The Truth about the Holiday Writer

Writing during the crazy high holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas (or whatever ethnic or cultural winter solstice holiday you celebrate), New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day is a unique challenge. It’s nothing like Spring writing or Summer writing or early Fall writing. During those periods writers are inspired by the sun, the relaxation, cold libations and calm breezes. Life. Comfort. Free flowing creativity without distraction. Sigh

The crazies start before Halloween. Just seeing pumpkins and skeleton decorations affects me in not-so-good ways. My plots, characters and writing style braces to battle the hunger to let images of candy corn seep in. It gets worse as the Holidays progress. It’s simply not easy to plug a festive Christmas tree into an urban fantasy featuring double dead vampires plotting to survive purgatory in a West Hollywood warehouse. In other genres, I never seem to have my characters in the right place or state of mind to break out into Christmas carols or a fine rendition of “’Twas the Night before Christmas”. Can you imagine it? “Holiday Writer Wars – The Musical.”. Writing during these seasons is like traveling through the Orient and looking for a good burrito.

Plot, character and genre are not the only quandaries during all the distraction, either. Writers, like most adults with OCD, tend to overload our plates. Never mind those mad souls who take on NaNoWriMo during November, there are other insanities to add to our to-do lists. Holiday gift shopping, decorating, cooking and baking which of course are non-negotiable if you’re a social human animal, but there are a few other things that torment a writer.

Here’s the truth about the Holiday writer. He/she is obsessed with not compromising anything in their writing volume, quality or creativity just because ’tis the season. They are thinking ahead to the next year, adding writing/publishing/book sales goals to their New Year’s resolutions. They are learning everything they can to combat the competitive nature of being a good selling author … or they’re battling to gain agent representation, publishing contracts and establish platforms. None of this can slack just because the Holidays are upon us. And if we consider that this season really starts weeks before Halloween and ends on January 2 … that’s a full quarter of the year! The Holidays come every single year whether we have time for them or not. It’s part of life. Ancient cultures built their lives around ritual and celebration, so a small handful of writers aren’t going to change it … litigation is out of the question. But in truth there are only three ways to get through this.


One solution is to close shop, shut down and take the time off. Some people do need the time. Many writers begin the New Year charged and ready to set their keyboards afire after taking time away. They’re more productive, more creative, psyched and ready to take on the world. But I have heard that this ploy can backfire, especially if a writer is tentative, insecure, unsure or new, so option number one requires serious consideration.

The second way to deal is to ignore the Holidays. Yes, there actually are writers who do this, believe it or not. They Grinch up and snort at the world, focus on their computer screens and just plow ahead. Now, this might not be such a bad idea if you’re under a tight deadline of like … 90,000 words by January 15. Most people would understand that kind of pressure and probably even pitch in to help keep distractions away from you. But be careful. This particular approach can develop into a reclusive personality and you can forget getting even a Starbucks gift card next Christmas from your mother. There has to be balance.

The third and final possible solution is the one I use. I schedule everything. Obsessively, compulsively and with a watchful eye. I schedule fun and I schedule work. I schedule writing and planning and plotting a fantastic 2011, but I also schedule family time, cooking and baking time as well as leisure time to just smile and breathe. Today I get to put up my tree from 1 PM to 2 PM, then I must stop to write and plan an April workshop. Naturally I won’t get the tree finished in one hour, but I’ve scheduled time after dinner to decorate it with my roommate. Either way, I’ll have a tree to light and look at that I’d normally be scrambling to get up on Christmas Eve! I have tight deadlines (one of those January 15 deadlines on a new novel requested by my agent) but I also want to play with everyone else during the Holidays!

So, what are the compromises? I have to be careful. With a book coming out in March, I can’t slight anything too much. I tweet less, lighten up on my blogging schedule, teach no workshops between November and January. I Facebook only during the weekdays and … oh yeah, I actually go for a walk every day … outside the house … where there is fresh air! Honest! It’s funny, but I’ve discovered that if I do something like that it makes me feel better, feel productive and feel festive. Although, I do confess that I SO hate those blow up Holiday characters bobbing in the Santa Anna winds at just about every other house, but I do refrain from carrying a pen knife. Now I call that having the Holiday spirit, don’t you?

What do you do to battle the need to be productive amidst all the Holiday hubbub? What do you do to enjoy the season? How do you survive it?

Happy Holidays to every one of you! I’ll be back to blooging speed in January, ready to finish the Book Business Plan Series and start an all new series on Multi Level Book Promotions.

Until then, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good WRITE!

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About Deborah Riley-Magnus

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising, and public relations as a writer for print, television, and radio. She writes fiction and non-fiction. Since 2010, she had two novels released. In 2013 her nonfiction, Finding Author Success (Second Edition), and Cross Marketing Magic for Authors were released. Her newest book, Write Brain/Left Brain, focuses on bridging the gap between the creative writer and the marketing author. Deborah produces several pieces monthly for various websites and online publications. She writes an author industry blog and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Deborah has lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and recently returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years. View all posts by Deborah Riley-Magnus

18 responses to “The Truth about the Holiday Writer

  • Tara Lain

    Hi Deb — Being one of those insane NaNoers, i laughed when my NaNo novel included a Thanksgiving dinner. And i finished the day after Thanksgiving. Happy holidays to you too. : )

  • Tracy Ames

    Debbie, I’m such a holiday writer. Thanksgiving proved it. And yes, I’m one of those NaNo wackos. I need a 12 step program. 😦

  • Stella

    Gosh, I’m so glad to not feel under pressure. Though I have to say, that I write throughout the holidays since I don’t celebrate any of those days. Last year I set myself a target to New Year’s Eve (midnight) and I did it. Enjoyed being on my own rather than being out to greet the new year.

    • Deborah Riley-Magnus

      Ah! Stella you’re a fellow goal setter! I’m never one for the New Year’s Eve thing, and I really like your idea of setting a target goal for midnight … er … um … is this adding to my obsessive compulsive behavior? LOL

      Enjoy the winter!
      Deb

  • Kayelle Allen

    “and to all a good write” — love it! I could just see the vampires with a Christmas tree… You don’t have to be crazy to be a writer but it helps. One friend signs her emails with a note about being CCDO, which is the same as being OCDC but the letters are in alphabetical order like they should be. Happy holidays and a great new year!

  • Amber Polo

    Writing through the holidays is like holding to your diet and reemerging in January thinner when everyone else is complaining about the extra pounds.
    One Christmas I wrote a novella about a woman who “escaped” Christmas. That gave me warm fuzzies.

  • Stella

    Deborah,

    I don’t think it’s adding to your OCD, but if so, at least it doesn’t do any harm. This year, I’ll be at a party to New Year’s Eve, so no writing then. But I have some sort of a target and that is 50k by end of this month. I doubt though, I’ll manage. Don’t like targets much with this book. I tend to say each book has its own time frame and I have to comply with it. I’ll keep you posted if I manage the 50k.:-)

    • Deborah Riley-Magnus

      Yes, please keep me posted. Personally, I have a little more than that to get down to finish a novel my agent wants to start pitching by January 15, so this’ll be another quiet (except for the sound of tapping keys) New Year’s Eve for me.

      Deb

  • M M Bennetts

    I would like to say I adhere to the P.G. Wodehouse (genius!) school of writing. That is five hours a day, every day of the year, including Christmas, New Year’s and Easter. However, if I said that, it would be a lie.

    Instead, I get more and more crochety as I don’t get the required quality time with my characters and iMac. This lasts until everyone is ready to a) lock me in the bookroom until I behave; b) send me out for a long ride on the Downs; or c) both at the same time.

  • Sascha

    That’s the challenge. Usually by this time of year I’m trying to take a month off and not do much as a writer. But I failed due to launching my own erotic romance line at Sizzler, having to keep the WriteSEX team on track and then other projects that must be dealt with. I’m hoping I can take the last week of this year off. We’ll see.

    Good advice as usual Deb.

  • kathryn magendie

    With the last few Christmases finding me stuck to my laptop (actually, I’ve been stuck to my laptop for all the year, not just Christmas!) — one year editing another author’s work, and the next year readying my first book for publication, the next year readying the next book; well, this year I decided to Take A Holiday – I’ve been hitting it ninety to nothing for the last few years and needed the break. It was scary at first, but I’m glad I did it. From Thanksgiving until New Years Eve I cut way back on many work related things and completely stepped away from my manuscript – I’ll have to hit it hard come January, when you have deadlines you can’t goof off forever! but, this has been good for me – and now I’m thinking of my character again, she’s poking me – now I’m excited to get back to it!

    • Deborah Riley-Magnus

      Kathryn,

      I’m so proud of you! You are brave and courageous and probably ready and rested enough to take on the whole world, deadlines and all! Taking time is so important and sometimes we seem to forget that.

      Best wishes,
      Deb

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