With winter on its way and holidays right around the corner, we often find that our writing time gives way to holiday tasks and preparations. Our routines favor indulgence rather than diligence and our minds are filled with sugar plum dreams rather than book plots. As a result, our motivation tanks, our book sales stagnate, and we're left with feelings of dissatisfaction when spring rolls around. We wish we'd spent more time developing that idea we had, that we had finished that draft that's now been collecting dust for three months, or that we had taken the time to promote our published books more.
Instead of suffering from the post-holiday writer's guilt, the goal is to keep writing despite our busy festive schedules. Wouldn't it be great if you not only met your writing goals, but that you kept making progress during the holidays? In that alternate universe, you'd write your book sooner, edit sooner, and publish quicker. But how do you balance holiday fun with creative goals? Here's 10 ways you can stay motivated this winter.
1. Redefine Your Goals
Before the holiday rush starts it's important to reassess your writing goals and write them down. Keeping a journal or notebook with your goals and progress can not only keep you organized, but it can act as motivation. When you write down your new goals, think about your schedule and make note of the following: Time allowance, other responsibilities (and how frequently they need attending to), when company will be coming over, holiday events, preparations for said events, and any other daily task you know will take your attention away from writing (such as kids, time with spouse, chores, etc.). Taking these into account will allow you to build a realistic view of what your new writing routine needs to work around. A realistic perspective will keep you from making goals that are impossible to reach, and will be more likely to keep you writing in the long-run as a result. For example, writing 1,000 words a day may have been reachable on a lazy summer afternoon, but may not be feasible during party season. That being said, adjusting it to 500 words a day seems a lot more manageable in between entertaining guests and opening gifts.
2. Plan To Be Flexible
We plan for everything else in our lives, why not plan for things to go wrong? Prevention is the key to writing success. Knowing that we won't follow our schedules and writing routines one-hundred percent means that we are being self-aware. It means that we know that the day after Christmas will be spent curling up in front of the TV with our spouse rather than writing. Knowing this, we plan ahead to not write that day. Devoting time to self-care and the natural lulls in our holiday writing schedule gives us permission to rest and enjoy those quiet moments, rather than feeling guilty for not writing. To do this, you may have to shift things around. Plan and follow through with a bit more writing one day so that you know you can do nothing the next. Pay attention to your energy and inspiration levels. Feeling burnt out? Plan an inspiring activity instead. Then return to writing after the break. Being flexible will keep you feeling engaged and committed to your writing rather than being discouraged.
3. Use Time Wisely
With so much to do, sometimes what works is unconventional. If you find yourself struggling with a routine maybe the right move is to abandon it altogether and instead take tiny increments of time whenever you can spare it. Write in the kitchen while your Turkey is cooking. Take thirty minutes in between loads of laundry to write. Even taking ten minutes to text yourself your ideas in the bathroom at a family party adds up to a novel when brought together.
4. Learn To Say No
Sometimes saying no is the hardest thing to do, especially during the season of giving, when it's almost expected of us to do and be more. This is when you have to take a step back and put yourself and your writing first. It's not selfish to keep your writing time sacred. You're not being selfish if you leave a party early, or if you'd rather stay home to write. Do what will most benefit you and your story and don't let anyone make you feel guilty for sticking to your goals. Those who truly love you won't mind your absence for thirty minutes once they understand how important it is to you.
5. Self-Care Still Matters
Don't forget to take a moment to breathe! With all the extra stress sometimes what we need most is to curl up on the couch with a hot drink, fuzzy blanket, and a good book. When inspiration and motivation runs dry, recharging and refreshing our minds can benefit us in more ways the one. In addition to soaking up appreciation for the holiday spirit, we also get to cultivate new book ideas- it's a win/win! Remember, writing is only half the job. Thinking about writing counts too.
6. Keep To A Writing Schedule
One of the hardest parts about discipline is sticking to a writing schedule. Often where we go wrong is that our schedules change during the holidays- we become busier and forget how to properly prioritize. Feelings of being tired and overwhelmed, having children home, and company to prepare for and host can all contribute to why we get off-track. That being said, it's not that a writing schedule during this time is impossible. It's more likely that what we need to do is to alter our normal writing routine to make room for what winter brings. This will differ from writer to writer, but the first step is identify when you have time alone, how much time you have, where is the quietest place, etc. From there you can build a new routine that you can use during these hectic months to help you gain slow and steady progress.
7. Clean Your Writing Space Often
If you normally write at a desk, one thing that is bound to happen is clutter. With gifts to wrap, piles being shuffled around to make room for guests, and just the normal amount of clutter that gathers on surfaces over time it's inevitable that it'll invade your workspace too. When this happens, our motivation to write goes out the window because first we have to clear our space just to sit down. Over time this becomes a discouragement that keeps us from writing. To help overcome this obstacle, make it a priority to keep your writing space neat and tidy. Taking five minutes in the morning to clear the way will lead to valuable writing time later on as you naturally gravitate towards this peaceful writing area.
8. Make Time For Inspiration
Don't forget to refill your creative muse during what can otherwise be a stressful time. Take time to be in the moment, to soak up the magic of the season, and to recharge with some hot chocolate and a themed Christmas novel or movie. Put yourself outside your comfort zone- visit a Christmas event, take a cold walk in the snow, bake a Christmas recipe that your family has turned into a tradition, or make some new traditions. Trust us, your muse will thank you by keeping you charged with creative mojo all season long.
9. Create A Ritual
Creating a seasonal ritual can help you stay motivated and even look forward to this time of year even more. By creating something new and special that you only do during the holidays, it's a chance to build a writing routine that keeps you writing even when life gets busy. Bring out your favorite seasonal candles, drinks, snacks, decorations, music, and coziest clothing to help bring forth all the good writing vibes. Using these things to help mark when it's time to write can really help you slide easily back into writing the next day, and those that come after.
10. Use Short Sprints Rather Than Extended Periods
One tactic that always works when you have less time to write, is to write in short sprints rather than expecting to sit down and write for hours. By setting a ten, twenty, or thirty minute time increment you can make the most of the time you actually have. Setting the timer helps you stay focused and holds you accountable. You'll be surprised to see how much you can actually get done when the pressure is on and the distractions are turned off.
When push comes to shove, the only person who can make you sit down to write is you. But hopefully with these ten tips you'll find newfound tricks to help you get to where you want to be.