7 dos and don’ts for writing through the holidays

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If you’re planning on writing through the holidays, here are some tips to make the work easier on yourself…

Many of my friends and clients fret about writing over the holidays. Should they take time off or should they continue writing?

I pass no judgement either way. This is a personal decision relating to how you feel about the holidays — and, of course, how you feel about writing.

But if you do wish to continue writing, I have some heartfelt advice.

1-Don’t talk to family and friends about what you’re writing: People are usually fascinated by writers. And if you’re doing something big, like writing a book, their fascination often grows bigger and higher than any note hit by Mariah Carey. (Also, at Christmas parties, some people are bad at small talk, and the presence of a writer in the room seems to give them an easy life raft to grab at.) Don’t fall for this ruse!

People who talk about their work seldom end up writing it. Here’s why: As human beings, we have a strong desire to communicate. But if we communicate by talking about something, our brains figure we’ve already shared the message, so we no longer need to write it. Allow yourself to communicate your message only by writing, not talking.

Here’s how I respond if someone asks me about what I’m writing: “This may sound funny, but writing friends have advised me not to talk about it until it’s finished. I know this might sound superstitious, but I really don’t want to jinx myself. Can we talk about something else instead? What do you think about _____?” [name popular subject here]

This advice is especially important for grad students working on theses or dissertations.

2-Don’t give yourself big overwhelming goals: I know, during the regular year you don’t have nearly enough time to write — other work always gets in the way. But in December, all of a sudden, two work-free weeks loom and we get visions not of sugarplums but of three uninterrupted hours at the computer, writing…. STOP.

Remind yourself that you also need to buy gifts, wrap gifts, write cards, cook fancy meals and go to parties. And you also probably enjoy at least some of those things! Instead of doubling down on work, loosen the reins a little and commit to a small amount of writing time every day. Somewhere between five and 15 minutes is plenty. (Thirty minutes max for grad students.) Tip: do it first thing in the morning and enjoy the rest of your day with a clear conscience.

3-Don’t ask family to read your work: I’m a big believer in beta readers — friends and acquaintances who give you feedback on your writing free of charge. (You can learn more about them here and here.) But there’s one big exception: family.

Don’t ask family to read your work. Their response will simply reflect your relationship with them. If you get along well, they’re likely to be too supportive and uncritical. If you get along poorly, they’re likely to be too harsh. Neither type of response is going to be of any use to you.

4-Do tell your family that you’re writing and you need peace and quiet: As a matter of courtesy, if you want to take some holiday time to write, get your family’s buy-in first. Don’t just disappear on them. Tell them you need x minutes to write every day during the holidays. If x is reasonable, they’re likely to agree. (And if you can, set aside time to write in the morning, before they wake up.)

5-Do go somewhere your family can’t find you: If your family has a hard time letting go of you, consider taking your laptop and going somewhere else. A nearby café, community centre or library would all work. Take a pair of headphones with you, grab a coffee and sit down to write.

 6-Do make your time commitment really small: The best reason for writing during the holidays is simply to maintain your writing habit. This doesn’t require great gobs of time! As I said, somewhere between five and 15 minutes (max 30 minutes for grad students) should be plenty. You’re not trying to write a whole book or dissertation in two weeks! You’re simply trying to keep your hand in the writing game — and not forget about what you were working on. This small amount of time will allow you to quickly re-establish your writing habit once January rolls around.

7-Do enjoy some time off: These holidays come only once a year. Most families have practices and traditions that they don’t do any other time. Enjoy the lights, the good food and the chance to socialize, especially if you have young children in your midst.

Your writing will still be there in January. And you’ll do a better job at it if you’ve been able to enjoy a bit of a break in December.


My video podcast last week addressed how to write with multiple authors. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Want to develop a better writing routine for 2024? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


Do you usually try writing through the holidays? What works for you? We can all learn from each other, so please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by Dec. 31/23, I’ll put you in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


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