Every November I’m convinced the holidays won’t down slow my writing.
Every year I’m wrong.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are all joyous celebrations, but they come at the end of the year when I’m already struggling to meet my annual writing goals. Add the colder weather, a wide array of Christmas movies, and all the fun holiday activities in our area, and it’s mind-boggling I get any work done in November or December.
Taking extended time off is rarely an option for me. I do have writer friends who through careful planning manage to take December off, but I’ve never been able to do this. I have found ways to meet my writing goals and enjoy the holidays, though, and you can too!
Here are my top 4 tips.
1. Assess your current writing goals.
– Are you under deadline?
– If yes, when is the manuscript due?
– If no, how important is it to you to finish the draft/revisions before January first?
– How much of the book is finished?
– What other deadlines or writing-related projects do you have coming up right away in January or February?
2. Prioritize your list.
– Based on the above, what absolutely has to get done between now and the first of January? Be specific and write everything down. This is your Must-Do list.
– What can wait until after the holidays? This is your Upcoming list.
Now, look at the Must-Do list. Ask yourself if you had nothing on your schedule, could you get everything done on time? If your heart is tapping out Morse code at warp speed, you’re probably being too ambitious. Did you sneak a few items on there that aren’t absolutely essential? Move them to the Upcoming list. If not, don’t panic. We’ll come up with a strategy to tackle them in the next section.
Don’t be tempted to push through on your current project if you have an upcoming deadline on a different one. Even if you think you can handle both, it’s better to focus on the one with the most pressing deadline. You might get sick. Family might show up on your doorstep. A natural disaster could occur. The best case scenario? You’ll finish early and enjoy some time off.
3. Get out your calendar.
It’s time to merge your home life with your writing. Hold on, this could get bumpy! I don’t know what kind of calendar system you use. Paper? Day planner? Your phone? Whatever your preferred method, review your calendar and add any upcoming parties, kids’ sporting events or performances, family gatherings, meetings, and church events.
Now look at each week and figure out how you can fit your Must-Do writing list in with the other essentials on your calendar. Set realistic writing goals and give yourself a cushion. How? Instead of deciding to write 1200 words every day for the next three weeks, aim for 1400 words each day. Then, if something fun comes up or you get sick, you’ll have three buffer days.
Obviously, if you usually squeeze out an hour of writing every weeknight and your calendar now has two holiday events each week, you’ll have to make a decision. Skip some of the events? Lower your writing expectations? Or increase your writing on the other nights. It’s important to soak in the Christmas season, so I recommend cutting yourself some slack.
*Important: If you have a book due soon and you’re stressed about meeting your deadline, do the BARE minimum of holiday prep. Say no to any holiday gathering that isn’t essential or the highlight of your year. Ditch the Christmas cards and pare down or eliminate baking seasonal treats. If the thought of figuring out the “perfect gift” for each person on your list is eroding your stomach lining, grab the TUMS, take a deep breath and either buy gift cards or premade gift baskets. Hey, I personally love getting a gift card, and I haven’t met a gift basket I haven’t adored.*
4. Go big on lighter-workload days.
See that Tuesday when you have the entire evening clear? That’s going to be pizza night, and you, my friend, are going to make some serious progress on your book. Think of this as a gift to yourself. The sooner you knock out that Must-Do list, the sooner you can breathe easy and relax. An extra two hours here or there can make all the difference in reaching your goals.
As I made the transition from aspiring writer to full-time author, I’ve had to make some tough decisions about the holiday season. Last year I skipped sending out Christmas cards, baked two types of cookies instead of six, and ordered 75% of our Christmas gifts online. I also left about half of our decorations in the basement. Will I do this every year? I don’t know. But I refuse to feel guilty about scaling back. My writing goals are important to me, and I’m willing to sacrifice to meet them. I still enjoyed the holiday season and felt less frazzled.
The above tips can be useful for writers either on deadline or who need that extra push to stay on track with their goals. If you’re worried about losing momentum this time of year, try my method! I hope it works for you.
Do you write through the holidays? What is your top tip?
Thank you, Dani, for letting me be your guest today!
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The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride
Coming Home for Christmas
Wedding planner Lexi Harrington needs a manager for her inherited Wyoming ranch. Clint Romine is the perfect man for the job, but the ruggedly handsome cowboy soon presents a new dilemma—distraction. Lexi can’t fall for a small-town rancher when she’s planning to return to her big-city career after the holidays. Home has always been elusive for former foster kid Clint. Working alongside Lexi at Rock Step Ranch feels too cozy—and too risky. Opening up to her means revealing a secret about his past that could jeopardize everything he holds dear. This Christmas, can Clint learn to trust Lexi with the truth…and with his heart?
Jill Kemerer writes Christian fiction and nonfiction. She is a multi-published author of Christian romance novels for Harlequin Love Inspired. Jill’s essentials include coffee, M&Ms, books and magazines, her miniature-dachshund, and taking long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. Jill loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website, jillkemerer.com.