Feeling down due to the frantic pressure of institutionalized holiday cheer (aka: the purchase of tawdry commercial goods to exchange with family and friends that you’d normally keep no closer than several hundred kilometers at any other time of the year)?
Overwhelmed by the reams of tasks that always seem to build up at this time of year?
Have you already started your yearly holiday treat binge (can you say: let’s add candy canes to everything)?
Or… most importantly…
Have you lost your will to write?
…It’s insidious, the way it happens:
Maybe you’ve come off a month of crazy productive writing (aka: NaNoWriMo), and said to yourself: ‘hey – that wasn’t so bad. I should keep this up for December too!’ And then you find yourself one week from the 25th of December, not having written a bloody thing…
Or maybe you’ve been in a good, dependable writing routine for months, which has inexplicably trickled down to nothing – without you even ‘noticing’? (But you did notice it, didn’t you?)
So what’s your excuse?
The holidays, of course. They’re a time to slow down, relax, chill-out, enjoy life—what’s that, you say? They’re the most stressful time of year?! There’s no time to do anything, much less writing?!?
Of course there’s no time to write! Everything else at this time of year is too important, you know? Your family members or your friends or your employer – they all take precedence over you, don’t they? Don’t be so selfish as to think you can fit this silly little writing habit into your holiday…
So when will there be time for you? For your writing?
Key #1 to successful holiday writing: SELFISHNESS
Yeah. It’s an ugly word. But when’s the last time your kids, or your spouse, or your friends, or your boss said: “hey – why don’t you just take today for you? Don’t worry about us. We’ll manage just fine.”
I bet it’s been a while, eh?
Remember: if you were sick, they’d manage, wouldn’t they?
If you were away on a trip, they’d manage too.
And even if you said: “you know what? I’m NOT cooking tonight”, they’d still somehow manage, wouldn’t they? (They’d just order out pizza, of course.)
So let’s say you do it: pull back from life, and force in a few hours – hell, even a day! – of writing. You might be surprised (disappointed, even) to learn that you’re not as critical to the smooth running of the universe as you have come to believe.
The first step to writing over the holidays: TAKE time for yourself.
Alright, you’ve gone all selfish and grinchy, and you’ve bought yourself writing time. Now what? Does the muse immediately jump right back into your life and send you into a whirling, whizzing frenzy of writing?
No, she does not.
You sit at the computer, aglow from you new-found (albeit temporary) writing block, ready to work the magic. But hold on! You haven’t checked Youtube in like, at least an hour, so maybe you should just– No, wait! IT’S A TRAP!
Key #2 to successful holiday writing: ACCOUNTABILITY
This is my weakness. I’m a classic procrastinator. I work with hard deadlines. But self-generated ‘soft’ deadlines? They just make my monkey laugh. (No, I’m not being gross or weird – check out this TED talk on the inner monkey of a procrastinator).
Me, sitting at my desk, alone, without a deadline… Well, that’s just a recipe for Zero Productivity.
I’ve tried lots of things to put the evil procrastinator monkey in its place:
-making detailed to-do lists, organized by degree of importance and urgency
-setting small, easily attainable goals
-promising myself rewards for work well-done
-the Pomodoro Technique
-setting up a tickler system of file folders in my desk drawer
-trying to work up enough shame and guilt to drive me to ‘get it done’
They all work at first. Maybe a few days. Maybe a few weeks, even. Then something weasel’s its way into the works (typically resulting in an unavoidable change in schedule, even for just a few days), and I’m back to square one, surfing hours (yes, hours) of the best Youtube has to offer. Or, very often, the not-so-best.
Why were none of these techniques my holy grail for a no-procrastination writing routine? Well, for one, I don’t believe in a holy grail for anything (life’s too complicated for a single fix, imho). Secondly, all of the techniques I tried were monitored and policed by… moi.
I can’t do it. I wish my will was stronger. And maybe, at some level, I’m just being a cop-out.
Regardless of the why, the who has to change.
(And that’s where I should end this post. Because I don’t know what else to say. I haven’t solved this problem yet. I’m not sure who is… who.
Maybe I need an anti-procrastinator coach – someone to hold me to account for my actions and accomplishments day-to-day or week-to-week?
Maybe a writer’s group is the key (in-person would be better – you can more easily ‘slip away’ from an online forum).
Or maybe I need to be looking for a procrastinators-anonymous group out there somewhere?)
Anyways, as Christmas ticks closer and closer, I’ll be fighting my monkey, and looking for the solution to who I need to keep me writing.
And that’s it for 2016! Until next year, I wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season!