A Post-Holiday Writing Guide

Christmas is over, but my kids are at home, my mom is visiting and my husband is on vacation. I always wonder whether I should give up trying to write this time of year and give into the reality that writing is nearly impossible when the family’s together. Why bother? It’s not easy being a writer in any household, but I find it particularly difficult during the holidays because the house is full and I can rarely steal away with my laptop and a cup of coffee for an hour or two.

At the same time, I know that when I stop writing, even for a few days, I lose my momentum. When I get back to my projects I spend hours re-reading the last draft, sifting through my notes and trying remember my plot details. Not writing may be great for a day or two, but it’s much too painful when I start-up again. Even though my family members scowl when I hunker down, I’m convinced that writing is a lot like exercise. A few days off and my mind gets flabby.

I’ve compiled a list of tips that help me write through the holidays, even when the kids are home, the house is full and the distractions are many. My hope is that they help you the way they’ve helped me.

Happy Holidays and Happy Writing!

Deb’s Post-Holiday Writing Guide:

1) Write every day, even if you have only a few minutes
I find that this is the key to maintain a momentum, holidays and everyday. You may not have time to revise an entire chapter, but keeping your head in your writing project is essential and saves time when you do have a longer stretch of writing time.

2) Make the most of “stolen moments”
For years I carried my laptop with me everywhere, now I have a tablet computer that I tuck in my purse. I write when I’m waiting for my dentist, during my son’s basketball practice, and when I’m on the bus chaperoning a band trip. The same principle works when my house is full. Some of my best ideas come during these stolen moments. I suspect it works well because this type of writing feels illicit.

3) Don’t make excuses
You’re a writer, and writing is what you do. Not everyone will understand your obsession, but that’s okay. You don’t owe others an explanation for doing what you love to do.

4) Save your small steps for the busiest times
Taking on a big project is probably unrealistic during the holidays, but it’s ideal for short projects. The week between Christmas and the New Year is a great time to work on flash or hint fiction or small parts of a larger project

5) Know when to stop
As much I encourage you not to deny yourself writing time during the holidays, it’s also important to know when to take a break from everything, even writing.

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3 thoughts on “A Post-Holiday Writing Guide

  1. John A. Bartelloni

    Many thanks for this post that prompted me to examine and renew my commitment to writing. I enrolled at GMU three years ago to find my voice. In 2011, however, I wrote very little. Clearly, I have been coasting.

    As you suggest, writers must be ever vigilant in finding times and places, often unorthodox, where they can reaffirm their craft. Similarly, writers need to find time to read. As a brilliant, albeit brittle, high school English teacher told me more than a few years ago, “Young man, read first to learn; read next to enjoy.” Writers who fail to read critically can convey little of import to their readers. Like stale bread, they do not nourish.

    We who call ourselves writers, poseurs and genuine articles alike, must also attend to our psychological needs.

    To prepare for ENGH 412, I have been exploring THE STORIES OF BREECE D’J PANCAKE, the slim oeuvre of a talented writer who killed himself in 1979 a few months shy of his 27th birthday. According to James Alan McPherson in his forward to STORIES, he,an African American born in the South who had left, returned, and would soon leave again, and the West Virginia born Breece Pancake as he was still known were both outsiders at Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia.

    McPherson left Charlottesville for New Haven in the summer of 1978; Pancake remained in “The Hook” as the city has been known to generations of UVa students until his self-inflicted death the following April. McPherson maintained that Pancake, of working class stock from Milton, WV, stored his pain in a private room; at some point having been vanquished by his demons, this talented and tormented writer decided to exit this life via gunshot.

    As a young man in his mid-twenties, Pancake drank heavily. Ditto here. Breece Pancake during that period of his life was in love with a beautiful woman. Ditto here. My modern Helen of Troy, insisted however, that I enter therapy. Our relationship was doomed for many reasons, but I remain grateful to Lady X (I never mention her name)for having led me to a path, although often uneven, of self understanding.

    No such intervention appears to have been made during the life of Breece D’J Pancake. What a shame that he failed to avail himself of the many resources at UVa and in Charlottesville where he could have confronted his pains in their shadows. Had he known how to seek help and been comfortable doing so, Breece D’J Pancake might be heralded today as the Updike of his generation.

    Life is short.

    Every day is a gift.

  2. I agree with Neil. It’s usually hard to “start” writing, especially if it is a big project. But once you start cranking out the words, it gets easier and easier.

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