This weekly series of posts follows my writing journey as I prepare to independently release by debut novel, Safe Hands – a Crime story about an aging safe cracker called out of retirement for the sake of his dying wife and a son that hates his guts. It’s set for release in June 2018 and you can find out more here.
It’s The Most
Wonderful Distracting Time Of The Year
It’s that time of year again. The one where we try to squeeze a whole month’s worth of work and social engagements into the two weeks before the Christmas break. Even if you write full time, you will still be trying to hit all of your deadlines, stay focused on the WIP, pull in a few social gatherings and do all the Christmas shopping, but when you’re also attempting to fit your writing around a day job AND keep pace with all the festive shenanigans, it can be a real challenge to stay motivated.
I fit in to the latter category. I have a busy day job, which can involve lots of travel, and I have to fit my writing projects, The Joined Up Writing Podcast and this blog around days on the road and nights away. It’s a struggle at the best of times but as we approach the festive period, it’s easy to slip into the ‘I’ll get back to normal in January’ mindset.
The Road To January Is Paved With Good Intentions . . .
All that weight you put on since the start of December? No problem – diet starts in January. ‘No Drinking Alcohol In The Week’ rule? Oh, it’s only a few holiday drinks – I’ll have a dry January. Writing productivity through the floor? Not to worry, I’ll catch up in . . . JANUARY!! Why do we annually fool ourselves and get set up to feel disillusioned after the first couple of weeks of the new year? I don’t know. Human nature, I guess.
Some things to remember . . .
I’m afraid I can’t help you with your food and drink problems. It isn’t within the scope of this blog and come January 2nd, I’ll be eating celery sticks and crying on a treadmill just like the rest of you. But, I can offer some little reminders that will at least help you to keep your Writing boat afloat over the next few weeks.
This one is important. I speak from experience. In November I was all gung-ho. “Christmas? Pah! Big deal. I’m in the zone. I’ll have loads of extra time over the holidays to do stuff anyway.” Barely a week into December – when daylight seems to come and go before you’ve finished your breakfast and over-zealous family and friends are already waving mince pies and Baileys at you – Writing doesn’t seem so appealing. The warm sofa and TV boxsets are calling me and after a long day at work, who wants to sit down and write?
The fact of the matter is, there’s less time available at this time of year because of all the things mentioned above. So adjust your goals accordingly. You aren’t going to be as productive as you were in November, but don’t set yourself up to fail. Keep to the routine of scheduling your writing time, but BE REALISTIC. That doesn’t mean I’m giving you a free pass. You still need to sit down and do some work.
Rewards . . . because I’m worth it!
So how do you stay (or get) motivated to keep writing? You know those chocolates, that Baileys and the TV boxset I mentioned? They are your secret weapons over Christmas. You want to watch a Netflix episode? Then you best write 500 words, or finish that blog post, or edit those chapters you’ve been working on. Make it meaningful. A five minute ‘think about my book’ does not earn you quality time with a box of Milk Tray or allow you to re-acquaint yourself with that bottle of Christmas sherry. I’m suggesting a MINIMUM block of half an hour before you can even consider rewarding yourself. If you want to keep the momentum going and have something to show for December, an hour is even better.
Back To January . . .
Perhaps you need a little extra push and positive re-enforcement doesn’t always do it for you. Then let’s go back to that old devil called January. Most of us use the first month of the new year as an imaginary place, a magical kingdom where Positive Thinking is the law of the land and where all our dreams will come true. We WILL lose that weight. We WILL read more books. We WILL exercise more. We all do it, myself included, but let’s take a moment to be realistic again. Imagine you aren’t going to do any more writing until January 2nd. You’re going to relax, take it easy. Enjoy this well-earned rest. The writing can wait.
Now let’s go forward in time to the middle of January 2018. Let’s review your writing goals and how much closer you are to completing them. Hmm. You seem to be a few weeks behind the pace. That deadline you set yourself? Doesn’t seem so achievable now, does it? How are you enjoying looking at all those big fat ZEROES in the word count column? Feels pretty bad doesn’t it? Depressing, even. Then, here’s an idea . . .
Unless you’re superhuman or just far better-behaved than me, your December will not be as productive as other months in the year. However, you can still keep pushing forward with your projects. Even if you achieve two thirds of your normal output, that would still be a pretty good month and, I’m guessing, one of the most productive Decembers you’ve had. When the middle of January rolls around, wouldn’t you sooner be looking back at that achievement?
What are your tips for overcoming the festive slump? Let me know in the comments and I hope you all have a Merry yet productive Christmas!
3 thoughts on “How To Keep Writing Over Christmas”
As a writer you have to also have to read, read, read. It can be difficult to fit everything in during a ‘normal’ day, never mind Christmas. Still…you always have time for the things you really want to do, and as Stephen King said ‘If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools to write. Simple as that. ‘ Puts it all into perspective and illustrates just how focused and organised you have to be; especially if it takes ages to squeeze out any decent work. I’ve often set goals which are far too ambitious. I think your strategy is a sound and realistic one. I’ve taken to setting out weekly targets and will do the same for the festive period. Sometimes the mulled wine can get you past that difficult chapter.
That’s a great point, Keith – reading is really important and vital to being a good writer. I’m planning another post on that very topic and about how audio books can be a great way to fit in other fiction, when you have a busy schedule. Good luck with your goals and a little wine can go a looong way. Enjoy!