A Writer’s Holiday Survival Guide
Julie Butcher blogs about the challenges writers face when balancing projects and the holiday season.
So here it is December and it gets harder and harder to get your words on the page. All the sparkly holiday parties beckon and beguile you with eggnog and cookies. The theaters have new movies and they tempt you each and every time you open a page on the internet or check your email. All of these things add up to a tremendous waste of time and lack of productivity.
Writers write every single day. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. But while writing on a schedule certainly increases your word count, it doesn’t necessarily benefit you in other ways. The holidays are the very best time to people watch and to get new characters and situations for your books.
So when that next holiday event is planned right in the middle of your daily words—go for it.
Ha! You didn’t expect me to say that, did you? All work and no play make Jack’s manuscript really boring. How can you write joy if you don’t feel it? Why write about love if you don’t take the time to share your time with the people who matter the most? There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a holiday break. Not only do I give you permission, I’m going to help you. Getting into the season is hard—especially for writers— so here is a helpful list of holiday hints.
Get your shopping list done first—for the people you love and for things you would like to be given. (This is for the people who love you back). It is totally hard to pick out gifts for writers because we are a weird lot. (Don’t even deny this fact. You know you fell off the sanity boat and into the river of WTF a very long time ago.) Give them a list, or better yet, a link.
If you’re like every other writer I have known in my life, you’re late to the gate shopping-wise. So do yourself a favor and sign up for a trial of Amazon Prime and get free two-day shipping. Or, you can do all of your shopping here at Buzzy. Everyone needs snarky shirts and that is a stone cold fact. If they have clothing, they’ll love audio books. Of course, you’ll need to put the Buzzy shirts for writers on your own want list.
Next you’ll have to get into the holiday mood, so watch some Christmas episodes of your favorite shows. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your geek-cred. Supernatural has wonderful holiday eps with human sacrifice and fruit cake. Dr. Who saves the earth from aliens every December twenty-fifth. Even Buffy celebrates by rambling hand in hand through the snow with Angel. If you feel like a walk on the wild side, Bones has a Christmas episode with dead bodies, contamination, quarantine, and a very lucky penny.
Now that you are in the proper holiday spirit, get out there among the masses. At no other time of the year are character quirks and flaws so blatantly displayed. Everyone you see wears their emotions on their face. Their posture is a huge exaggeration of their inner selves—the kind of characterization you need to show in your manuscripts. Their words no longer have the filters they use normally because they are in a combatant ready war zone, err, shopping mall full of holiday joy. Everyone who speaks lets their thoughts run out of their mouth with nary a hesitation. Heck, without a filter of any kind—not even a comma. It is like all the people in the world open their skull and let you look inside their brain.
On any normal people watching day, you’re lucky to see an argument. But during the holidays your emo cup runs over with truly biblical proportions— which is awesome in the way that only a writer can appreciate.
The office party you’re dreading is a gold mine of opportunity. That guy in sales who always finds an alcohol loaded receptionist and convinces her to Xerox her boobs can turn into the lecherous, weak best friend of your hero. Talk to the people. They’ll tell you secrets and expose enough odd personality traits to give you novel fodder for months to come. Some of it will be so weird that you couldn’t possibly think that crap up, not even with your terminally warped writer mind.
That family dinner where you called in sick for the last two years—pure plot glory. Don’t think of them as relatives, but as characters in your favorite Joss Whedon film. Pay attention. Take those gestures and quirks, blow them up into epic proportions, and write your full cast. Don’t forget to notice the undercurrents of family history and to see the reactions your new characters have to Uncle Bert who doesn’t bring presents, owes the entire family money, and arrives in a brand new Lexus he paid for with cash.
Take all of the things you see and feel and use it. Also, you deserve a break.
Written by Julie Butcher