5 Tips for Writing During the Holidays
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5 Tips for Successfully Writing During the Holidays

It’s the holiday season, and for many people the period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is the busiest time of the year. These festive weeks are packed with activities: planning, shopping, decorating, cooking and baking, religious observances, holiday concerts, charity work, sports events, gift-wrapping, entertaining, traveling, and gatherings with family and friends, not to mention everyday chores and jobs. Even when we’ve been dedicated to our craft, we may struggle to find time to write, much less stick to the schedule that helped us stay productive throughout the year. And we certainly want to take enough time to celebrate the joys of the season while bringing joy to others. Still, we don’t want to totally ignore our writing for more than five weeks, especially if we have manuscripts due or other writing deadlines to meet. So what’s a committed writer to do? Here are ideas to keep you writing during the holidays—or during other particularly busy times in your life.

1. Use scraps of time effectively.

You might be used to writing sessions that last one or more hours, but you can accomplish meaningful writing tasks even when your time is far more limited. In 10 or 15 minutes you can:
  • Work on your outline for an article or story.
  • List title ideas.
  • Write some dialogue for a scene.
  • Describe a setting.
  • Do some proofreading.
  • Revise a page or two.
If you have a little more time, you can:
  • Write part of a work in progress.
  • Review one or more rejected manuscripts and decide which should be revised.
  • Find one or more markets for manuscripts that seem ready to go.
  • Work on a cover letter or query.
  • Write a plot summary or “pitch”.
  • Read “wish lists” from one or more editors/publishers/agents to see if you have something that fits their needs.
Small steps? Yes. But small steps are realistic during hectic times, and they do move us forward. Completing some writing each day also can boost our spirits and ease feelings of guilt that we “aren’t writing.” As you think of your own goals and projects, in what other ways could you use short writing times? Add those to the list.

2. Grab time in the morning or at night.

Seize 30 minutes or more by getting up earlier than usual. Are you more night owl than early bird? Grab that extra time at night. Be flexible. You might be used to writing at certain times on certain days, or even every day. But when writing during the holidays makes that impossible, do what you can from one day to the next.

3. Writing and Learning “On the Go”

Do your holiday plans involve travel? If you’re driving, you might listen to podcasts or audiobooks about the craft of writing, for example On Writing by Stephen King or Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird. And listen to books that are good examples of the type of writing you do (or plan to do)—memoir, historical fiction, sports nonfiction, biography, humor, science fiction, or whatever. If you’re a passenger in a car, train, or plane, you might be able to do some serious writing en route. If it’s family time in the car, you might get everyone writing during the holidays or sharing their ideas about something related to the holidays. The third website article in the list below can get you started.

4. Capture—and Use—Your Experiences

Times of heightened emotion can nurture a writer’s creativity. For one thing, they can lead to new ideas. One writer decided to interview people for an article about healthy ways to handle stress during the holidays, while another explored the history of popular holiday songs. Keep track of ideas that seem promising. A small notebook, your cell phone, or even a napkin can work for this purpose when you’re away from home. Holiday happenings offer chances to polish our skills. We can try to be fully present as we experience the myriad emotions and vivid sensory aspects of the season—sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touch (textures and temperatures). Then put those things into words.
  • How would you describe cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie—the smell, taste, texture?
  • Snow falling during a walk on a December evening?
  • Children singing holiday songs?
  • The joy of an elderly relative upon meeting the newest baby in the family for the first time?

5. Journal.

Journaling is another way to maintain your writing habit during busy times. This might seem like a trite suggestion, but many writers say journaling improves their skills as well as releasing emotions, so it’s worth a try if you haven’t done it. Journal entries can be brief and need not be done daily, so it’s a flexible way to write. Entries can record and express a range of experiences and impressions. Some writers who journal find it helpful to use prompts like the following as they reflect on their lives:
  • I see…
  • I think…
  • I feel…
  • I wonder…
  • I hope…
  • I can…
  • I will…
As you ponder these ideas for writing during the holidays, remember the habits that have served you well in the past. Chances are, you are most productive when you do the following things: Set goals. Make a plan. Stick with it. Be disciplined. Stay focused. Have a wonderful holiday season, be well, and happy writing!

Related Links – Writing During the Holidays

Victoria Sherrow has published short stories, articles, poetry, and books (fiction and nonfiction) for readers aged preschool through adult. Her books have received starred reviews and been honored by the American Library Association, Parents Choice Gold Award, National Association for the Advancement of Science, and NYPL Best Books for the Teenage, among others. Victoria has taught writing for more than 25 years and has also been an assistant editor and writing contest judge. During the holidays, she writes whenever and wherever she can while fully enjoying the festivities.    

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