Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Cheer

by Joan

If you’re at all like me, you’re feeling stretched for time right now. Between holiday shopping, cooking, wrapping and partying, kids off school, visiting relatives, work/work (as we WWWers like to call it) reading, movies, laundry, year-end tax planning and, oh yeah, writing projects, I feel as though I’m a Christmas tree ladened with too many ornaments.

I’ve always been a multi-tasker, but lately I feel as though I’m not giving 100 percent to any one project. I’ve bookmarked (or paused) six books, and I’m in the middle of writing three manuscripts (thanks NaNo!), while submitting two others. My desk is a mess, my house is littered with rolls of wrapping paper and unopened mail, and my sink is decorated with a broiler pan that won’t come clean no matter how many times I soak and scrub it.

So here are my tips for surviving the holidays:

Pick two things and check them off the list
I might not be able to finish The Women in White (400 remaining out of 600 pages) before it’s due at the library today (okay, yesterday), I might not be able to write a full chapter in my WIP, but I can write a character sketch and this blog post.

Make a list and determine what absolutely must get done today. Repeat tomorrow. It’s easy to push off writing, especially with self-imposed deadlines, but commit to a goal and stick to it. (Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain.)

Make a schedule
When I write with Pamela, we set up a timeline. Let’s say I have until December 31 to complete the items on my list. How long does each thing take? In order of priority (see above), make a daily schedule and stick to it. I’ve committed to finishing one of my WIPs by March 31. How many words do I need to write to get it done?

Manage your time
Easy to say, but when you’re reading blogs, answering email, watching a movie for “research” purposes, an hour or three can get away from you. Set aside a time when you’re less focused (for me it’s right when I wake up, before the coffee has soaked in) and be diligent about the rest of your time.

Ask for help

No one can write your book for you, but you can enlist your kids to take on some of the day-to-day. Can they wrap a few gifts? If your kid drives, give him the shopping list while you write a few hundred words.

Beg off
I know I can’t do everything. Push a lunch or two into the New Year, so you can rehash with friends what you enjoyed most about the holidays.

Take a walk

We’ve been told by both Aldous Huxley and Kingsley Amis that, (paraphrasing) the art of writing is applying the seat of our pants to our chair. But unless I observe life every once in a while, whether it’s a walk through the neighborhood or in a shopping mall, my writing does not reflect the world around me and the interesting characters I encounter.

Don’t beat yourself up (I’m good at this)
It won’t all get done. But do what you can and feel good about it.

And finally…

Enjoy! (i.e. Drink)
Everyone knows writers are more inspired after a few drinks. Whether it’s some spiked egg nog or a peppermint patty (hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps) like I had the other day, enjoy and refuel your imagination.

Happy holidays everyone!


  1. I can so relate to the feeling of doing so many things and not doing anything well these days. But you're right about walking - Julia Cameron writes about how key taking those walks are - walking always clears my head and gives me new ideas, too. Hey, think I'll take one now. :)

  2. and.. add to that.. getting sick. Been to the doctor twice in 3 days. Two shots. Two antibiotics. One expectorant. One allergy medicine. Two nose sprays. Tylenol and Motrin. And I have to go to a job too. I think I'll flush myself down the toilet or go to Australia.

    Hurry Christmas. Don't be late.


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