I heard you’re taking some time off to celebrate Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanza / Winter Solstice / Festivus. You might think it’s time to recharge those batteries and take three naps in front of the A Christmas Story marathon.[pullquote]Go writer-caroling. Head door-to-door, full of Christmas cheer, reading your work to people. Ask for their input. [/pullquote]
But Santa knows you’ve been complaining for months that you’d finally finish writing your book if you ever got some free time. Well here it is, buddy, a great big box of time, gift wrapped in the December and January pages of your calendar. Whatever your plans for vacation were–a simple cup of egg nog by the fire; or racing down hills on a flimsy plastic sled with your laughing children; mayhap a New Year’s kiss with a new love–none of them compare with the edification of sitting alone at your keyboard, grinding out a short story you’ll one day sell to a small journal for ten bucks and a contributor’s copy. Today your real work begins.
- Set goals. The first day of your vacation, write down three things you want to accomplish before heading back to school or work or wherever. Aim high. Write a short story every day! Query twenty agents! Hey, you wrote an entire novel in November; you’re now ready to write one in two weeks. Shoot for the moon! If you miss, you’ll land among the stars in the cold, infinite void of space.
- Resist the urge to sleep in. Instead, wake up at your usual time, as if you were going to work—because you are going to work. And just like you do at the office, you’ll knock out a few pages in between surreptitiously checking Twitter and Facebook.
- Who are we kidding, we both know you’re not going to do that.
Schedule a specific writing time during the day when you’ll be free of other distractions. Tell your roommates, spouses, children, mistresses, the mailman. Consider this time sacred. The fact that you scheduled it at the same time as your parents’ Hanukkah dinner party is purely coincidental.
- Do writing prompts. For example, write a piece of flash fiction based on your kids’ Christmas list. Fun, right? Delight them by letting them read it. Take the kids to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap. Ask them to read the story to Santa. See if he thinks the prose has enough zip.
- If you haven’t already, drop some hints that you want a little Moleskine notebook so you can jot down your ideas at any time. Oh, you got socks instead? No, no, those are just fine. Very practical. Of course, the notebook would’ve been practical, too, and useful every day. But these socks that’ll get worn once every two weeks before developing a hole are really just as good. Thanks so much.
- Go writer-caroling. Head door-to-door, full of Christmas cheer, reading your work to people. Ask for their input. They may misinterpret some of your ideas. Point out what they got wrong in a jolly voice.
- Stay up late. Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except you, clacking away at your keyboard while all those other chumps are nestled all snug in their beds, unproductive. You really kinda feel sorry for them as you sip your lukewarm coffee, struggling to stay awake.
- Happy New Year! As an exercise, write about your friend’s New Year’s Eve party and all the fun you’d be having if your invitation hadn’t apparently gotten lost in the mail.
When it’s time to head back to work or school or your normal routine, expect to feel a sense of wistful melancholy that you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to, and that you’re more wrung out than at the beginning of the holiday season. There’s always more you could have done; harness this sense of perpetual dissatisfaction to spur your career. As Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” If you follow my advice during your vacation, you’ll be able to cry for both reasons. Happy holidays!
What’s your holiday writing routine? Let us know in the comments!