Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 13: Writing over the Holidays

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How to keep writing over the busy holiday season

Finding time to write is hard enough during the rest of the year, but during the holidays, it seems nearly impossible. There are a million things to do that keep us from writing: baking and cooking, wrapping presents, shopping for gifts, decorating, spending time with family and friends, watching holiday specials on TV, traveling, and eating tons of food.

By the time you wake up from your food coma in January, you might find that you haven’t gotten any writing done and have totally lost your momentum so that you’re now struggling to get back into the story.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 17 tips that will help you keep writing over the busy holiday season:

  1. Write first thing in the morning. I know the holidays are not a time when you want to set an alarm and get up early. But if you get up just half an hour earlier than everyone else, you could get in some writing while your brain is still fresh and there are no distractions around. No matter what happens during the rest of the day, you already got some writing done and can start the day with a sense of accomplishment.

  1. Stay up a little longer. If you’re not an early bird, you could try getting some writing done in the evenings, when everyone else is already asleep. Even if you get in just fifty words, that’s still progress.

  1. Use travel time to write. If you’re traveling to visit family or friends during the holidays, use the time on the plane or the train to write. Instead of chatting with your fellow travelers, put on headphones and write. Not having access to the Internet while you’re traveling can do wonders for your productivity too!

  1. Write instead of watching TV. Do you really have to watch every holiday special and every rerun of your favorite TV shows? For every hour of watching TV you give up, you gain an hour of writing time.

  1. Find a place to write. During the holidays, it can be difficult to find a quiet place where you can write without interruptions, especially if you’re not spending the holidays in your own home. Try early on to find a writing corner. You could even try writing away from the house if there are too many distractions around. Go find a coffee shop, or dictate a scene of your novel while you’re taking a walk.

  1. Use little nuggets of time. You probably won’t get long blocks of uninterrupted writing time during the holidays, but you can still get a lot done if you use waiting time wisely. While you wait for boarding at the airport or for dinner to cook, get in some writing. Fifteen minutes here and there really do add up. If you are one of those writers who can’t get any writing done unless they have at least an hour or two, use those little pockets of time for writing-related things such as choosing names for your characters, plotting out the next scene, or doing a little research. But give writing in small chunks of time a try; the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.

  1. Set realistic goals. Lower your expectations and make sure to set realistic writing goals; otherwise, you just end up frustrating yourself and feeling guilty for not meeting your goals. I know that I won’t be able to make my usual goal of writing 2,000 words a day during the holidays, but 500 words should be doable.

  1. Be flexible. During the holidays, you have to be creative to get a little writing in. If you can write only under perfect conditions, you probably won’t get any writing done. Be open to trying new things. For example, if you don’t have enough time to get out your laptop, scribble down a few sentences in a notebook.

  1. Eliminate distractions. Since you don’t have much time to write during the holidays, it’s all the more important to use that time in a productive way instead of wasting it on mindless activities. If you’re anything like me, e-mail, social media, and the Internet are probably your biggest distractions. Use  a software program such as Freedom that blocks the Internet while you’re writing. Or, better yet, do a digital detox during the holidays. Stay completely unplugged and use the time you don’t spend online to write.

  1. Use thinking time. Even if you don’t have time to actually sit down to write, there’ll always be time to think about the next scene and to plan your next writing session while you’re doing the dishes, taking a shower, or wrapping gifts. That way, you already know what you’re going to write and won’t have to stare at a blank page when you finally do find time to write.

  1. Schedule writing time in advance. Get out your daily planner and look at your schedule during the holidays. Where could you set aside a little time for your writing? Put it in your calendar. That way, you’re sending a signal that you’re taking your writing as seriously as any other important appointment. Reserve that time for writing. Don’t answer the doorbell or the phone; just write.

  1. Share your writing schedule with your family and friends. Let them know when you’ll be writing and ask them not to disturb you during that time.

  1. Write down notes at the end of each writing session. If you don’t have much time to write, you can’t waste it by re-reading what you have written or figuring out what you want to write next. So end each writing sessions by taking notes for the next one.

  1. Stay healthy. I know the holidays are the time to overeat and avoid any form of exercise, but try not to overdo it too much. If you take good care of yourself, you’ll still have the energy to get a little writing done when everyone else falls into a food coma.

  1. Avoid multitasking. We’re taught that multitasking makes us more productive, but it’s actually just the opposite. Every time you switch between tasks, your brain needs time to adjust. As a result, you need longer to complete each task and will make more mistakes. That’s why multitasking is jokingly referred to as “the art of screwing up several things at once.” So don’t lug your laptop to the kitchen and try to write while preparing dinner. Unless cooking requires no brain power whatsoever for you, you’ll only stress yourself out and end up with overly salted food.

  1. Use the time for writing-related tasks. If you don’t feel very creative during the holidays, try to use the time for the other tasks in a writer’s life. You could spend December revising your NaNoWriMo draft, do some research for your next writing project, read a book on writing, or set your writing goals for 2016.

  1. Don’t feel guilty. There’s no reason to feel guilty for setting aside a little time for yourself and your writing. You’ll be a happier person once you got some writing in, and your loved ones will benefit from that too. It’s a sign of mutual respect if your family and friends don’t disturb you during your writing time—and you in return focus exclusively on your friends and family when you’re with them instead of daydreaming about your writing. On the other hand, if you don’t feel like writing and would rather spend some time with family and friends, go ahead and do that without feeling guilty. Some time away from writing can help to refill your creative tank.

For more tips on how to find time to write—during the holidays or the rest of the year—check out Time Management for Writers. How to write faster, find the time to write your book, and be a more prolific writer by Sandra Gerth.

Happy holidays and best of luck with your writing!


(Writers’ Guide Series)

How to write faster, find the time to write your book, and be a more prolific writer

by Sandra Gerth

In the digital age, publishing as book is easier than ever, but finding the time to write a book is becoming harder and harder. With day jobs, family obligations, household chores, and hobbies, many writers struggle to get any writing done.

At the same time, publishers and readers expect writers to publish multiple books every year and to somehow find enough time to market their books through blogging, social media, and networking.

If you are struggling to find enough time to write or don’t get much written once you finally do, this book is for you.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, this book will help you to

  • Find enough time to write, even if you have a day job,
  • Write and publish more books in less time,
  • Use rituals to create a powerful writing habit,
  • Get your first drafts written more quickly, while still writing well,
  • Deal with distractions and interruptions,
  • Find your most productive writing routine and environment,
  • Use writing challenges to become more productive,
  • Discover tools and resources that help you focus on your writing,
  • Manage your e-mail inbox in less time,
  • Decide how much time to spend writing versus marketing,
  • Overcome writer’s block and procrastination,

Author’s bio:

Sandra Gerth is a writer and an editor who divides her time between writing her own books and helping other writers revise and polish theirs.

She holds a degree in psychology and worked as a psychologist for eight years before transitioning into a career as a full-time novelist—the best job in the world as far as she’s concerned.

She earned a certificate in editing from the Academy of German Book Trade and is now the senior editor of Ylva Publishing, a small press that publishes women’s fiction.

Under her pen name, Jae, she has published twelve novels and about two dozen short stories. Her books have won numerous awards and have been #1 bestsellers on Amazon on various occasions.

She’s also the author of a series of books for writers.



36 thoughts on “Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 13: Writing over the Holidays

  1. Irishey says:

    Good morning! You have been busy, busy, busy! Posts 12 and 12a! Lol! Awesome. 🙂

    I love that all your helpful tips are numbered “1.” Each is as helpful as the next. If I ever decide to try to write a story or novel, I know where to look to help keep myself on track and positive. Meanwhile, several of these tips can apply to accomplishing things other than writing. I may have to employ a few to get some things done!

    While I haven’t been around much since your last Advent event, I know in years past you’ve posted many other helpful articles for authors. This part of the community often seems to be about writers/authors helping others with their craft. That is an uncommon, special, laudable thing.

    Hugs, Ana!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Julie says:

    I’m sure these are great suggestions for writers, but most or all of them seem like they’d be great suggestions for *anyone* who needs to find some “me” time away from family / friends / obligations in the midst of the holiday frenzy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Irishey says:

      Hi, Julie. I agree these tips are useful in general. Sorry I haven’t yet said hi to you at Ana’s party this year. I usually am better at commenting on comments and getting to know people better early on during this event.

      Wow, look at me, acting like greeter girl! May I take your coat? 😉 I don’t know why Ana puts up with me. Lol!


  3. SH says:

    Great list of tips! Even though I am not an author I can relate to quite a few of them. Especially, the first thing in the morning one. For me, if I don’t go to the gym first thing in the morning it flat out won’t happen that day. Which means it’s time to get dressed and get moving 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joelle Casteel says:

    Hey Sandra Gerth 🙂 😀 I’m sure you talk about the importance of notebooks in your book- they are a major tool for me. Interestingly enough in my own writing, with just coming out of a deep depression, still struggling to balance lifestyle submission/day job/writing, and having just managed only 25K-ish words for Nanowrimo, I’m shelving all word count goals for the month and just celebrating any words written as I also take the time to read books- most of them non-fiction and not directly related to my writing. Not much in the way of holiday related celebrating here- although I do hope to convince my dominant to make plans to see His mom this weekend- she’s such a wonderful lady and I’d like to encourage my daughter’s closeness since my MIL took my daughter’s disclosure of being transgender much better than my own mother. I believe once I’ve posted this that I’m going to grab myself a copy of your book; I know as plenty would remind me that I’ve had a super stressful year (daughter coming out as transgender, dealing with the family response- which included cutting ties with my parents, issues of a lifestyle BDSM relationships after about 15 years of time), but my word count/published book output has been totally unacceptable to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Irishey says:

      Hi, Joelle. I wrote a chatty reply to one of your comments a few days ago, but got sidetracked before I finished it. My Internet kept going down for a few days, and I lost it all. Probably just as well. It was rambley.

      In a nutshell, that mess with your parents, and the rest of the things stressing on you… I don’t have many of the same issues as you, but I have other challenges to assess and address that require coping skills I haven’t used to my best advantage. In writing out the things I know I need to do to fix my own things, I was offering them up as suggestions to you. In the end, we both know the various things what we need to do to truly remedy this stuff in order to move on in a healthy way.

      I am being resistant, stubborn, and am being a bit too lazy to do some of that emotional work needed to get past it all. It doesn’t serve me to hold onto anger, frustration, sadness, or other negative emotions, yet I do sometimes – sometimes for a very long time.

      Is it some form of personal punishment perversion to not want to let go of the attitude? I don’t know why it is so hard to forgive (not forget), or to just do what needs doing, or to always rise above and take the high road.

      I don’t think I am naturally petty, and I don’t hold grudges over most offenses. I usually forgive and forget within minutes! I don’t lie the drama of hard feelings or things left undone until they cause problems. My only excuse with these several things that are wrapped around my axel is that they are big, huge even. I don’t know any other reason/excuse for me being stuck in this rut over them. How about you?

      And, hugs. 🙂


      • Joelle Casteel says:

        Aw at the lost post, Irishey. Yup, the best way to deal with issues. That’s part of why I’m trying to put my focus on the Calendar and then with that to putting my attention on new traditions, like the pen thing I mentioned I’m doing for my daughter- true, it started in reaction to my mother’s bigotry, but if I put the emphasis back on my daughter and her enjoyment of the pens 😀 I’m still processing a lot of the pain though with my parents and I think that’s the biggest part why I keep having to refocus on the now; things like my daughter saying “I stayed in [the transgender] closet for 6 years because of grandma and grandpa [ie my parents]”- the generational fear still messes with me. And I could excuse myself with the whole “family togetherness” that’s a focus in so many places at this time of year, but that’s always been an issue for me- my biological family has never been functional in my memory. Being able to stop, focus on my dominant and my teen as my family and the community of this Calendar without having to go to my parents’ for Christmas should be a good thing- now that would be one rut that I’d identify.

        For me, the thing is often to find the place where it’s my bipolar causing my mood and where it’s ruts and bad focuses causing my depression. I also need to get back active into doing things like yoga; you see, I don’t take meds to control my bipolar, which puts a whole lot of work on my shoulders. However I think much more of my depression this year has been my own rut-exploration.

        And thanks for the hugs


    • Irishey says:

      Hi, Kai! Just making rounds at the party. 😉

      Multitasking was a necessity for me in my occupation. Sometimes, you have to train yourself to be able to function on several levels to accomplish things simultaneously. I used to liken doing my job to driving in a blizzard in the midst of a sh*tstorm through a warzone into a stampede, while threading a needle to make a great loaf of bread. 😉

      Wow. Can’t believe I remembered that ridiculous analogy. It’s been years since I’ve thought of that.


  5. JoanneBest says:

    How much did I need your list? To the moon and back, that’s how much!
    As others already said, these are great tips whether you’re writing or not.
    For a struggling not-yet-really published author like I am, they’re a godsend. Although I’ve “published”, as in I was paid money for short stories printed in magazines, I don’t count those as “published”, nor do I count the poetry I’ve had “published” in online magazines. To me, published is a finished book or a short story included in an anthology, preferably with a publisher.
    I am hard on myself and your last number 1 tip, Don’t Feel Guilty is something I need to beat myself over the head with, perhaps have those words tattooed on my inner eyelids or something because I *always* feel guilty.

    It’s sadly funny that I’ve attempted nearly all your tips and somehow those surrounding me refuse to accept my boundaries even though they think they are complying.
    Your list just gave me a shot of courage and a tangible list I can show the household and say “see? this is what I need, *this* is what I want for Christmas.”

    On the other hand, in a way, I feel that coming here each day in December *is* writing. Especially for a babble-mouth like me, who uses paragraphs for sentences as the hubby says.
    Real life does get in the way of writing, that’s for sure, and now that the sick-bug bit me, it’s making things more difficult than usual, so this post came at the perfect time for me, this is exactly what I needed to hear exactly when I needed to hear it. Thank you for that Ana.

    I’ve accepted that for the most part, getting my own writing done this month isn’t in the cards, but a few of your tips hit home hard, helping me to make sense of what I need to do and how I need to do it.
    Obviously, I’m buying Sandra’s book, might as well multitask properly when I go to Amazon to buy your new Christmas book when I’m done here 😉
    I was going to stop writing this comment and go to Amazon right now but that’s how I get myself in trouble, multitasking is the biggest hurdle I need to overcome. So your list has already worked for me today 😀
    Also, the family/friends intruding on my writing time is another hurdle, I’m going to get one of those little signs that says “Writer At Work” or something like that because even though they know I’m a writer, they don’t really understand that I’m a (wannabe) Writer.
    It’s unfortunate that our house is so small I almost always write at the kitchen table, my only other option is sitting on my bed with my laptop and even with the door closed, boundaries are not respected enough to allow me time without interruption.

    So basically, I need to be stronger with my spoken words so I can have the time needed for the written word. Sometimes, even writing a comment here may take me an hour or more due to interruption even when I’m alone when the animals act up and William INSISTS on either walking on my keyboard or sitting on my lap (Daddy’s cat, Mama’s boy 😛 ).

    Wow, I’m a boxful of excuses aren’t I ? Valid though they may be, I need to stiffen my spine and put my foot down (but leave the clichés out of my writing 😀 ).

    Until later, when I’ll be back because this is the best place on earth and it only comes once a year, I will ponder these wonderful tips and begin putting them to good use.

    Thank you once again Ana, for, as Irishey put it, 12 and 12a 😀
    I have a lot to think about as I close this laptop, don’t look at the internet (except Amazon, must buy books today 😉 ) and do some chores instead of leaving my laptop open and running back and forth trying to multitask, this way I can think about my writing as I do some housework, perhaps jot down a few notes as I’m at it, and come back to my laptop without the burden of worrying about getting the not-fun house stuff done. 🙂
    hugs and ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Irishey says:

      It is hard to be feverish with illness, when we have a normally feverish brain, huh??!!! Lol! You are a whirlwind, Joanne. I think you’re going to make a fine “real” Writer.

      Boundaries, specifically the lack thereof, have derailed me in very important endeavors in the past. I still regret not turning into raging bear in order to deter those who persisted in deterring me from accomplishing certain things. I allowed someone to distract me from doing things I needed to do for myself, my children, our future.

      I fought back, fought hard against this determined detourer with discussion, reason, pleas, arguments, but didn’t fight hard or long enough to succeed in so many things that were in my grasp. Sad. Wish we got do-overs. 🙂

      Hope you’re feeling better.


  6. Sarah B says:

    I’m not a writer of stories but mostly poetry at this point. I’m trying to find time to finish up some new poetry to submit to another anthology. The due date is mid January and i need ten poems to turn in. I currently have written four so must find time as soon as i can.

    I appreciate the tips here. Thanks so much!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sassytwatter says:

    I liked these tips as they could be adapted to almost anything you need to get done! Holidays are fun stressfully busy time of year! Nothing worse than being sick stay healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. awesomesub says:

    Hi Ana, I like these tips, and they are good advice for all things that need to get done.:) I get the early bird writing tip, but I don’t know about staying up longer. Does that work? Ooops, wait, I should not ask you, because you do it that way (and do not always sleep enough, as a result). 🙂 Nevertheless, I hope you get a lot of sleep during the holidays. 🙂



    Liked by 1 person

    • Irishey says:

      Hi, Nina. Been awhile! 😉 Just using this chance (Internet working, nothing else pressing at the moment!) to say hi to friends from past Ana’s Advent Calendar events. Hi! 😉


  9. pieclown says:

    Hi. I am not a writer. I do see the advantage of these time management skills. I have tried to do some writing, nothing more then short story.

    Pie pie 4 now


    • Irishey says:

      Hi, Pie. It’s good to see you here at Ana’s Advent Calendar again this year.

      I just want to say, if you’ve already been motivated to write a short story(ies), then you can call yourself a writer because writing is in you. I think you should write another story, just for you, just for the fun of it. You might really surprise yourself!


      • pieclown says:

        Thanks Irishey, I have 2 story(ies) {{ auto fill on my phone}} that I have promised some folks. I have put up my short stories on DeviantArt. They are fetish writings.

        Thanks again for reply and I hope you are having lots of fun this year, here and the real world.


  10. JoanneBest says:

    Since I downloaded a new Christmas book this morning (cough) (cough) and rehearsal was cancelled by the drummer and yay, I don’t get the blame; and even though I should be writing or doing the endless amounts of things that need to be done before Christmas, and since I’m justifying my not doing what needs to be done and not writing like this: {rushed voice} this block of time was meant to be used rehearsing for the Christmas show and I wouldn’t have gotten any of those things done anyway, and I’m on the verge of getting better because I’ve been resting and not pushing myself and it only stands to reason that more of that is a good and I could possibly feel completely better if I *do* rest and relax, it’s probably a good idea to read Ana’s new story *now*, right? 🙂

    I just realized that coming here to Ana’s Advent Calendar every day and commenting is, in a way, writing.
    It may not be whatever WIP(s) we want to be working on, but we’re playing our instrument, practicing what it is we do, or want to do, or love to enjoy in any way, and it’s like a writing lesson, we’re not putting our characters through their paces (or vice versa) but we’re honing our passion as each day, we think about different things in response to what we read and then stretch our muscles, so to speak, by writing a comment…. like rehearsing an instrument and randomly running through scales/notes/riffs and we end up creating something from it, from an idea inspired by and idea inspired by someone else’s idea… does that make any sense? Nobody has to answer that, must be the remnants of the fever babbling 😀
    I guess in a way, writing that comment, is writing.
    I didn’t plan on writing anything really, I just refreshed the page, which I keep open all day, and started typing, and as the back of my brain nagged “you should be writing”, the front of my brain whispered back “I am”.

    So now that I rambled I shall read Sweet Christmas Kisses, beginning with “Check Yes Or No” and not feel guilty because I wrote words today.
    And on Sunday I will be working on recording the song from my “Blue Christmas” post, “Feels Like Christmas” which is a song I wrote and intend to shop around (the music industry is even tougher than publishing believe it or not 😦 ) , so that’s the musical equivalent of writing in a way.

    I love Ana’s Advent Calendar ❤
    I love having a new Anastasia Vitsky Christmas Story sitting in my kindle waiting for me to stop typing and start reading ❤


  11. catrouble says:

    I really like that all your hints are numbered 1…so cute. I am struggling trying to find time to paint but painting is not really my job at the moment so guess I can’t complain. Hope to get back to it after Christmas. Hope you’re finding time for yourself Ana.

    Hugs and blessings…Cat

    Liked by 1 person

  12. renee200 says:

    Time management is such a difficult thing with so many important tasks (fb, pintrest, blogs to read) constantly distracting us. Your tips are really helpful for any job that needs to be done. My job is currently homebased and I really have to dedicate time to it each day or other important (sigh) tasks will come first. Thanks and Blessings. R

    Liked by 1 person

    • Irishey says:

      Hi, Renee. I don’t have a paying at home job, except retirement, but I know the (very important!) distractions that get in the way of getting housework done. I’m still hoping for a house like the Jetson’s, and a Rosie. 😉


  13. Monica Wiant says:

    I needed this today! I’m struggling to find time to even read, let alone write. I signed up for a writing class that starts in January, thinking I’ll find time when there’s structure and deadlines, but there’s no reason i can’t seek out time nuggets right now.


    • Irishey says:

      Hi, Monica. Good job on signing up for the writing class! I’ve often thought of doing the same, with any kind of class, but I think I am still resting after retirement from a high stress career – or being lazy! 😉 Good luck employing some of these tips to get you through the class and back on track with your writing. Hugs!


  14. rozharrison says:

    These are great tips, and could easily transfer to others needing to find time either for themselves or for other projects. Thank you for sharing 🙂



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