Tag Archives: Holidays

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!

The Holidays Bit my Blog!

Opps! I almost completely forgot to blog! It’s Thursday, right? Who else is twisted with holiday responsibilities and trying to keep some semblance of a rational schedule? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

It’s suddenly gotten nuts around here. When did it get to be December 10th? This is all California’s fault. Even though this fine December, the weather has given me a cold blast (nothing by Pittsburgh PA’s standards but hey, my blood has thinned over the past three years), I’m still always confused about the seasons. If it wasn’t for the malls and those goofy, blow-up lawn decorations, I might miss Christmas all together.

One year, I had put up the tree and never got around to decorating it. Seriously. On Christmas Eve I took it down, too embarrassed for company to arrive and see a naked artificial blue spruce (the poor thing wasn’t even sporting a skirt). It was easier to explain I just didn’t want to put it up than tell them how disappointed I was that I didn’t have time to decorate it.

Over all the years of my adult life, the Holidays have been a touchstone that has kept me sane in a vibrating, insane sort of way. It’s like those moments right before the batteries run out (you think what you want) and you know you’ve gotta finish what you’re doing before it happens. Ten years ago I vowed to change it, to downsize the frenzy and find real peace in the Season. Now I’m afraid it’s gotten a little out of hand. Why else would I forget to enjoy the Holidays?

I suppose I’m obsessive compulsive. If I write, that’s all I do. When I find a favorite movie, I watch it again and again. If I’m in a Rusted Root or Counting Crows mood, it’s all I listen too. If I diet, I never eat enough. When I smoke, I smoke too much. If I decide to clean … well, you get the point.

I think it’s time for a little balance, so I’ve made a conscious decision to permit some of the Holiday craziness back into my life this year. I never expected it to take over but it’s my decision and I’m sticking to it. Now, let’s see, I must …

  1. Bake cookies
  2. Make wonderful food gifts
  3. Go shopping and actually read through the lists of what people want
  4. Clean the house
  5. Put up the tree AND decorate it
  6. Plan a Christmas brunch for the family
  7. Wrap all the gifts I make or buy
  8. Smile at everyone
  9. Restrain from hating those goofy inflatable lawn decorations people have
  10. Lose 10 pounds

Okay, what did I forget? Oh yeah, BALANCE. Now, let’s see, I must …

  1. Bake healthy cookies … and write between batches (yes, that sounds good)
  2. Make food gifts but maybe write a few gifts too, recipes are nice (now I’m cooking!)
  3. Go shopping, but after I’ve written and handled my publicity clients needs (must pay the bills)
  4. Clean the house, in spurts, between editing chapters or doing research (that feels possible)
  5. Put up the tree AND decorate it … AND be inspired by it to … write (right?)
  6. Plan Christmas brunch, but keep it simple (so I have time and energy to do what I really want to do … write)
  7. Wrap all the gifts in those pretty gift bags. (Someone give the inventor of gift bags the Nobel Peace Prize, please.)
  8. 8)      Smile at everyone. Easy, I’ll stay home most of the season, so I won’t see too many people. (I’d rather smile while I write anyway.)
  9. Restrain from hating those goofy inflatable lawn decorations – okay, I draw the line here. The best I can do is write an article about how much I HATE those things! Some of them even play Christmas Music! Can you believe it? And of course, the music is OFF KEY.
  10. Lose 10 pounds … okay … forget it.

All right, so maybe balance is more about doing what you really love to do while dealing with what you’d rather not do. If I play my cards right, I will enjoy this Holiday Season and still retain my time to write, cook, smile and HATE THOSE BLOW UP LAWN DECORATIONS.

See, told ya. Obsessive. And by the way, if all the fat air-filled Santa’s in Los Angeles are flat as a pancake on Christmas morning, I’m innocent. I don’t even own a penknife. Honest.