For most people, holidays mean spending time with friends and family, and not going to work. It’s pretty simple if you commute – when you’re not at your place of employment, you’re not working. But for writers, the workplace is anywhere we have a pen and paper or a laptop or a functioning brain. In essence, pretty much everywhere.
So how do writers shut down the office of their minds for the holidays? And is that even possible? Here are some things I’ve tried over the years…
UNPLUG – When traveling out of the city for the holidays, the obvious way to leave work behind is to leave your laptop behind. You’ll be too busy eating mom’s baked goods and watching corny holiday movies to write anyway.
> WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS: I get a flash of inspiration and search desperately through my parents’ house at 1am for a pen and paper.
READ – Holidays are a great excuse to just curl up with someone else’s book and disappear into a fictional world.
> WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS: Every time I read a book, whether good or meh, my brain starts thinking of my own book and how to make sure it’s as good or better than what I’m reading.
PARTY – Get out of your work PJs, put on some classy clothes, and leave the house to interact with people that aren’t in your head! Steer the conversation away from yourself so you don’t have to think about your book. Bonus points if you start the dance floor, because dancing distracts your brain – it’ll be too busy listening to music and shaking your booty and not crashing into other dancers to worry about writing.
> WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS: Not every party involves dancing and I’ve never been able to completely avoid the “how’s your book?” question, but that’s okay. Because talking about my story or other writer friends’ stories gets the creative juices flowing, and I often leave the party feeling inspired.
The verdict? Holidays are whatever you want them to be. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to shut down the office of my mind, and frankly, I don’t want to. I love my job! I love writing! Sure, I get stressed out and burnt out and bummed out about work just like anyone else, but taking a break from writing during the prescribed holiday season doesn’t help me. A couple days off, sure, but a whole week? I start twitching from withdrawal. So now I take my laptop to my parents’ house over Christmas just in case I think of an amazing scene for my novel, and I talk about writing at parties because that’s what I do and I like sharing that with my friends, and I read books with a notepad handy and let myself be inspired. Holidays don’t have to be a break from work if you love your job. Just make sure you still make time for family and friends.
Next Up from Heather… The start of 2014 means a new TV gig for me. I’ll give you the inside scoop on why screenwriters have crocodile-thick skin. Hint: it has to do with pitching…