Another NaNoWriMo (for those not familiar with the term, that’s short for National Novel Writing Month, which, for those not familiar with the tradition, is the month of November, during which ambitious writers plan, plot and draft a full novel) has come and gone, leaving writers with a lack of structured writing incentives, and maybe a lack of ideas or ambitions to jumpstart creative juices, especially around the holiday season.
It’s too easy to become bogged down by the holiday checklist. Between gifts, flights, and black forest hams, it can be difficult to schedule time to write, and even then, to motivate yourself to take that “me time” to hack through plot lines, edit, or even scrawl words other than holiday lists.
Here are a few ideas, meant to spark creativity, and stay productive during the holidays.
1. Work towards keeping a specific writing schedule. There are the vacation weeks when you can sprawl out, pen in hand, and scribble away to your heart’s content. But with limited time, and added stress, creating more methodical schedules for your writing can hold you accountable to the goals you made in times of more creative potential. Whether this means sacrificing an hour of TV time to work on editing the first chapter of your novel, or grinding out a character description on the train to work, setting aside specific times can keep you on schedule. Try blocking out your day in a calendar, and using a timer (check your phone!) to hold yourself accountable. If you’re feeling too distracted, use the Pomodoro Technique (see: http://pomodorotechnique.com) write or edit for twenty-five minutes, then take five minutes to browse the web, write another holiday list, or brew a cup of coffee. Just a half an hour a day can help lead you to your long-term goals, and keep you focused on your project.
2. Journal your holidays. Put aside what you’re working on and focus on personal writing for a few weeks. Work to improve your technique and try different points of view, new voices, and even changes in sentence structure. Need a prompt? How about one of these?
What would your ideal holiday meal be? Who would be invited? What would be served? What would the conversation steer toward?
What is the most memorable present you’ve ever received? How can you recreate a similar experience for someone else?
What about your heritage is passed down through the holidays?
What is the voice of your holiday season? (Mine is frenetic, rushed, and completely in the first person).
3. Read. While practice makes perfect, inspiration will always have its place. Check out new authors from your local library. It’s a free treat that’s perfect for a few hours after Christmas dinner, or the wee hours of the New Years day.
4. Invest in new technology to help you write. What do you want to see in your stocking? What about a Kindle, to read on the go, and even export your PDF’s to work through your own work on-the-go. Or a tape recorder? Give your hand a break and explore a stream of consciousness style by recording yourself speaking aloud on all things writing for a few hours. My personal favorite, though, is the USB typewriter (http://www.usbtypewriter.com) a connection that allows you to write on a beautiful, classic typewriter, and see your words appear on an iPad or Kindle, editable, savable, and exportable.
5. Reach out to your guests. Don’t be afraid to ask for constructive criticism. As you gather with family and friends, put your ideas (or maybe even projects in the works) out there. Share your passions with those closest to you, and offer to send them materials after the holidays. You may not find anyone willing to edit your 600,000 word manuscript, but you may discover alternative perspectives on characters, and find out what catches on with an audience. After all, if you’re looking to self-publish, you’re looking to reach an audience. Find out what appeals to your friends and family, they’ll be the softest critics, and they may also be the most helpful.
6. Start a new project. Nothing is quite as motivating as having something fresh to work with, especially if you’ve looking at the same pages in the same font for months. Excite yourself with a new short story, scrawl out the first few plot lines of a new epic. Anything to excite yourself to the point where writing becomes a priority in your day.