I'm typing this one-handed while cradling my son in the other arm. He's six, and he's snuggled under the down comforter against me, talking about Christmas Eve and all the fun things we're going to do: meet up with friends for pizza and the movie Elf, then packing the car and heading home to see the family, which is no small affair. Sisters, nieces, nephews, my mom, moms-in-law (not mine) and other people. It's basically a household-crawl where there are dinners planned on the hour sharp and activities for the kids after all that Christmas present-opening and toy-playing and candy-eating. And that's the next 2.5 days. Then it starts over again this weekend when I see my dad and my stepmom and my stepbrother and we have a dinner planned on the hour sharp and present-opening and toy-playing and catching up to do.

While my son is talking, he's also pressing the "Delete" key every once in a while, and I am going back and writing this all over again.

Because even though I have the day off from work, I don't have the day off from anything else.

Welcome to the holidays as a writer.

After a torturous November where I literally didn't have time or energy to write at all (10-hour workdays, school performances, family, tons of travel, house repairs), I swore that no matter how busy things got again, I wouldn't stop writing. That was a huge, horrifying gap of non-writing and it was awful.

I write every day. Come hell or high water or distance relatives, I write.

Some holiday tips I found through my past experience that might be useful for you, too:

1. Find the down time.

There's some during every holiday. Whether it's 5am on Christmas morning before everyone gets up and the house explodes with wrapping paper, or 2pm when the kids finally go down for a nap or a movie (thank you Polar Express for being long and chill and boring enough so I can write in the background). There is time, you just have to find it. It may be 30 minutes, but try to secure an hour. Which leads me to my second point...

2. Do not volunteer.

Do your part ahead of time. Make a pie or a covered dish or whatever and bring it. Let someone else cook for once. DO NOT HOST THIS SHINDIG--YOU WILL ONLY GET PISSED OFF AT THEM AND YOURSELF. And if you do, cater or potluck or something.  If you're not cooking, wash the dishes--that's easy and everyone else hates it. Take the kids out of the house to play for an hour or something, then switch with another adult. Make sure you get that hour (at least) to write.

3. Be firm and gentle.

Tell family members ahead of time. You're working on a project. You can't lose momentum, The greatest gift they could give you is time and space (just a little) to put down some sentences. Hell, you'll dedicate the book to them.

4. End your scene or chapter mid-sentence.

The old Hemingway trick. It will keep you going no matter how long you're home for the holidays AND you won't have to think too hard about where to begin each time.


Everyone hits the booze during the holidays (unless they're Baptist or in AA or whatever, which...good for you). I'm a bourbon lover. But I know better than to get schnockered around the siblings then sit down at the laptop and think I'm going to puke gold onto the pages. And while we're at it, DO NOT EAT TOO MUCH. Eating too much slows down your body and your brain. Beware the sweets. Put down that brownie. Don't sabotage yourself with a sugar coma.

6. Go for a Christmas walk.

Get out of the house. When all else fails, leave. What are they going to do, lock you out? Just assure everyoneyou need to stretch your legs and you'll be back shortly. The family line will not be thrown into peril while you clock some crucial daydream time to work out a piece of dialogue for your characters.

7. And last but not least, when family members hound you about the status of your book or what your book is about, shut down the conversation. Seriously. Just shut it down. Be short, polite, and smile. Why? Because talking about writing and engaging in conversation with family members who may not "get it" will kill your writing spirit, if only temporarily. They may get paranoid that your new quirky family novel sounds suspiciously JUST LIKE THEM. Or they may passively attack you with how writing is a great "hobby" or "not a real job." They love you, and you love them (hopefully), but writing is ultimately a private, magical act. Only you know what you're doing at the helm, and some of it just can't be explained. Kind of like Santa. Or elves.

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