by Kristen Hall-Geisler, collaborative editor and writing coach
The winter holiday season can be a challenge for writers with a work in progress (WIP, as they say on the internet), whether it’s a novel, a memoir, or a how-to book based on your life and business. Finding the time to meet your word count goals when there are friends in town, kids with holiday concerts, and presents to buy in secret and smuggle into the house can be difficult if not downright impossible. You may be tempted to shelve the whole writing enterprise for the month of December. I mean, that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for, right? You can pick up right where you left off.
Good luck with that. Once you let the writing habit go, it can be tough to climb back into the word count saddle. Don’t let your WIP linger during the dark month of December; instead, use the work as a light to keep you going and probably even to keep you sane. Here are three ways to keep the words flowing:
- Use the Seinfeld Method. Jerry Seinfeld wrote at least a joke a day, no matter what, and marked it on the calendar with a big X. As long as you write one sentence in your WIP, put a gold star on the calendar. Seeing that progress every day gives you the momentum you need to keep going.
- Give Yourself Some Slack. If you know the next four to six weeks are going to be a whirlwind of parties and pageants, set a big word-count goal and a deadline, like 15,000 words and January 1. Maybe some days you only write 250 words, and maybe some lazy Sundays you tackle 2,500 words. Keep a running tally and hit that goal by 2015—even if it means a late night on New Year’s Eve.
- Find a Buddy. You probably know someone else with a WIP, even if it’s not the same genre as your own work. Set up weekly check-ins via phone or email. You may just share word count, or you may work out sticky plot points. But you’ll definitely keep each other on track. Accountability does wonders for one’s word count. (You could also hire a coach, ahem, to hold you accountable.)
Here’s a bonus tip for introverts: writing can give you the excuse you need to bow out of a party early or turn down an invitation from your horrible Aunt Edna to her infamous fruitcake party. Shutting yourself in a room with a notebook or laptop for an hour or five during the busiest part of the holiday season can recharge your batteries so you can watch the entire fourth-grade Christmas concert and clap sincerely.
But being with friends and family who aren’t often in town, regardless of your faith or lack thereof, is one of the best parts of the season. If you don’t get the gold star one day, or find yourself way short of your goal on New Year’s Eve, or have to admit to your buddy that you didn’t write a word all week, ask yourself why. If it was sheer laziness, then you can beat yourself up a bit and get back to the WIP ASAP. But if it was because you made a gingerbread house with your kids or baked Star of David cookies for your dog, then give yourself the best gift of all: forgiveness. I mean, that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for, right?