There’s a giant mug on my kitchen shelf that reads, “Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle.” It’s good advice for this time of year when life is full of distractions. Just when I need to concentrate on feature articles for clients, the pleasures of the season call to me. Add to that the pressures of shopping for gifts, decorating my living space, visiting family and friends, and watching Christmas movies. Distractions are everywhere. With so many activities demanding my time and attention, who has time to write?
While those pesky holiday distractions won’t go away any time soon, you can still work around them to accomplish your writing goals. Even a little bit each day is better than not writing at all. You may be surprised at how much you can accomplish in shorter writing sessions.
Here are my suggestions to avoid distractions and keep writing during the holidays.
Set smaller goals. You might be used to writing for an hour a day, or writing until you finish 1,000 words. Time may work against you during the holidays, so you might consider setting smaller goals. Instead of writing 1,000 words, aim for writing one page a day (or approximately 250 words). Or instead of writing for an hour, consider a 15-minute session.
Use index cards. One 3×5 or 4×6 card can hold several sentences, maybe one to two paragraphs. If you’re really pressed for time, grab one index card and jot down notes about plots or characters. By the end of the month, you will have collected enough ideas to start writing your next story in earnest.
Set office hours – and stick to them. If all you have in your schedule is 30 minutes when you first get up in the morning, set that time aside. More important, ask your family to respect our personal time.
Set a timer. Use the timer on your phone or computer. Set it for 10 minutes or 20 minutes, or however much time you have. When the timer starts, write to your heart’s content, whatever comes to your mind. You never know where your freewriting will take you. When the timer rings, stop. Don’t worry about perfection. Focus on getting your ideas down on paper first; you can always edit later.
Write first thing in the morning. When you first arise, grab your cup of coffee or tea and begin writing. You’ll get it out of the way so you can enjoy the rest of the day. Or conversely, write before bedtime. Make a deal with yourself not to go to bed until you’ve written one page.
Of course, another option is to forget all about writing altogether and indulge in the holidays instead. Enjoy the celebrations, and use the holidays to gather inspiration. But as you do sip your egg nog and go caroling, take note of your surroundings. Spend time people watching, which could inspire characters for your next novel. Try activities you haven’t done before, like creating your own Christmas ornaments or cutting down a fresh tree. With every experience, note the sights and sounds around you. Remember to carry a notebook to jot down your impressions of the people, places and events you’ve seen. You never know if you might use them later.
There’s a preconceived idea that writing takes up huge chunks of time, which I think is why many of us avoid writing. And with the holidays comes too many distractions to ignore. By planning ahead and keeping a consistent practice with smaller goals and shorter writing sessions, you can accomplish your writing goals — and still enjoy the holidays.
Don’t let the holidays overwhelm you and derail your writing practice. Use it to your advantage to inspire fresh stories. When it comes time to start writing in earnest again, you’ll have plenty of ideas to keep you writing all through the New Year.