JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

The Trouble With Holidays If You’re A Writer (Or Live With One)

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Most writers want to write. They don’t like interruptions to their writing routines. However painful it is to sit in front of a laptop or computer staring at a blank screen, it is more painful NOT to be sitting in front of your laptop. It is especially painful when you can’t stick to your writing routine because, yes, for sure, that is precisely the time when you feel you would be doing your best work.

If you’re a writer, you know where I’m heading with this because the season is upon us, and the big question becomes : How to keep writing without upsetting family and friends during the five to six weeks from Thanksgiving through Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year’s Eve?


Sticking To It

Bestselling author Stephen King says he writes every single day including on his birthday and on Christmas Day. In his book, On Writing, he explains: “If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind — they begin to seem like characters instead of real people.” Of course, if you’re Stephen King, no-one is going to raise an eyebrow if you stay at your desk until the turkey is carved and on your plate. How about us other writers? How can we stick to a writing routine in the midst of holiday merriment?

Best Tips

I went searching on the Internet for the best tips. I also skimmed through memoirs and autobiographies in my Kindle library to see if writers and journalists I admire wrote during the holiday season, and what they wrote about. I found several great blogs on the subject, and some truly terrific gems from my favorite authors.

In the interests of keeping my blog posts short during the holiday season (because if you’re pressed for time to write, you’re definitely pressed for time to read) this week I’ll share what I think are the best tips. Next week, I’ll share the gems from my favorite authors.

Oddly enough, I found a couple of the very best tips on a website for academics. Or perhaps not so oddly since academics, tenured professors included, are under more pressure than even indie authors to publish (master’s theses, dissertations, articles, books) on a regular basis.

Forewarn Family & Friends

Most useful tip? Let your family and friends know ahead of time that as much as you love them and want to spend time with them, you’re going to need to do some writing during the holidays. Perhaps find a visual symbol (red hair ribbon, Santa hat –or earplugs) and let them know you’re not ready for schmoozing till the symbol comes off.

Write in small chunks instead of waiting for big blocks of time that somehow never materialize. Accept that you’re not going to get as much done, and mark off the dates when you absolutely won’t be able to write (New Year’s Day?) to lessen the guilt up front.

Write while traveling: airports have outlets for plugging in laptops. Or make notes. Bestselling U.K. author Rachel Abbott utilizes boring hours when sitting around in airports to reflect on her writing and solve problems, even to come up with plot points and twists.

Work In The Cracks

Searching around the internet for holiday writing tips, I came across a new (to me) website, that bears checking out further especially as to self-editing advice. Most useful holiday tip? “Know Yourself: Think about where you get tripped up. Avoid those things as much as possible.” Equally important: “Know what helps you regain your focus whether it’s a quick walk or a ten-minute writing session.”

The holiday tips blog quotes Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art to suggest making use of the time you have. “Work in the cracks,” said Pressfield. The blog recommends, among other things, “getting up a little early[…]bringing writing implements wherever you go […] thinking about your characters while you drive.”

Find New Writing Place

And, from one of my favorite websites, a couple of tips that make a lot of sense if you’re spending your holiday or part of your holidays away from home: “Find a New Writing Place: Make it a point each time …to find a spot you can call your own. It may be yours for only thirty minutes, but that’s enough.”  Also, says the blog, “Carry A Notebook: If you have days where it’s impossible to sit down with a machine, don’t be afraid to try a piece of paper and pen. You can transcribe what you wrote at a later time.”

Finally, there’s always this upside to spending time with multitudes of friends and family as writer Joe Bunting explains: “During the holidays, we spend more time around people than any other season. What better time is there to study people’s desires, histories and actions[…] Paying attention to people this week could inspire dozens of new stories.”  Now, that’s something to forewarn family and friends about!

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  1. Pingback: What I Discovered About My Favorite Authors & The Holidays - JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

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