For starters, I want to say that I'm not taking back anything that I said in Part One of the holiday survival guide. Okay? I truly have used and loved using every tip in that post, and I mean every single one.
I also really needed to say this, too.
This has been my usual writing practice during the holidays:
I get really psyched up about the holiday season, and I promise myself that this will be the Year of Balance and Harmony between writing and everything else.
And then I crash and burn, berate myself, and flounder around until, oh, about February. When I finally piece myself together again.
Honestly, this season throws me for a loop. And I'm finally realizing that it will just go ahead and keep doing that.
I used to attack myself for how lazy I was, how undisciplined and unfocused.
I thought that a real writer would just keep on working, whatever the date on the calendar. Sure, take off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but otherwise: I should be able to sail right through the season, full of words.
I have spent so much time hating myself for missing writing sessions in December.
I felt like a fraud, a hypocrite. And people think I'm actually WRITING! I'd shriek, and then flail about.
Holiday stuff, or writing stuff? Family gatherings, or character gatherings? Which do I skip? How do I clone myself already?
I spent so much time doing this. So much time being angry at myself for not managing it all flawlessly.
And now I think that, actually, all that time could have been better spent.
Instead of flailing, what if I just got back up, and learned to love writing more, learned to love my story more?
What if I just focused on getting back into the game?
Without all the blood and all the tears and all the flailing limbs.
There are going to be days (and weeks and even months) when writing just does not happen.
And I'd like to say: don't waste your time on the negative emotions. You don't need them.
Just come back and read. Come back and write.
So you've missed a day, or two, or eight, or thirty.
I just want to say that. It's okay.
Yes, you will feel rusty when you start again. Yes, you will probably think everything you're writing is crap.
Ignore the voices. They just show up after you've taken a break from writing, because they think that's their job. They are the gnats of the writing practice. Just brush them off.
That's your starting over plan: Shrug off the internal resistance. And simply paddle toward the words again.
Remind yourself of this as often as you need to, during the on-again, off-again, on-again writing schedule of the holidays.
Above all, skip the shame and the guilt.
Drowning yourself in misery because you haven't written in a while doesn't actually work.
It doesn't make you a better writer. It doesn't make up for the time you spent away from the work. And it doesn't endow you with all kinds of discipline for the next time your work is disrupted.
I PROMISE you this.
If shame and guilt worked wonders in a writing life, then by now I'd be a multiple bestselling writer, fa-la-la-la-la-ing my way around the country on a book tour.
(Which I'm not.)
So, I've tried out that writing tactic, and I'm here to spread the word that it doesn't work. Let's try new tactics.
Let's try self-forgiveness.
Let's try getting up again and just brushing ourselves off and carrying on with the work.
So far, that's worked really well for my writing life. (And life in general.)
Yes, try to steer through the storm of events. Try to hang on to your story. Try to stay upright.
Snatch time for your work. Try all the fun suggestions from Part One of this guide, and see which ones work for you.
But also, please know this: If you do fall down, if suddenly you realize you've missed a whole month, it really isn't as big of a deal as it can sometimes feel like.
It doesn't make you undisciplined, lazy, or a liar if your writing practice just sort of implodes during the holidays.
It doesn't make you bad. And it doesn't mean you aren't committed.
It just means that life is big, and that stuff happens, like it always does.
It also means you don't control everything. (Which isn't such a bad thing after all.)
Most of all—and this is actually a rather exciting and good thing—it means that you and I can practice getting up again.
We can practice our agility. Which makes us resilient and strong in our writing, instead of brittle and defensive. It's a good direction to go.
So these are my three absolute essentials for the holidays:
1) Forgive yourself when you fall down.
Be relentless about forgiveness. Keep giving it to yourself.
Even when you think you should beat yourself up, try forgiveness. Tell yourself it's okay. (Out loud is best.)
2) Refuse to believe all the lies about what this says about you as a writer, and about your discipline.
The lies are totally uninformed. You don't have to listen to them. They don't realize all the other ways that you're growing as a person during this season. Down the road, that will translate to more writing and better stories.
So, ignore the lies.
3) And heck! Enjoy those holidays!!
If, like me, you are celebrating the birth of a King, then those celebrations really do deserve all the time and energy they take. And then some!
Yeah, I might not go to many parties, and I keep my shopping minimal, and I really will try to write as many days of December as I can...
But I also don't want to miss Christmas. I don't want to be over-focused on work, and under-focused on what matters most.
So if it is a cold hard choice between participating in the holiday or writing, then choose the holiday.
And don't beat yourself up about it.
But choose that holiday with a wide open heart and wide open mind. Experience all of it.
And when it's all over, write down what you remember.
Start up again. Dust off your keyboard, your notebook, your pen. Re-establish your writing groove.
Starting over has been a consistent part of my writing life: I'm finally learning to treat it like a skill. I want to get really good at restarting. Instead of being afraid of it.
Are you on board with that?
Let's use this year's post-holiday season for practice.
And don't forget: Kindness eases everything.
(Peppermint mochas don't hurt either.)