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