Staying inspired to write is hard enough at the best of times, and I find it only gets harder around the holidays.
The time and energy you spend with your pen and paper (or more likely, keyboard and word processor) suddenly has more competition than usual. There are a lot of priorities to deal with between holiday crunch at work, plus the general frenzy of shopping, planning, social events and family meetups (even if it’s all Zoom calls this year).
Where’s a writer to find a little peace and quiet?
The tips I share for writers to help writers stay inspired keep writing are the same year-round, but there are a few that count double during the holidays, when there are more outside demands on your time.
Tip #1: Writing time isn’t found; it’s made. Give yourself permission to make it!
For a long time as a writer, I was in the mindset that I could never find time to write.
It took me a while to realize that I was using that as an excuse to not make time to write.
And making time to write is difficult. Very few writers have people in their life who advocate for their writing time, who will say, “Sure, skip our coffee date so you can go write.” Making time for writing means taking time away from another activity, which is always difficult (especially during the holidays). And even if we take an hour for ourselves, there’s no guarantee we’ll feel like we used it well.
But the truth is that it’s pretty rare to see the improbable celestial alignment of a writer’s availability (having time to write), motivation (having the energy to write), and inspiration (having an idea to write about).
If you wait for it to happen, you could be waiting a while. But if you schedule time for writing, you can at least lock down availability. And the more you make yourself available, the more the motivation and inspiration will come on queue.
So make the time, even if it’s just an hour a day, or an hour a week. And don’t feel bad if you don’t use it well. You won’t get to the point of a regular productive writing practice if you don’t allow yourself to struggle through unproductive sessions first.
And just as importantly, don’t feel bad about holding space for writing time even when other obligations push up against it.
Let’s get into that!
Tip #2: Treat your writing time like yoga, or a Zoom call with a friend.
Friends and family, even ones who support your writing, might not understand why the time you spend alone in a room with the words in your head is an important daily or weekly ritual. Or they might plan events without realizing you’ve scheduled it for writing, and it’s hard to bring it up and rock the boat.
I recommend thinking of your writing time as either your regularly scheduled yoga, or a regularly scheduled call with a friend.
I’ve noticed writers tend to value everyone’s time except their own. I think it comes with the doubt a lot of us have in the value of the work we do. We’ll show up for a scheduled Zoom call with a friend, but not for ourselves when it’s time to advocate for an hour at the keyboard.
If you're someone who makes time for other kinds of exercise, self-care, and self-maintenance, reframing your writing time in the same way might help, while removing some of the pressure that can come to make that time productive. It’s an activity you do because it nourishes you and it’s important to feeling like your best self. It doesn’t matter if at the end of the hour you only have a few words to show for it.
If you’re not in the habit of holding time for self-care, you might try practicing to think of your writing time like you would an hour-long call a friend asked you to do with them every week. You wouldn’t apologize if you had to forego the first hour of a family activity to make time for a friend who needed you.
In this case, the friend is you, and you do need you to sit down for an hour and help you do something that matters to you.
Tip #3: If possible, write early in your day.
Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to be a morning person.
But whenever you get up, the first thing you do with your day is usually the only thing you can count on getting done. After that, you never know what crises and hectic schedule changes might come your way.
If it all possible, make writing the first thing you do with your day, even before you check your phone and email. Even better (if you can swing it), get up to write before the other people in your household start their days. It will minimize the chance something will put you away.
Writing late, after most people have wound down for the night, also works for some people. I find I can’t count on having energy to write at that point in my day, but for some people, these are peak neuron firing hours and when they do their best week.
Just make sure to make your late writing hour as regular as possible so you stay in the habit.
And some parting advice: self-forgiveness is as important for a writer as self-discipline.
Writers tend to get down on themselves.
We feel we didn’t use our writing time well, or we came up short of the perfect story idea in our heads, or we missed a writing session. The doubt we feel from these shortcomings can spiral out quickly, and suddenly we’re not just upset about the little bit of writing we did (or didn't do) today, but we’re absolutely certain that every word we’ve ever written or thought is total rubbish.
This is why I think learning to forgive yourself for creative stumbles, which are a natural part of the creative process, is easily as important as having the discipline to show up for your writing time. It also makes you more likely to show up to that creative time with excitement rather than obligation.
So be kind to yourself. It’s the holidays.
If you miss one writing session, or you show up but don’t get any words down, give yourself permission to start again fresh tomorrow.
Your mental health and your writing will both be better for it.