Thanksgiving is tomorrow in the United States, and that means travel, family, friends, houseguests, late nights, and lots of food and drink — all things that can wreck your writing routine. In this week’s episode, Olivia and I talked about ways you can make sure you don’t feel like you’ve been derailed but don’t have to lock yourself away in a hermitage (unless that’s your thing — it’s totally my dream life, so I’m not judging).
So whether or not you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, whether or not you’re closing in on 50,000 words for the month or are stuck at 500, all of these can help you stay connected to your writing when life around you gets out of control.
1. Stay engaged with the craft
It’s hard to stick to a firm schedule when you’re traveling or tired. Instead of pushing yourself to write during down time, try reading or rereading your favorite book on writing. We love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is great for quick shots. In episode 11, Alicia de los Reyes recommends On Writing by Stephen King.
2. Take notes
Keep track of those great ideas! I carry a notebook with me most places, but always at least have an index card or some post-its. You can also record a voice memo or take a quick note on your phone. Even if you don’t have time to do anything with the idea right away, you’ve saved it for later.
3. Use jet lag
Waking super early (or up really late) because of jet lag? Take advantage of the time when others are sleeping and use that time for yourself and your writing.
4. Decide ahead of time
Be honest with yourself about how what you’ve been able to do in the past, and make a choice about how much — if any — you’ll write during the holiday period. Not writing feels a lot better if you are doing it on purpose. Making a plan ahead of time can also help you get back to your routine after Thanksgiving.
5. Whatever you do is enough
Even if you don’t decide ahead of time, that’s okay. It’s totally okay to do nothing, and it’s okay to change your plans. You are okay.
6. Help out your future self
Write a note to yourself about where you are so it’s easier to re-engage after a break (planned or unplanned). This is a helpful practice to use every day, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed by what you haven’t done yet.
7. Be gentle with yourself
Holiday gatherings are hard, even with the happiest of families and friends. Don’t add more stress by beating yourself up over what you are and aren’t writing. You don’t need to catch up if you miss a day or three — just start where you are and do the best you can. You’re doing great!
8. Honor your feelings
If you’re finding yourself getting anxious or desperate to get some words on paper, sneak away for 15-20 minutes. Take a walk, or go find a quiet room. No one will notice, and even a short break can be all you need.
9. Only share what you want (and don’t apologize)
We’ve all been there — the well-meaning (or not) question about your writing. “Are you published yet?” or even just, “How’s your writing going?” Think about what you want to say and direct the conversation there. Chances are, the person is just trying to connect with you, and not looking for all the details of your agent hunt. Even if they are, it’s okay not to answer and change the subject. You don’t have to apologize.
That’s it! What’s your best advice for balancing writing and holidays? Let us know, and if you try any of our tips, we’d love to hear how it goes!