Here comes a block of time taking you away from the regular routine. Certainly a writer can carve out a slice of it for working on the story or the novel, right? How hard can that possibly be?
You aren’t alone if it proves almost impossible. Fact is, many writers dread the interruptions, scheduled and unscheduled, intruding upon their writing time from now until the end of the year. I can attest that momentum vanishes faster than one’s favorite holiday dish. Progress is sporadic at best. What’s a writer to do?
Two words: be flexible. You can make progress, just perhaps in different ways than you would normally do. Here are some possibilities:
1. Keep your phone or a small note pad and pen with you always to make notes. If you prefer, send yourself voice mail or email or text messages so that you can capture a few ideas or sentences right when they strike you. If you go for a walk after a big meal, be sure to take your notepad or phone along.
2. Set the alarm for just 5 or 10 minutes earlier than need be. It’s not so very much sleep to give up and you can use those precious minutes jotting down whatever first thoughts come to mind about your work in progress: things like what a character might do next or if a scene would be better shown from a different POV, or if more needs to be made of a certain event, Whatever it is, it’ll help keep the story alive in your mind and give you a place to pick up again when you do have the time and solitude you need. I suppose you could do this at night right before you turn in, but only if you are a night owl. Besides, the intuitions that come to you first thing when you wake up are frequently the most valuable. For one thing, they don’t have to compete with all the pressing needs of the day that start pounding at you all too soon.
3. Whether you travel or have people come to your place, you’re likely to happen across new names of people and places. Write them down. The same goes for noteworthy turns of phrases you don’t hear every day. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll forget them if you don’t. You never know when you can use them in your fiction.
4. Speaking of travel, that’s when you want to be on the lookout for new experiences—especially tastes and smells. Particularly the less palatable ones are what you’ll want to make a note about for later use.
5. Don’t fret about what you are not accomplishing if you are using your time to refill your store of experiences and ideas. Do be sure to capture at least one or two of them–even in rough form–every day.
‘Nuff said. I now return you to your regularly scheduled holidays.
‘Tis the season when I envy binge writers. You know the type that I mean. They take a few hours and produce half a story or a whole chapter of a novel. I’m much more of the plodding sort, steadily amassing a modest word count each day while I quietly fantasize about what it would be like to produce those high-figure word counts that several of my friends report. So when the holiday season seems to turn all too many of us from “human beings” into “human doings,” I sense that things must be better for my binge-writing buddies for a couple of reasons. They must be putting to good use those few hours here or there when they can get their writing done. If not, their post-holiday binge writing will more than make up for it, bringing their works in progress to completion relatively soon. Meanwhile, all these days and weeks with decorating, shopping, wrapping, sending out cards and packages, etc., piled on top of the regular routine really mess with the daily and weekly writing progress I had hoped to achieve. Simply making up for it by writing more words next month doesn’t seem feasible.
Here’s what I do to console myself while sipping eggnog: I tell myself this is simply an instance of thinking the grass is always greener in someone else’s yard. In ways I don’t suspect, it may well be that the holiday season isn’t any easier for binge writers than for us plodders. It’s just that I don’t know, first hand, how the holidays mess with my binge wring friends. Might some of them actually wish, from time to time, that they could write at a constant rate each day or week?