If you’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, you know writing during the holidays isn’t so easy. November seems like the perfect month for such a project–it’s cold, it’s dreary, and it’s not busy. Until, at least, you get to Thanksgiving. Between the traveling, the preparations, and the day itself, you might lose 3-5 days of productivity. Which means the winter holidays–Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve/Day–are even worse.
From my perspective, it’s not always such a bad thing to take some time off from writing to be with friends and family. It can, in fact, be quite happy and reaffirming. However, there are a number of reasons you might very well want to continue writing during the holidays. You have a big deadline or you don’t want to lose momentum. Maybe you’ve felt particularly inspired lately and need to get those ideas down ASAP. Whatever the reason, there are strategies for staying productive around the holidays.
Write while you’re waiting. Yes, that line at the post office goes right out the door. And around the corner. And down the block. And–is that your front door? The holidays involve a lot of standing around, whether it’s waiting for your company party to start or that six-hour layover at the airport. And while you won’t be able to delve deep into that chapter about your protagonist’s tragic past, you do have the opportunity to jot down a few ideas.
Speaking of jotting, now is the time to streamline your expectations. You’ll feel far less frustrated if you given yourself a break on word counts and other numerical goals. In fact, if you want to keep writing during the holidays, your goal should be just that: write every day. Even if it’s just a sentence or two, it means you haven’t completely lost sight of your project. The point is to keep making progress and you can do that.
Which can also be achieved by brainstorming. Remember those outlines and outline-replacements we discussed last week? If you only have a little time to nurture your creativity, try doing it with exercises rather than The Big Project. Make some lists, free-write some dialogue, do a little bit of fun research. People-watch like you’ve never people-watched before.
And to that point, you can look elsewhere for inspiration and creative outlets. You might have cookies to decorate or ornaments to hang or holiday cards to write. If you’re driving to visit friends or family, listen to music or podcasts or a book on tape. If you’re more the type to volunteer on Christmas, talk to the people around you–hear their stories.
Or, if you’re not into the holidays and don’t have plans, then don’t apologize and don’t feel bad. Go ahead and write. Hit the New Year in full stride and embrace your solitary writer self–just make sure you get some human interaction at some point.
On this note, we won’t have a Novel Fridays post next week. But we hope you’ll join us on January 2 for more discussion. In the meantime, we at TSHS wish you a healthy, happy, and productive holidays!
If you have questions or topics you’d like to see covered on Novel Fridays, please share them in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.
About the Author: Julia Patt
Julia Patt, Contributing Editor, from Chestertown, MD, is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and the MFA program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she was a fiction editor for The Greensboro Review. Her young adult novels—i was a fourth grade zombie slayer and Through Waterless Places—were both shortlisted for Mslexia’s 2012 Children’s Novel Competition, and her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Surreal South ’11, Stymie, and PANK.