Writing During the Holidays: Staying on Track
How Limiting Screen Time, Keeping a Calendar, and Visits to the Local Hardware Store Will Keep Me on Track
During the holiday season, my writing time gets impacted by the rush of parties, travel, and celebrations. I’m sure it’s that way for most all writers, so I’m offering ideas to stay on track. Two of my suggestions are practical. One is a bit off the wall. But I’m a writer. Outside-the-box thinking is normal, right?
Put down the phone
Social media is not just a distraction, it’s a time warp. Precious minutes tick by while we check applications such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. There are monitors and timers to help with limiting the time spent browsing, but an old-fashioned alarm clock works, too.
I have deleted all but one of my social media sites from my phone. It has made a huge difference in the time I spent on applications. While I check Facebook on a daily basis, I spend no more than about fifteen minutes on it. I can handle that and not feel guilty about wasting time on social media.
For the holidays, I’ll do the same. More, in fact. I have a specific goal in mind regarding writing, so I have an incentive to stay away from social media.
Carry a planner with note pages
Recently, a friend and I exchanged Christmas gifts. (Yes, I’m aware that it’s early for that, but my friend and I both are plan-ahead types. It fits our characters that we have an exchange before the season begins. We are true to our characters, at least.) She gave me a wonderful planner that not only contains days and months, but a large section for note-taking. Brilliant! Now, during the next six weeks, I won’t carry separate notebooks for jotting ideas. I will update my calendar—and draft ideas—in the same journal.
FYI: I use the calendar in my phone, but I like keeping a planner, as well. Technology fails sometimes. I have missed appointments that have dropped out of my Google calendar unexpectedly, so I prefer having a hardcopy backup. Also, I draft outlines using pen and paper rather than a computer. After that, I use my outline notes to then compose in Scrivener.
In fact, for the next six weeks during the holidays, I’m going to write an outline for a new book in my 2020 planner. I’ll let you know how it goes after the holidays in a January blog post.
Use the moment to be inspired
Dear husband (DH) and I purchased a fixer upper. Need I say more? Should I say more? Well, in between comments such as, “What were we thinking?” and “Of course we need one of everything, dear,” are multiple trips to The Home Depot. As I wait for DH to hunt for another hammer or snow shovel, I rest on a clearance chaise lounge and ponder how much the structure of the store resembles that of a novel.
The lumber section is the backbone of a story, no doubt. Strong, straight beams support the narrative. After that, good plumbing is vital. It’s as important as the lumber. Plumbing is the necessary-but-unexpected twists and turns. It’s the myriad-but-unseen choices that support the story. Good plumbing takes the skill of a trained professional who can plumb brilliant elements—and then flush away anything that negatively impacts the story.
Pacing is represented in the paint section. Certain colors inspire different feelings. Red is urgency, just right for inspiring the speed of a thriller. Blue is calm, perfect for a soothing beach read. Green is the positivity and health of a cookbook.
The appliance section is obvious: It represents the many characters that make up a story. Every item comes in different sizes, shapes, composition, and color. The fun is bringing them together to form a cohesive narrative in one’s home, just as writers do in a story.
Different genres play out in the seasonal section, just as they do in book categories. As genres have specific elements, so do the seasonal sections of home improvement stores. In winter, it’s the holiday genre. In spring, which Wisconsin does have from time to time, the genre could be either self-help or mystery, depending upon whether it arrives or not.
Pretty cool how it works, eh?
I’ve said this to DH many times: Hardware and home-building stores need refreshment areas that offer warm beverages and baked treats. They would become new, better coffee shops that are more inspiring than the cliched environment of that well-known hot beverage seller.
So, if you see me resting and looking contemplative in a hardware store Christmas display, stop and say hello. It would be delightful to have some creative fun with another writer in such a place. Tools, decor, and writing ideas are meant to be shared during the good cheer season, right?
No matter where you are, make story accessible
This season, my goal is to spend less time viewing a screen and more time planning and writing. I will keep my new calendar-planner handy, and I’ll use it as my go-to place to make notes and develop an outline for a new story. I’ll also make the most of where I am, whether it be at a hardware store, an airport, my home office—or even (gasp!) a coffee shop.
Side note: I enjoyed reading the responses to last month’s post about writing one’s obituary. From embellishing accomplishments to having a bit of fun with a telemarketer, the responses were GOLD.
I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends, writers.
Write (and plan) on! ~ Tracey Kathryn