We’re smack in the middle of the holiday season right now, which is prime time for writers to become derailed. I’m not against a little holiday revelry, but I do understand that for me veering too far from my routine makes it hard to get back to it. If this is true for you, or the holidays tend to get you off track, try some of these tips to help you keep on writing through the holidays and well into 2015.
1. Know yourself. Think about where you get tripped up. Avoid those things as much as possible. I know that the hidden object games my kids like to play will suck me in every time, so I don’t even start, not even five minutes! By the same token do those things that help you stay on track. Knowing what I want to work on first thing in the morning helps me to get started and avoid distraction. So before I quit working the day before I make a quick list of priorities for the next day.
2. Remember your writing goals. You have your writing goals posted prominently where you can see them, right? (If not, check out this post on writing goals.) Sometimes the sheet I have my goals on can blend into the background. If you haven’t checked in with them in a while, take a moment to do so today. Are they still a good fit? If so, think about what made you pursue them in the first place. Focus on that to help you stay motivated when holiday parties call your name.
3. Stick to your regular routine as much as possible. There are added commitments and events during the holidays. It’s hard to keep our routines going when we’re away from our usual triggers and may be over-indulging in our rewards. (Check this post on building your writing habit if you don’t have one yet.) Keep doing all the things you can to support your writing.
4. Schedule your writing time. Figure out what you need to do to stay on track with your writing goals, and schedule that in. If another activity that you have to attend to takes the place of your writing time, find another time so that your writing doesn’t suffer.
5. Lean on your accountability partner or group. Let your supportive people know what’s hard for you and what you’re hoping to achieve. You can tell them, “Hey, if you see me on Facebook, tell me to get back to work,” or “I’m going to text you my word count every-other day.”
6. Make use of the time you have. As Steven Pressfield says, “Work in the cracks.” Get up a little early; go to bed a little later. Use your lunch hour. Ask your spouse to take over the kids for an hour. Bring writing implements with you wherever you go. Spend time thinking about your characters while you drive. Do what you can to make the most of time that isn’t otherwise occupied.
7. Don’t give in to discouragement. If you miss a milestone, allow yourself a few minutes to feel disappointed, and then get back to it. Don’t waste time beating yourself up about something you didn’t do. Do what you can right now.
8. Say no when you need to. A friend was lamenting the fact that there isn’t enough time to do all the things she wants to do during the holidays. I suggested that she pick the things that are really important to her and drop all the rest. It’s hard to say no to all that is on offer this time of year. But if we don’t, we have little time left for what is truly important. Prioritize what’s important and say no to everything else.
9. Prioritize self-care. Among your priorities should be getting enough sleep, eating well, and moving your body. We emphasize a sustainable self-care regimen in our year-long online writing program because a healthy and well-rested body and mind supports creative efforts. When stress goes up, we need to maintain the core activities that help us stay afloat.
10. Continue under all circumstances. This comes from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. There will always be other things competing for our attention, whether it has to do with the holidays, a day job, or [insert challenging life circumstances here]. If writing is one of your big dreams and it’s important to you, then continue no matter what else is happening in any small way you can.
How do you keep writing during the holidays? In what areas do you struggle? We invite you to share in the comments below. If you liked this post and want more, be sure and sign up for the Captain’s Blog: Craft so you won’t miss any posts.