Holiday Writing: Plan for Success

by Christine Hennebury

(Note: While there are many, many holidays being celebrated world-wide at this time of year, I realize that some of us aren’t celebrating, it’s just the end of another year. However, no matter what is going on, December seems like a hectic month for most people. This post mentions holidays but the tips really apply to any busy time, it was just too awkward to fit that into every sentence!)

It’s great to set an intention to write during the holiday season but in all the hustle and bustle it’s easy to forget to actually do it. If you have to rely on your motivation to change from ‘holiday fun’ to ‘dedicated writer’ in any given moment, you are likely to struggle.

It’s one thing to decide to take a break over the holidays – that’s up to you. However, if you choose to write over the holidays and, yet, time seems to slide away from you, that’s a sign that you need a plan.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Set Small Clear Goals

If you know you are going to have busy days and nights, this is not the time to set a huge goal. You want to stick with small word counts or small amounts of time (10 minutes, maybe?) and stay away from open-ended plans.

So, you could say to yourself ‘I’m going to write for the next ten minutes or until I have 150 words of that scene with the pirate.’ That way you are in charge of the process. If, instead, you say ‘I’m going to write that scene with the pirate.’ you could end up stuck on a specific part or you could spend far more time away from your festivities than you intended.

Note: While you are setting those small, clear goals, make sure to keep your standards low. Holidays are a time for rough drafts, not polished perfection.

2) Pick a Time

Be really specific about when you are going to write so you are more likely to actually do it. If you say that you’ll write ‘after supper’, you’ll spend all evening arguing with yourself about whether now is the right time to write. If you decide that you will write at 8pm, you know exactly when to get started. You can even set an alarm!

If you don’t want to use the clock, pick a reference point. ‘After supper is cleared away, I will take a coffee to my office for 10 minutes of writing.’

It also helps to have a look at the rhythm of your days so you can see when it might be easiest to squeeze some writing in – perhaps first thing in the morning might be best for you. Or your time might even change from day to day.

3) Use Your Imagination

According to some advice I read a while ago, you are more likely to do something in the future if you can clearly picture yourself doing it. So, put the full power of your imagination to work – it’s good practice- and visualize yourself writing during the holidays.

For example, if you use the after supper scenario above, you can picture yourself filling your festive coffee mug, nodding at your relatives and announcing ‘I’ll be back in 10 minutes!’ Then imagine walking into your chosen writing space, see yourself settling in with your computer and notebook to get down to work.

4) Create a Work Plan

Take some time before your holiday season starts and make a plan of what you are going to work on. You don’t have to get into too much detail, but get as specific as you can. When things are busy, it’s a lot easier to take a few minutes to ‘work on a scene in the family kitchen that shows the milk going sour’ than to ‘write some sort of short story.’

4) Enlist Some Allies…or an Enemy

Ask for some support from family or friends. They can remind you that you planned to write.  They can help make it easier for you to duck out for a few minutes. Or, you can have a friendly challenge or forfeit if you don’t do your writing.

Or, you can make spite work in your favour. If your holiday companions are dismissive of your writing, use that as fuel to write anyway. Claim victory over the naysayers by getting those words in.

5) Adapt to Changes

Sometimes, even the best-laid plans go awry. You might fall asleep, or your kid gets sick, or your computer misbehaves. That does not mean that you should throw away your plans!

The first thing that you need to do is accept that the first plan didn’t work. You don’t have to be hard on yourself about it – plans go sideways on people all the time. All you need to do is say ‘Okay, that didn’t work. What can I do instead?’

If it was a temporary glitch then your new plan could involve something to do in the moment. You could make lists of character traits, or research the shoes your protagonist wears.  It’s not writing, per se, but it still helps your project move along.

Or, perhaps putting your plans into practice revealed that they were a bit too optimistic. Maybe you don’t have as much time as you thought or you could be too tired at the time of day you chose. In those cases, you’ll want to revise your plans to include that new information.

If you have chosen to write during this hectic time, please be kind to yourself in the process. Some days your successes will be on the page. Other days, you’ll find success in the time you spend having fun.

Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her  at  christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .