This week’s guestblogger is Dave Baldwin of Raleigh: writer, content producer extraordinaire and Director of Customer Success for Raleigh-based software developer Buzz.Report. Today Dave gives us five tips on how to survive the holiday season if you’re a writer. I’ve been doing a lot of travel this season and sometimes you can get more done while you wait on planes than if you stay at home (cars are a different story, especially if you’re the driver). Read on and learn more about Dave at the bottom of this post.
The holidays are nearly upon us. While there are a lot of festivities to look forward to at this time of year, there is also a dark side to every season. The winter holidays are notorious for stirring up old family drama and bad memories. Holiday travel adds more to already-overloaded to-do lists. We’re expected to buy gifts, which can also put a strain on finances. On top of everything else, we live in a looking-good society. We’re surrounded by neighbors who pretend to be cheerful and upbeat all the time. That’s a lot of pressure, and it grows even more intense during the holiday season. If the months of November and December tend to be downers for you, you’re not alone.
If you’re a writer, you’ve realized by now that any form of stress can eat away at your motivation to continue your craft, especially if you do not currently get paid to write. When tensions are high, it may seem impossible to sit down and focus on your writing or get your creative juices flowing. Let’s face it; it’s hard enough to make time for activities that are “important, but not urgent” at any time of year. The additional stress that comes with this season can shut you down if you don’t have an effective strategy to keep yourself going.
During this season, it may be tempting to say to yourself, “I’ll get back to my writing in January when things settle down again.” If you give in to this temptation, you run the risk of losing momentum you won’t easily be able to get back again. Instead, I’ll offer these strategies that I’ve found useful at times when I most want to postpone my writing.
Lower the writing bar if you need to
If your daily writing goal seems truly unmanageable, you may simply be trying to do too much. Don’t load excessive pressure on your own plate. Think about what amount of activity you can keep up every day, no matter what—even when the holidays are in full swing. If you can find this threshold and make it work now, you know you’ll be able to maintain it for the rest of the year! Consistency is much more important than intensity.
Write a journal
If the holidays re-open old wounds each year, writing can serve as a powerful vehicle for utilizing past pain as a catalyst for creating a new future. Take an honest look at the emotional “trigger” events that happen each year at this time. Do you dread the inevitable sarcastic jokes that your sister-in-law fires across the dinner table at you each year, or listening to your uncle’s latest political diatribe? Write about it in your journal. If you’re not feeling ready to write anything that the public will read, commit to writing in your journal each day, and don’t show it to anyone.
Be mindful of your diet
As a recovering binge-eater who was once 80 pounds overweight, I experience first-hand the annual temptation to give in to emotional cravings around the holidays. It’s not just a matter of being around more food. I’ve found that when my sense of purpose is clear and I’m obeying my inner guidance, I have a much easier time staving off the compulsion to overeat. More specifically, the more I write, the less I stuff my face—and vice versa. There is a direct correlation between vices and virtues. Instead of trying to force yourself to eat well by sheer willpower (which doesn’t work), instead focus your attention on keeping up your writing practice.
Cut out obligatory traditions
Are there any holiday traditions or celebrations that you dread every year—but keep doing anyway just because you feel obligated (such as Christmas dinner with the in-laws)? If so, it may be time to eliminate these traditions. It may not be easy—and yes, some people may be offended. There may be some people that you have traditionally only seen at the holidays. If it is truly important to them to keep in touch with you, they will find a way to do it at other times of year. When you say “no” to traditions that don’t serve you, your temptation to overeat just might weaken—and you might regain the slight motivational edge you need to keep writing.
Create some new ones!
You may recall the famous Seinfeld episode where George Costanza’s family celebrates Festivus (a holiday “for the rest of us”). The idea has become so popular that people now observe it as a real holiday: December 23! Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do over the holidays but have never done before? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; it just needs to be something meaningful that you would look forward to next year.
Don’t “survive” the holidays for another year! Thrive! Decide what traditions you want to have in your life—and pick ones that feed your creative flow.
Dave Baldwin is an author, speaker, blogger and self-proclaimed introverted entrepreneur who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has a passion for helping introverts succeed in business and in their careers. Dave currently serves as Director of Customer Success for Raleigh-based software developer Buzz.Report.