Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Survival Guide: Writer's Edition by Angie Arndt

Angie Arndt
You've just finished NaNoWriMo, in spite of Thanksgiving, and now you're faced with Christmas and New Year's. How do you make your manuscript submission-ready without alienating your family and friends?

If you're not on a deadline, family comes first. That manuscript can wait until the New Year. 

If you're on deadline, the manuscript comes first. Your family will understand if you don't see them until the New Year.

Just kidding. 

Well, just a little.

The key to surviving Christmas without ruining your children's lives, your marriage and your writing career is -- like everything -- balance. Here are some coping skills to help you get to New Year's Day without alienating every member of your family (unless that's what you want to do).

Find time to be alone.
Most writers are introverts so the holidays can be stressful simply because there are so many people around. Try to find a few minutes where you can be alone while you're at your in-laws. If loud Uncle Elmer follows, start reading that book you brought. He'll get the message -- hopefully.

Keep an Emotional Journal. This great tip is from Beth Vogt. Don't waste that panic, exhaustion or aggravation. Take notes about how you feel. Sometimes simply writing about your feelings can help you remain calm. Or just bring your cappuccino in your "Careful or You'll End Up in My Next Novel" mug.

Limit your obligations. Don't plan to go shopping, to the school's Christmas program and your office party on the same day. You know your physical limitations. Think of it this way: in five years, will you wish you'd gone to the office party or the Christmas program where your daughter sings her first solo? Believe me, one office party is much like another (and you know what I mean).

Try to write or edit a little every day. If you have a blog, keep a list of topics and snatch bits of time throughout the day when you can get ahead of those posts. You may get ideas as you cook, while you're playing football with the nephews or even as you watch Uncle Elmer snore. (Everyone has an Uncle Elmer, right? Please tell me it's not just me.)

Work on your novel, but don't try to meet unrealistic expectations. You will have to lower your projected word count. Five hundred words are better than zero. Keep a list of scenes and a notebook in your pocket. You may be able to add a little to those scenes that have already been written or add details to those that haven't. Just don't lose the notebook in the cushions of the couch. 

Try to laugh every day.
Don't take yourself too seriously and try to find humor in awkward situations. Stress levels can accumulate during the holidays and laughter can defuse tense confrontations. But when Grandma Mavis' new puppy runs through the living room with her bloomers, you may want to stifle that snicker until after dinner.

Don't forget to prepare your heart for Christmas. Too many plans, deadlines and family obligations could drain the cheer from Aunt Louise -- and she has a Christmas sweater for every day of Advent. Seriously, you know that sweaters, plays, shopping and parties aren't why we celebrate Christmas. Use the days of Advent to prepare your heart and be thankful -- not only for Christmas but for Easter, too. 

I hope these tips help you survive the month of December. Managing your writing time is hard enough when life is dull. Just keep writing and don't get overwhelmed. Take care of yourself -- physically, mentally, and above all, spiritually. 

Comments

If you have some tips, leave a comment below. We need all the help we can get!

16 comments:

  1. AWESOME list, Angie. Now if I can just implement these tips. For me, the toughest one to actually practice is the first. With a full house over the holidays, not even our bedroom is sacred with adults and kids traipsing through to use the bathroom. :)
    Here's to alone time over the holidays!!

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    1. Uh-oh, Dora! As I was reading your comment, I was going to recommend hiding in the bathroom and locking the door! But I remember having a little one in the house and hearing *tap-tap-tap* "Miss Angie. Are you in there?" LOL!

      You could always hide in the car ... maybe not. In that case just employ rule #3, those little ones will grow up so fast. Enjoy them while you can (and write like crazy after they leave).

      Thanks for the comment, sweet friend! I hope you have a great Christmas! Love!

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  2. Great list, Angie! There are times we can't escape those multiple duties, but being the rare extrovert writer, I get energized, especially when tonight's "office party" is my ACFW chapter Christmas party. I'll come home with great blog post ideas, and will have brainstormed a scene or two. :) And thanks for reminding me about Uncle Elmer. Mine is a Cousin but what a blog post that will make! I hope your Christmas season is blessed!

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    1. LOL! I'd love to read about your Cousin "Elmer!"

      I can attest to the fact that you are an extrovert! And you're such a blessing to the other ACFW chapters. It's great to be with others who speak "writer-ese" and understand this crazy life we live. I hope you have a great time tonight!

      Thank you and many blessings to you, too!

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  3. #6. I try to read the comics everyday and usually get a snicker out of one or two. Every now and then I get a hearty laugh out of one. Good post Angie and good success to you!

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    1. Thanks, Danny! I really appreciate it and you, too! :) (And don't worry, you don't know Uncle Elmer! LOL!)

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  4. I fell short of 'winning' NaNo because I chose to spend the last few days enjoying out of town family. I don't regret it (mostly). I am trying to find that precarious balance of writing and family for Dec, but if not there is always next year.

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    1. I know what you mean, Kate! NaNo was over before it started for me and, like you, it was because of family obligations. And even though I just wrote this, I still have to remind myself of it, too.

      Thanks so much for your comment and for stopping by, sweet friend!

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  5. Hi Angie, what great hints. We are empty nesters but love the frenzy of the grandsons! We are going to hear the three year old's first Christmas songs in church on the 14th...should be adorable. And I gotta confess, I am for probably the first time ever, dealing with writers block for a story due January 1. Anyway, take care and stay calm! Jesus is the reason for the season!
    Xoxoxo

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    1. Thank you so much, Tanya! Isn't it great to see Christmas through your grandchildren's eyes? It's like getting a fresh start, isn't it? Oh, what fun it will be to hear him sing! I bet he'll be the cutest one up there!

      Sorry you're dealing with writer's block, sweetie! I'll be praying for you -- that you'll have fresh inspiration along with your family's love. Yes, Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

      Love!

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  6. I like the "work on your novel, but don't try to reach unrealistic expectations". Sometimes, you've just got to let go of the stress. (Can you tell who I'm trying to convince right now?) :)

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    1. Yep, Sandy, I can tell! I'll be praying for you, sweetie, that your stress levels will melt away and that you'll find bits of time to work on your novel. Hang in there!

      Hugs!

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  7. Wonderfully wise advice, Angie! A biggie for me is "Limit your obligations." I practice saying no often!

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    1. I know what you mean, I have a hard time saying no. Practicing sounds like a good idea. As they say, "Practice makes perfect."

      Thanks so much for stopping by, sweet friend! :)

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  8. Oh, Angie, I'm the worlds worst about overbooking, my weekend is jam packed with plans. I'll be exhausted on Monday. Thanks for the tips. Hopefully, I'll employ them the rest the holiday season.

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    1. Don't you hate that? It makes me tired before the weekend gets here! Try to take some time to rest, if only for a five-minute cat nap. I'll be praying for you, Terri!

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