Whether you want to blog more frequently, write poetry, or craft the next great literary novel, you’ve got to keep showing up consistently to write.
Focus on the right routines, habits, and practices and you’ll get the writing done, while getting better at the craft.
But life can get in the way. How can you be disciplined and productive in the holiday season, with gifts to wrap, family gatherings, and holiday travel?
Holidays can disrupt your writing routines.
Recognize that your processes may have to shift for a few weeks. If you’re traveling or entertaining or simply getting through the rush, you may not have the luxury of consistent time to write and reflect.
You have a choice: beat yourself up about the blown schedule, or use the holidays to your long-term advantage.
Yes, the holidays bring unexpected gifts for the prepared mind.
If you approach this period intentionally, you can give yourself fodder to fuel your writing for the year to come.
Here are a couple ways to the holidays can help, rather than hinder, your writing.
Use parties and family gatherings for research
During the holidays, your circle of personal interactions may change. You have a holiday dinner with that uncle who breaks into “I am a Pirate King” at family gatherings. You see acquaintances you only encounter once a year, or people you used to work with long ago, and find out what’s happening in their lives.
Don’t let these golden moments pass unnoticed.
Do you write fiction? Watch the family dynamics. Notice the colorful characters as well as the quiet ones who linger in the corner. Listen for interesting turns of phrases. Perhaps you’ll pick up an idea for a character trait or a bit of dialog. Observe yourself as well; if you’re uncomfortable in a situation, your characters may feel something similar.
Do you write nonfiction? Use the holidays to test analogies or explanations in conversation and see if they make sense. Assess a listener’s interest in your topic, and look for effective “hooks” to catch people’s attention. Speaking about your topic will make you more comfortable writing about it.
Are you a business writer? Talking with people outside your industry can be incredibly valuable. Find out what people already know or what confuses them about your business. For example, what does your aunt understand, or misunderstand, about cryptocurrency? What does the neighbor’s college-aged son think about marketing? What words do they use to talk about your business?
Find a few moments after the event to make notes on what you’ve heard, before it disappears from your memory. Maintain a file called “holiday notes” and add to it when you get a chance. Don’t worry, at first, about where and how you will use these snippets of insight. Simply writing them down will help you process and retain the thoughts.
Make something special of the quiet time
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is one of my favorite times of year. Many businesses close, traffic dissipates, and the pace of everything slows – if you let it.
Take advantage of the lull to contemplate your writing goals.
If you’re traveling, the change of location might inspire you. Being in transition gives you distance from your life.
For example, I came up with the idea for The Writer’s Process while sitting on a plane, waiting to taxi to the gate at O’Hare airport. Because I had been thinking about my writing objectives, this otherwise empty time bore fruit.
Whether you’re staying home or going into an empty office, enjoy the unusual peace and use the time for planning.
Commit to writing every day in this period, even for only 10-15 minutes, as a way of inviting deep thought and incubating your ideas. Plan for a year ahead that includes space for meaningful work. Writing is a physical manifestation of deep thought, so write.
When you to return to your usual writing routines and schedules in the new year, you may find them enriched by the time you’ve spent away.