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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Don’t Let the Holidays Block Your Writing

holidays-are-comingBrace yourself: the holidays are upon us.

We have decorations to put up, presents to buy, cards to send, special dinners to cook and treats to bake, parties with co-workers, get-togethers with family and friends, and plays and concerts to attend.

It’s a fact that most of us have more opportunities and obligations around the holidays than we’ll ever have time for. And we may be tempted to postpone our writing until after the holidays.

There are three erroneous and dangerous conclusions writers can draw from this fact:

1. “I’m so busy, I don’t have time to write. I’ll pick it back up after New Year.”

2. “I’ll have plenty of big blocks of time to write when I’m off from work or school.”

3. The deadly combo of “I don’t have time to write now, but I will later. I can make up any writing time I miss now when I’m on break.”

But the truth is that we have more opportunities and obligations than we’ll ever have time for all year long. You might feel busier around the holidays, but you are always busy.

You must find time to write even when you’re busy. Postponing until you have “plenty of time” is always a huge mistake. As one of my mentors always said “It doesn’t get easier later. It just gets later, later.”

You Don’t Need Hours — 15 or even 5 Minutes Will Do

15 magic minutesYou will get more done consistently showing up for 15 magic minutes a day, five days a week, than you ever will in one 75-minute session.

Don’t have 15 minutes a day? Commit to 10. Even 5 minutes a day will get more accomplished and make you feel more satisfied than you ever will waiting for the rare day when you’ll have hours and hours to yourself.

When you know you only have 15 minutes, you feel less anxious and are more likely to show up. When you have 15 minutes, you’re more willing to say “no” to distractions.

Daily practice builds momentum. Just reading what you’ve written or reviewing your research keeps your unconscious working while your conscious mind busy is doing other things.

Conversely, waiting for big chunks of time means you have to reintroduce yourself to the material, remember where you left off, reacquaint yourself with the characters, ideas, research, etc.

Big Blocks of Time Are a Trap

time trap When it looks like I’ll have more than 4 hours for Product Time (aka writing), I have to be vigilant about the temptation to “take just a few minutes” to clear up my email, catch up on office administrivia, make phone calls, have lunch with someone, let clients reschedule appointments into the middle of the day, etc.

If I’m not careful, I can find myself at 3:30 in the afternoon wondering what the heck happened to this whole day I supposedly had to write.

You set higher expectations when you think you have hours to write. Higher expectations means greater anxiety and resistance.

High expectations also create negative momentum. You have so much time, you think should be able to get a lot done. If you don’t accomplish as much as you think you should, you expect yourself to make it up the next day. Of course you can’t, so you expect even more the day after that. Before you know it, you’re caught in a downward spiral of unrealistic expectations you can never meet.

Can’t Find 5 Minutes?

make writing a priority writers blockIf you seriously can’t find 5 or 10 minutes a day for Product Time (aka writing), you need to reassess your priorities.

You need to: A) spend 10 or 15 minutes less doing something less important than writing — like surfing social media, watching TV, playing video games or doing Sudoku — or B) stop kidding yourself that writing is a priority for you.

My wish is that you remember that your writing is a gift that you’ve been given to share and you’ll choose option A.

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2 Comments on “Don’t Let the Holidays Block Your Writing”

  1. Joel D Canfield December 12, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    I need to remember this all the time. Writing is my job. I need to show up every day, even briefly. Amazing how easy it is to fall into the “big blocks of time” thinking trap. Thanks for this reminder.


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