By Sharlene MacLaren
In the words of my friend when expressing dismay, Yikes-Bikes! The manuscript for my next full-length novel is due to my editor in a matter of weeks, and I’m nowhere near finished with my first draft. Further, it’s the Christmas season, and what on this beautiful planet was I thinking on that lovely spring day when I agreed to a deadline following the holiday season–that I was Wonder Woman’s mentor?
Seriously, I love Christmas. I love the hustle and bustle, the lights, the holiday parties, the Hallmark movies that melt me into a pile of mush, the cookie baking, the school concerts and plays, the family gatherings and the tree decorating. I even love the snow. (I would love it more if it melted a week after New Year’s Day, but that’s a pipe dream for this Michigander.) Of course, the fact that “Jesus is the reason for the season” makes this grand holiday all the more significant. The problem is that with all the fun festivities and even the quiet reflection on the holiday’s true meaning, we shake our dazed heads and wonder what happened to all our quality writing time. The question then is this: how do we make the most of the season and still accomplish our writing responsibilities? Is it even possible to do both? I believe I’ve come up with a workable solution, and as long as I don’t have any willpower outages, I should be good to go. With that, I give you five tips that should help you stay on track amidst the madness.
1. Set realistic goals.
Sometimes, we set our goals too high, and when we don’t achieve them, we take a side trip to a place called “Guilt”. Don’t do it. Set a goal you’re certain you can keep, but if you can’t, accept that life happens, interruptions will come, and when they do, you lay aside your writing and deal with the delay. Setting realistic goals allows you to relax a bit throughout the holiday. Maybe one day you’ll write 2,000 words, but the next, only 200 or 20. Accept it, move forward, and pledge to be happy with whatever number of words you were able to write that day.
2. Take advantage of each spare minute.
When things slow down and you find yourself with some time to breathe, instead of heading for the couch for some TV time, head for your computer. And instead of going straight to social media (hey, I’m guilty, I confess!) head for your document. Easier said than done, I know, but if you can practice a little self-control, it’ll pay off in big dividends.
3. Find a quiet space–where no one will find you.
This could mean going to the library, hitting your favorite coffee shop, or even driving to a secluded, scenic park where you can sit in your car and write. Sometimes, simply getting away is motivation enough to knock out those much needed words.
4. Be an early riser.
If you’re like me, you enjoy staying up late to write, then sleeping in the next morning. I am privileged enough to do this because I’m a retired schoolteacher, and my days are mostly mine to do with as I please, BUT…the Christmas season can change all that. Sometimes I need my sleep at night so I can get up earlier than usual to accomplish everything that needs doing. Although I do enjoy sleeping in, I actually do find my mind is a lot sharper first thing in the morning, and I’m more apt to be productive when the house is quiet, and it’s just my pets and me rattling around the house.
5. Make a plan.
Whatever you do during this holiday season, try to stick as closely as you can to a routine. Yes, there will be interruptions. Let’s just accept that they’re going to happen. At the same time, stick as closely as you can to your regular schedule. You’ll thank yourself later.
What’s your writing goal look like for the month of December? How are you going to achieve it? Take a minute to think through all the challenges, and then promise yourself that you won’t complicate matters by allowing discouragement to sneak in if you fall short. Pray about your commitment, ask God to give you grace and favor, and then jump into this beautiful Christmas month with joy and gladness.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Sharlene MacLaren launched her writing career after 31 years of teaching. She is awaiting the release of her 17th novel. She resides in Spring Lake, Michigan with her loving husband, beautiful collie, and spoiled cat. She has two married daughters and five adorable grandchildren.