We’re coming into one of the strangest times of the year for the writer: the Holidays.
The dreaded Holidays bring with them a legitimate army of distractions, obstructions, and pitfalls for the writer. Between a total disruption of the work schedule, extra obligations to spend time with the family you aren’t seeing regularly, and oh yeah, let’s not forget, here in America there are at least two massive debilitating food comas on the horizon. Time to write is hard enough to come by when things are normal, but things are hardly normal at this time of year.
Which is why I find it particularly sadistic to put a writer’s torture device like NaNoWriMo smack in the middle of it… but that’s a rant for another day. (I’m not doing NaNo this year, nor do I have plans to ever do it. I have better things to do with my time than subject myself to the slings and arrows of attempting to write an entire half of a novel [50,000 words do not a novel make] in the least writer-friendly part of the year. Further, if you need NaNo to finally motivate you to write that novel you’ve been thinking about writing, then maybe — maybe! — writing isn’t your thing. But there I go digressing.)
On a writer’s website I frequent, an aspiring writer, who seemed in true distress, asked the question in a state of near hysteria: with meals to cook, shopping to do, family to visit, kids to take care of, etc… how do you find the time to write through this time?
I may be a hopeless optimist, and I may be a tireless (or tiresome, depending on your point of view) motivator — I really do make myself sick sometimes with all the rah-rah-rah and YOU CAN DO IT speeches around here — but one thing I’m also guilty of is a bit of a blunt streak. Okay, maybe less of a streak and more of a huge angry puckered blunt scar. I don’t like to mince words, and most of the time, a harsh dose of the truth is a lot more helpful. (This gets me in a lot of trouble with my wife and, well, people in general, but at 35, I am who I am.)
So I responded the only way I could think to: The same way you make time any other time of the year. Sure, you’ve got Holiday Things clamoring for your attention to the left and to the right, like a swarm of needy toddlers who have just learned that you will actually come running the moment they say “daddy”. And yeah, maybe you’re more obligated to devote time to these Things than usual. But the way you take time to write now is the same way you take time at any other point in the year.
You prioritize. You set values on the things that matter to you and you allocate time accordingly. Maybe this is the year where instead of waking up at 3 AM to go Black Friday shopping, you sleep in until 6 instead, and get up to write while the rest of the family is fighting for their lives in the mad crush of humanity trying to get to the Tickle Me Elmos of this year. Maybe instead of sitting around watching the Lions lose on Turkey Day (a favorite national pastime) you sneak off to jot down a few words. Maybe you don’t have to cook EVERY SINGLE DISH for your family’s dinner, and with the time you free up, you can escape to your study (or your car, or your bathroom, or your wherever) to get some words on the page. You might upset a few people when you bust up their traditions, but you’ll stay on target for your WIP.
Or maybe you multitask and pull double duty. Wake up even earlier to do your writing before the family wakes up, or stay up late to pound the page after they fall asleep. Keep the laptop on the kitchen counter while you’re cooking and season your draft while you season the mashed potatoes. Jot notes on characters and plot points in your favorite organizational writer’s app while you’re waiting in line to shop at 4 AM. Granted, you do this, and you’ll certainly have some consequences: sleep deprivation and overly salty mashed potatoes at the very least.
Or a lunatic altered personality that grins vacuously at a computer while stirring a bowl full of, apparently, WHOLE UNCUT VEGETABLES. Who could be that happy? Who could use a computer at all in the kitchen without destroying it immediately with splattered sauce and flying crumbs?
Or, and here’s the really crazy part where we entertain notions that maybe we don’t want to, you don’t.
It’s tempting to think that with the time off you could or even should get tons of extra work in on your writing. But you don’t have to.
This is not me telling you to make like Elsa and let your writing go over the holidays. Momentum matters, and you’re gonna be turkey-drunk enough to have plenty of trouble getting back in the rhythm when the world returns to normal. By all means, write when you can. But the world isn’t going to stop spinning, and your novel won’t collapse, and your writing hand won’t wither to an ashen husk if you take a little time off.
Writing can be something like a second job, and we need time off from any job if we want to not lose our minds.
And let’s be honest: during these strange days, we lose our minds enough to begin with.
LOOK AT ME ENDING NOT JUST A SENTENCE BUT A WHOLE BLARG POST WITH A PREPOSITION
ENGLISH TEACHERS DON’T CARE WHEE
This weekly Re-Motivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every Saturday, I use LindaGHill‘s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.