that you want to write? How does that help? If you’ve given the people around you a heads-up that you’re intending to disappear for a bit to get a little work done, it lowers the mental barrier to actually doing it. Simple as that. You make it less likely that people will respond with variations on “You don’t need to worry about that, stay here and have another piece of cake!” which makes it significantly easier to just get gone and get some words down.
Tying into the first point, don’t make it sound like your writing is a chore that you feel obliged to work on, despite extreme reluctance. If you stand up with a heavy sigh, announcing that you suppose you really should go and do some writing… you’re bound to get people trying to talk you out of it. Additionally, complaining about your writing is going to make it harder for you to feel enthusiastic when you eventually sit down to it, which isn’t going to do your work any favours.
Making out like you’re dreading your writing can become a negative feedback loop. You say you don’t want to do it, so people convince you not to do it, and then you’ll feel bad for not doing it and that will increase your reluctance to engage with the project, and so on and so forth.
Hopefully your writing is something you can enjoy doing, but even if you’re not actively looking forward to it you’ll have a much easier time of fitting it in around your other holiday activities if you can approach it with cheerful practicality rather than thinly-veiled dread!
Know your goals
Hopefully making the positivity a little easier, set yourself some clear and reasonable success criteria for your holiday writing. If you decide you’re going to write 5000 words every day while also trying to celebrate with family and friends, you’re likely to have a hard time approaching that with any level of joy. You’re also likely not to manage it, and almost nothing kills your desire to work as much as feeling like you’re behind on that work. Be realistic. Think about how much time you feel confident you can carve out per day, then work out what you can comfortably get done in less time than that. Stuff is going to come up, you will almost certainly be busier than you anticipate at least some of the time, so set yourself up for success by creating goals that will be achievable, even with some derailment of your anticipated writing time.
Depending on how you work best, or what stage of your project you’re at, this could take a number of forms. Word count, certain amount of time spent on your project, pages edited—whatever makes sense for you, outline your goals so that you know for sure when you’ve achieved them. Hitting some pre-determined milestones will do wonders for your ability to keep going back, so it’s a lot better for your work overall if your goals are nice and easy to achieve. The holiday season is unlikely to be your most productive time of year, so be gentle with yourself and set the bar lower than usual.
Okay, so maybe you’re reading this and feeling like it will be genuinely impossible to squeeze any writing in at all. Or feeling like you just don’t want to.
Remember that you can just… not.
Look, if you need to take a break from your writing, or give yourself some time off to hang out with the people you love, or just spend some time enjoying the season for yourself, do it. You don’t have to write every day to be a writer or to achieve success, and it’s okay to take a holiday! We need time away from our regular jobs to recharge, and sometimes that’s true of writing as well. If that’s what feels like the right choice for you, do it without guilt. You don’t need anybody’s permission, obviously, but if it makes you feel better you have mine.
Got any tips for writing during busy times?
Or during times when your schedule is interrupted for any reason? Share ‘em in the comments. And let me know if you have any writing goals you still want to achieve before the end of the year!