As the holidays approach, our lives get busier. First there is Thanksgiving, and everyone is either cooking or going to someone’s house who is cooking. Then come the December holidays where there are more visits with friends and family, shopping for gifts, cards to be sent, holiday parties at work, at home, with friends, with family. Any way you look at, you’re going to have demands on your time that you don’t have the rest of the year. A lot of the free time you usually devote to writing might be allocated to preparing for the holidays, forcing you to be away from your computer. How is a writer to stay on track when all this is going on?
By scheduling your writing time and sticking to it.
This might involve a shift in your schedule. Maybe you have to get up an hour earlier each morning or write on your lunch hour or bring the Alpha Smart to the kids’ football games. Whatever it takes, you can make it happen.
Here are some suggestions for staying on track with your writing while getting through the holidays. (Note: This also works for the rest of the year!)
1. Set reasonable goals. I work full time, so during the week I have less energy to give to my writing; therefore, I set small page goals Monday through Friday, currently 4 pages a day. On Saturdays when I have more time and more energy, I write 10 pages. On Sundays I am off to give my brain a rest; however, Sundays can also be used to make up for lost time if I fall behind. Whatever your goals are, make them realistic and achievable. Impossible goals are failure waiting to happen.
2. Rearrange your schedule. I have discovered I do my better writing in the morning when I am fully rested, so I wake up an hour early during the week to accomplish my page goals for the day. Usually I achieve the whole 4 pages, but even if I only get 2 done in the morning, that leaves only 2 more to write in the evening. Goal achieved. (Another advantage to waking up very early is that the household is usually still asleep and the phone doesn’t ring!)
3. Prepare for events. If you know you are having twenty people for dinner on a day when you normally would write 6 pages, set a reasonable goal for that day. Maybe you can only write 3 pages that day, but since you have nothing scheduled for Sunday you can write the additional 3 that day, keeping you on track. Or maybe you get up really early and knock out the 6 pages at 5AM. Or maybe you assign those 6 pages to another day because there is no way you would get the writing done with this huge dinner to prepare. Do whatever works best for you, guilt-free, as long as you set the right goal and stick to it.
4. Set expectations with family. Make an announcement to your family that you are setting aside a certain time for writing. No one should disturb you during this time unless there is blood or fire involved. Sometimes our spouses and kids can unwittingly sabotage our efforts to write. Non-writers usually don’t understand that just because we are sitting at home, we are actually working. Sometimes a little grandstanding is required to get the point across, but most of the time your family wants you to be happy. Once they understand that this writing thing actually makes you happy, they will most likely try their best to help you achieve your goals.
5. Get enough rest. Waking up an hour early usually means you have to pay back that hour in sleep time. Maybe you need to go to bed an hour earlier at night. Record your favorite programs to watch later (maybe on that Sunday when you’re not writing) and hit the hay an hour earlier. Lack of sleep leads to irritability and poor health, and no one wants to be sick for the holidays!
6. Eat right. With all the holiday goodies around, it’s very tempting to let nutrition slide. However, in order to juggle the holidays along with writing and your normal life, you need all the energy you can get. Go ahead and have that pumpkin pie, just don’t forget the salad beforehand.
The holidays are meant to be a time of thanks for our blessings, of hope for the new year, not a time of stress and frustration. Set your writing goals so you can keep moving forward on your project even while the holidays are happening around you. Set those goals for success, not failure, even if it means you are writing less pages than you normally would. Enjoy your friends and family with the security of knowing that you are achieving your goals without taking away from the joy of the season. Preparation is the key.