For eight weeks of the year, a sort of bridge between Thanksgiving and Epiphany, or later for some family/office parties, America likes to think it shuts down. And we pretty much do in order to go crazy shopping, baking, reminiscing, and reuniting face-to-face or through writing with family and friends from the past. It’s a time that’s both a culmination and a catalyst, the end of a year and the explosion to get the engine of imagination and work restarted. In the frenzy, how can we stay fresh and working?
1. Plan Ahead as much as you can. Figure out when you need to fix meals, bake, clean, attend programs, who and how to gift, if/and/or support your spouse in these activities. Traveling? Hosting? A working schedule will help you use your time efficiently, even for SOTPansters.
2. Chart Deadlines in a way you can readily access them. I like to make lists and cross things off—gives me a keen sense of accomplishment. Maybe you like to use your portable phone and program chimes or make lists and email yourself reminders. Automating some of these goals helps unclutter your mind so you can grab free, unencumbered moments to write.
3. Think Small batches of time instead of great stretches. If you already write like this, grabbing moments while waiting in line, or after the kids go to bed, you understand. I have to rearrange my schedule to feel like I’m taking time “off” to bake a batch of cookies, or decorate the tree or wrap gifts. I think smaller, as in 10 tweets instead of an hour roaming Pinterest; write 500 words, not conquer chapter 10. Spend an hour here instead of the afternoon there.
4. Network during this time. Many of us get together with or communicate with people we don’t see all that often. It’s not pushy sales time, but sharing time. Be able to answer, So, what are you up to these days? And listen when you ask the question. If you’re freelancing, use your in between moments to make connections and write a reminder to follow up after the new year. Take some moments to research markets, find new groups to join, new writing opportunities. Writing is much more than putting words on paper. Pick up the latest books at the library, find a book discussion club to join, gift your work to others, comment on interviews, write reviews, make three goals for next year, and read, read, read!
5. Give Yourself Permission to set work aside. If you’re anything like me, you feel guilty if you’re not multi-tasking or spending at least a full workday of hours on your manuscript. But the one commandment Christians seem the most willing to fudge on is that Sabbath one—Number Three: REST from your labors, keep some holy time in your week. It’s okay. You’ll be more productive when your eyes aren’t drooping and your mind isn’t trying to solve four problems at once. God made it so. The least we can do is agree.