Hello, it’s me, Grinchy Mohi here to rain on the Christmas parade by giving you a plan of how to survive the holidays as a writer.

How to Survive the Holidays as a Writer


Original photo by Madison Kaminski 

Please allow me to begin this post with the disclaimer that I’m not declaring war on Christmas. Firstly, I don’t have the time or financial resources to declare ware on anything. And if I did, I would declare war on my to be read pile, because it’s CHOCK FULL of good stuff.

Also, I’m not here to say that I hate Christmas. (Though, if you know me, you know that it’s a holiday I pretty much can’t stand.) Everyone has really complicated feelings about holidays, and I would never tell anyone how to feel, just as I would never encourage you to tell others to enjoy a holiday that they probably hate for really good reasons.

It’s important to remember that we don’t live in an oversimplified Hallmark Channel movie. So, the people who love the holidays aren’t shallow idiots who love what’s marketed to them. They probably have really deep and important memories or reasons about the holidays that they get to re-experience every year during this season. Just as people who hate the holidays have really deep and important memories or reasons that contribute to their hatred of the season, which makes it hard for them to live through it.

This is the season for family and friend obligations, as well as mandatory fun at work. Here's how to survive the holidays as a writer. Share on X

There isn’t one right way experience this time of year. But I try to just extend some compassion to everyone and let them have their own emotions. And I encourage you to let me have mine.

Thank you for letting me say all that.

This post isn’t about that, by the way. Instead, I want to talk about how to survive the holidays as a writer.

This is the season for family and friend obligations, as well as mandatory fun at work. And while that might sound good on paper, if you’re working on a big creative project, you probably don’t have time for all of that. Couple that with some seasonal affective disorder, deadlines, and the abundance of junk food and alcohol during this season, it can be hard to get anything done.

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So, with that, I would share some tips for how you can survive the holiday season when all you really want to do is put on your warm slippers, brew a cup of tea, and write your damn words.

How to Survive the Holidays

001: Keep to your regular writing routine as much as you can.

If you have some travel plans, this may be difficult. But it’s important to keep to your routine as much as possible, especially to stay productive. One thing I hate about NaNoWriMo is that it’s in November, a time of year when a lot of people are traveling for Thanksgiving. So, if you’re trying to hit that word count goal, make sure you set a time to write. And write as much as you normally do.

I’m not saying you can’t take a day off, especially on the holiday. But I do know that, for me, it’s hard to just do one day. Especially if I’m staying with family. So I tend to take 3-5 days off over the holiday. And while you can still make that up, it’s going to be tough. So this year, I plan to keep my writing routine sacred, and write every single day over the holiday.

002: Moderation is key for staying productive.

I know the stereotype for writers is that we’re all drunken drug addicts who like to consume all willy nilly. But for the happiest writers I know, that’s not the case. And it’s especially true during the holiday, when you’ve got the stress of deadlines and gatherings that take away from your writing time. Couple that with the availability of booze and food at parties and such, and well, this is kind of a minefield.

If you find yourself with the “it’s the holidays!” mentality every time you grab another plate of food, or pour yourself another drink, it can be hard to moderate. For me, I find that I eat way too much sugar or have too much to drink and then can’t get up the next day to write. (I have reached an age where junk food gives me a worse hangover than alcohol.) So if I’m presented with an invitation to an event where I know that I probably won’t be able to moderate, I tend to not go. And if I can attend an event and have a couple drinks and a nice meal, then I go. This keeps me productive throughout the season, and doesn’t give me tons of days off from writing while I try to recover from eating way too many pies.

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003: Pretend a party of dwarves has asked you to be their burglar and leave the damn house.

Now, you may be the type to eschew all parties. And that’s totally cool. As an introvert who hates small talk, I will never encourage you to go to an event where you have to talk to strangers. But I do know that you can’t stay cooped up in your house all day. And I would argue that meaningful meetings with friends and family are most important during the holiday.

So, don’t stay home the whole time. Sure, you may get a lot done, but you still have to be a person. Instead, minimize time spent making small talk with large groups of strangers, and call a close friend to get some coffee. Con a sibling into going Christmas shopping with you. Meaningful meetings where I can focus on the person I’m speaking with and actually share important stuff is always my preference.

004: Prioritize events.

I’m really terrible about agreeing to do things and not thinking they’ll be a big deal. I do this because I don’t think about all the other stuff I have going on the second I’m asked to do a thing. I always view this as an isolated incident, which is terrible since I need alone time to recharge more than anything. So, now more than ever, I have to be aware of my calendar, and take time for me if I want to keep writing through the holidays.

You may think that as a planner addict, that I have this down. I DO NOT. During this time of year, I have to set some pretty strict rules for myself. So, if there’s already one night that week that I’m going out, I should say no to everything else. This may seem weird if you’re capable of going out on a Tuesday and a Saturday. But I’m not. Especially with day job and writing and blogging and YouTubing demands. So I have to pick the events and gatherings I really want to go to.

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005: Be alone if you want to, and with others if you want to.

This is something that I’m still learning to be okay with. I want to be alone a lot. Or at least, it would feel like a lot from the outside. But at my day job, I talk with about 100 students a day. And I share an office with a great coworker, and I talk to a lot of students and coworkers during office hours. So when I’m done with work, I need time to myself. But it’s hard to get that when you have a ton of other obligations throughout the holidays. Same goes for the holidays themselves. You can love your family and still need a second in a quiet room to breathe.

And sometimes you need more than just a night alone. Sometimes you need a couple days. That’s okay. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. You know what you need, and only you can really tell when maybe you should get out of the house. But I want to encourage you to be alone only if you want to. And you should reach out to people when you need to.

What's your fool-proof method for surviving the holidays as a writer? Share on X

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How Do You Survive the Holidays as a Writer?

What’s your fool-proof method for surviving the holidays as a writer? What makes it easier for you to stay productive when tons of people want your time? Are you like me in that you only attend Thanksgiving dinner for the pie?

4 Responses

  1. Nice post, Marisa.
    My wife tends to stress over the smallest things around the holidays — the food, will the grandchildren like their presents, and almost anything can trip her trigger. In fact, I think she’d like to host a party in mid-January to celebrate that the holidays have passed. 🙂

  2. I agree with EVERYTHING in this post. I really love the “magic” of holidays on my own terms, like serendipitous stuff – an all trombone concert or a flash mob are favorite memories.

    1. Both of those memories sound awesome! And I’m all about the serendipitous stuff too. Also, because I’m made of chaos, some of my favorite memories are from my childhood when the Christmas tree fell over on my cousin, and the food in the oven caught fire.

      Both of those sound like terrible memories, but it was so funny afterward, you know? It’s the stuff we bring up every year.

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