Does it seem like your only choice is between letting your consistent writing habit fall away or ignoring your family while you hole-up in a far corner of your home to reach your word quota? Is there a third alternative? Here’s how to focus on writing during the holidays without missing out on all the things that make this time of year so special:
Why It’s So Easy to Burnout Right Now
While this whole year has been a wildcard (and that, in itself, is enough to add major stress), this season is particularly difficult when it comes to maintaining a steady and consistent writing habit. There are only a handful of weeks, and it’s nearly impossible to throw in all the holiday extras without feeling the pressure of a too-full schedule.
Plus, in my neck of the woods, the daylight savings time change is rough. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (a little extra) and enough sunlight (as much as you can in a cloudy place) so you can feel your best. Those two factors, along with swapping out nutritional food for rich holiday treats can make you feel less-than-optimal. And it can creep up on you! Do a little evaluation on your sleep, sun, and nutrition. (Update: Research Vitamin D and discuss supplementing with your doctor.)
There’s also a certain level of holiday expectation. Likely, there’s no one reminding you to meet your weekly word quota. But forget to hang a family member’s favorite ornament? You’re going to hear about it 😉 Writing obligations fall to the end of the list a lot faster than other obligations. Set a helpful noontime reminder on your phone to manage expectations–yours and others’.
A Gift for Yourself
One of the best things about the holidays is the opportunity to carefully consider the special people in your life. Choosing gifts, writing cards, making memories–there are so many opportunities to let your loved ones know what they mean to you.
But don’t forget to add yourself to the gift list.
If you know you’ll feel sad or discouraged if you don’t write, then give yourself the gift of writing time this year. Even if you’re slipping away for ten or fifteen minutes each day to work on your WIP, bless your friends and family by taking good care of yourself.
You’ll feel even more generous and jolly when you’ve done a little writing each day.
Involve Loved Ones
You can delegate tasks on your to-do list without sacrificing holiday traditions. For example, if you like to make cookies with your kids, is it important to make the recipe from scratch or can you save time on cleanup by purchasing frozen dough instead? That way, you still get to spend time on the fun part (shaping, decorating, baking, eating) but save time on the not-so-fun kitchen cleanup. If it has to be a special recipe, can you delegate the dishwashing or the ingredient round up? Say, “I’m going to write for fifteen minutes. Can you measure and set out the ingredients on the counter, and fill the sink halfway with soapy warm water? Then we’ll make the cookies together.”
Ask for help on gift wrapping, decorating, and tidying up. You don’t have to do all the things to be present during the season. Your family will, in turn, feel more involved in traditions, as well as more satisfied to be able to give back to you. (You’re not that easy to buy gifts for, you know.)
Create the Holiday *You* Want
When my grandmother fell ill one Christmas, we discovered a dark family secret: we were all fibbers. Gran would always gift each family member with a box of chocolate-covered cherries. On this year, she pulled me aside a few days before and pressed money into my hand. “Get the cherries,” she hissed.
When I mentioned this my mother, she shook her head. “I hate those things. None for me. I always give mine to your dad.”
“I just eat them because they’re around,” he said.
“But you love cherries,” I reminded him.
“I like *real* cherries. Not … whatever those are.”
But surely Gran should have a box of chocolate covered cherries? Nope. Turns out, she never touched the things. She didn’t like to make candy but felt that there ought to be Christmas candy lying around so it would feel like the holidays.
You wouldn’t believe how many traditions are rooted in guilt or misunderstanding 🙂 Gather a few family members and ask them which activities and traditions are their favorite, must-have features, and which leave them feeling ‘meh’. Chances are, you’ll gift the entire family with more freedom this year!
Remember Who’s Boss
Since Mr. Smith works shift work, often on holidays, our families have had to be flexible. So we also learned that we do the holidays, we don’t let the holidays do us, ha! My own mom discovered she loves to spend a quiet holiday meditating on values and truths, and then welcomes others into her home on the following day. She said she never would have known how peaceful it was to celebrate in this way, if we hadn’t had to adjust for the shift schedule.
So remember–you can celebrate at any time. The feelings are what make it special, not the date on the calendar.
I know this year’s celebration will look a lot different, and that there will be complicated feelings involved. Maybe you’re facing the opposite problem–you have plenty of time to write, but are longing for holiday hustle and bustle. If that’s the case, know that while the situation is certainly not one that any of us wanted, this is an opportunity to reassess our traditions and create new ways to connect. Hang in there, friend <3
NOW YOU: Do you have other ideas about how to focus on writing during the holidays?