Keep Writing During The Holidays

It’s finally September! I love this time of the year more than any other time. There’s all sorts of good things to look forward to, all the good horror movies are on tv, the holidays are just a breath away. But it’s also the craziest time of the year at my house. Here’s a list of my obligations over the next four months.

  • The darling husband and I need to weather proof our house, unless we want $300 gas bills.
  • With Christmas (and higher gas bills) I’m picking up extra hours at the day job.
  • School’s back in, which means lots of time helping with homework. And by helping, I mean making sure it gets done.
  • Planning Halloween.
  • Co-coordinating Thanksgiving. I cook two things, but somehow I’m always the one deciding who’s cooking what at whose house and what time we’re eating. At least I’m not in charge of the dishes.
  • Christmas planning. Cards, decorations, gifts, cooking, cleaning. Bullet through my head if I hear Santa Baby one more time.
  • The darling husband’s birthday is in December, and I try to make him feel special. Too many times, his birthday got lost in the carols and Christmas cookies.
  • The election doesn’t cause any extra work for me, but it does cause extra stress for me. Lots and lots of stress.
  • I’m publishing two books in the next four months. At least I’m trying to, because I’m a bloody idiot. But, ‘self-published four books in 2016’ just sounds way too awesome to not at least try.
  • I also have a list of 2016 goals that still need done. The biggest is finishing Starting Chains.
  • Oh, and we’re still going on vacation at some point. (Great thing about cyber school, we can go on vacation whenever.)

And, of course, this is all happening on top of the everyday. The laundry and the cleaning, walking the dog and checking the email. None of that goes away during a hectic season, it just gets harder to find the time.

This will all end eventually. January will come and I’ll be catching my breath, sweeping glitter out of corners and fighting seasonal depression. For now, though, my hands are more than busy. I’m excited and a little overly caffeinated.

You might be too. A lot of people start September feeling a little overwhelmed. Changes are your list looks a lot like mine. And if you’ve worked all year to make a writing routine, you just can’t let the last quarter of the year rip your dreams apart.

Here’s what I do, to make sure my writing (not to mention my self-care and sanity) don’t get lost in the craziness this time of year.

Schedule everything!

I’m not kidding. I’ve gone into detail about what planners I use before, so I won’t bore you with that. Seriously, though, schedule it all! Schedule grocery shopping, charging your phone, shopping for holiday stuff, everything.

Most importantly, for our purposes, schedule writing time. It’s a lot harder to stick to that scheduled time this time of year, when I’m needed to plan Halloween costumes or research papers, which is why scheduling it is important. If the only time I’m going to have in a day is from 6:30 to 7:00 in the morning, I need to know that at least the day before. But knowing is the difference between a productive half hour and a wasted one.

Only plan with people who respect your time

Look, I know this is a sore spot for a lot of people during the holidays. You’ve got family you want to see, and spend time with. Or maybe you’ve got family you feel obligated to see and spend time with.

I bet, and I might be wrong but I don’t think I am, you have at least one friend or family member who will not respect your time. This is the person who doesn’t take your writing or your time in general, seriously. Maybe they have this bad habit during the rest of the year, but it’s really glairing during this busy season.

If I can be real with you for a minute, you deserve better treatment than what you’re getting from that person. You are (probably) a grown up and you have a right to say no to people who don’t respect your time. You are allowed to say, “I am writing during that time,” or “I am too busy to do that.” Hell, you are more than allowed to say no and give no explanation if you don’t want to.

Maybe the person you’re dealing with is doing something a little worse. They’re making plans with you without giving any thought to what you want or need. Don’t deal with these people. Tell these people, lovingly, that they need to treat you like an adult and deal equally with you. If that doesn’t work, try it not so lovingly.

Write everything down (Another rally cry for bullet journaling)

It never ceases to amaze me how much my brain moves. I jump from topic to topic, idea to idea. It’s like someone else is in control of my mind, and they’re on cocaine. Sometimes this is awesome, because I come up with great story ideas. Most of the time it blows, because I get the best story ideas while trying to maneuver Walmart on a Friday afternoon.

I cannot stress to you enough what a lifesaver my bullet journal is. That way, no matter what bolt from the blue comes to me I can write it down and not lose it. This time of year, that can range from “I want to make sure I pickle eggs this weekend so we’ll have them when my mother in law comes over,” to “Oh, this is the best blog post idea ever!” The worst lie we tell ourselves is ‘I will remember this, I don’t need to write it down.’ No, you won’t remember and yes, you do need to write it down.

Start now

Right now, if you can. If you know that October through December are crazy time for you, do what you can right now. Get your Halloween plans made, costumes bought. Don’t wait until the last minute, even if you have little ones. Especially if you have little ones. Start as early as you can. Imagine how awesome it will be to be looking for turkey recipes while everyone else is scrambling for candy corn. Even better, imagine being done with Christmas shopping and kicking back with a peppermint mocha while everyone else is losing their minds looking for ‘that one gift’.

Work smarter or an ounce of planning

For example, I hate shopping for essentials. I don’t like going to stores during the holidays, and I’m less inclined to impulse buy online. So, I’ve been ordering my non food groceries online, and having them delivered to the house. This also forces me to consider what I’m about to be out of, and order accordingly.

There are countless ways to make your chores easier that just take a little forethought. Long days can be made easier with dinner prepared in the crock pot the morning of. Doubling recipes and freezing the extras is an easy way to save time now with little extra effort at the time. Doing the dishes the night of, not the next day, is always easier.

Take some time, and think about what you have to do in a day, and what you can do to make it happen easier.

When prioritizing, put self-care first

My days are nuts this time of year. I’ve got mile long to do lists, and little time to get it done. Lots of things I’d like to be doing, I don’t get to do.

But there are certain things I do every day, no matter how busy I am.

  • I put my makeup on, because it makes me feel more confident all day. Even if it’s just a little primer and eyeliner, it makes me feel like I’m ready for the day.
  • I sit down for all three of my meals, without work of any kind. I read, or talk to my family. I focus on the pleasure of my meal.
  • I meditate for at least 5 minutes in the morning.
  • I go to bed early enough to get eight hours of sleep, which means going to bed eight and a half hours before I need to get up.
  • I take at least fifteen minutes a day to read.

I’ve said this before and I’m not the first person to say it. You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you want to take care of your family, you’ve got to take care of you first, and this can’t stop because you’re busy. This goes double if you have kids, because they learn from you how to behave. So if they see you taking time for self-care every day, they will do that too. So, whatever you do to recharge, do it even on your busiest days.

Plan your down time

I don’t crash, I land. I know there’s a time of the day when I am done being productive. I am used up, and nothing decent will come of any work after that.

It took me almost 30 years to realize that pushing past that point does me no good. Work done after that point will be poor, rushed, and often require hours of fixing.

I plan for that. I know that, usually around 7:00 in the evening, I’m going to focus on dinner, my family, and binge watching The Simpsons. During the holidays I might do some low impact things like sending out Christmas cards. But I don’t ask a lot of myself at that point.

Progress is progress

I really do live my life in minutes. You have to, if you’re going to get anything done. And there are days year round when I have fifteen minutes to devote to writing, if that.

But I take those minutes. If I get no more than fifteen minutes every day for a week, I’ve still written for an hour and 45 minutes. If I have to do it for a whole month, as I sometimes do in December, that’s still almost eight hours of committed time. If that seems like a really small amount of time to you, you’re right. But you want to know a secret.

Eight is still more than zero.

Let’s all take a deep breath, and finish 2016 strong.

By the way, next week is my yearly scheduled PBW vacation. There will be no posts next week, but I’ll see you back here on Monday, September 12, ready to start Year 3!

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