To Mom Writers: How to Keep Writing Over the Holidays

The holidays can be tricky for us writer moms. Let’s face it, every time a mom goes for her creative dreams, it is an act of defiance against a culture which still, even in 2019, encourages moms to sacrifice their own dreams for their family. Never is this more true than over the holidays.

I think a family is happiest when all members are striving toward their dreams. Even in the holidays.

When I was pregnant with my first kid, a prominent writer, my writing teacher at the time, said you can’t get any good writing done in the middle of a life transition. (He didn’t have kids.) He was wrong, thank goodness, and actually, now, looking back, it’s pretty obvious. Being a parent means a lifetime of constant transitions, so if that were true, no parent would ever finish a book. But it wasn’t just him. Many people told me to forget about writing for the first couple years of raising kids.

I’m here, as a published novelist, to tell you that these people were all wrong. I wrote and published both novels while raising my kids (and I also worked part time). However, writing takes on new challenges when you have kids. When the kids are home from school during the holidays, this is another transition and your days can easily fill up. You don’t have to spend every waking minute with them, but it’s not easy to say NOW I WILL WRITE.

How do you fit in the writing, especially when things get busier, like around the holidays? How do you leave space for your own dreams?

Over the holidays, I’m sure many of you have stepped out of the hot bath of your writing and dried off and said that’s it for a while. However, I’d encourage you to keep your toe in the water even now. Because January comes with more challenges, the transition back to school, etc, and then it’s February and you’re beating yourself up because you’ve now forgotten the names of your characters and you don’t have any idea what’s going on in the story.

How do you keep your toe in the water? How can you write when you have to buy presents, wrap them, go to holiday gatherings, see family and make a hundred thousand Santa cookies?

For this time, commit to the very smallest amount of words that you can actually put on the page each day. How about 100? Everyone can write for fifteen minutes. Do it on your phone while you’re waiting in one of those awful holiday lines.

Do you have an iPhone? Have you taken a look at how much time you spend on that thing? It amazes me to look at that number. 4 hours?? How on earth did I spend 4 hours throughout the day on that phone? I mean, some of it is on MasterClass, while driving and washing dishes, so maybe that accounts for two hours? But yes, I have over 30 minutes of social media every day. Is this necessary? I could have been writing.

Life gets busy, but when we have dreams, we need to honor them.

Over this “break”, I’m going to recommend three things:

  1. Write fifteen minutes or 100 words every day. Write in your current WIP. Or journal in the voice of a character. It doesn’t have to be a scene. Carry a notepad everywhere to write in those brief moments you’ll have.
  2. Read fiction every day. You can’t be a writer of fiction if you don’t read it. You need to read so that you can learn. If you can’t possibly sit and look at a book, download an audible book (you can get them free from the library too), and listen to this book when your kids are going crazy on holiday sugar or when you think you might lose it. Honestly, nothing does a better job of making me mellow out as a mom. Read a page, right before bed. Analyze what the writer is doing. Try to practice that skill for your next fifteen minute session of writing.
  3. Educate yourself on the craft of writing through writing podcasts or MasterClass. I love David Sedaris’s class. It is so brilliant. But there are tons of writers on Masterclass and other writers doing podcasts and sharing really valuable wisdom and craft lessons. You can also listen to an audio book about writing fiction. If you’re celebrating Christmas or Hannukah with presents, ask for a book on the craft of writing. You’ll get a lot more out of this book than a new scarf or some dangly earings.

At this time, even though a lot of the holidays are about the kids, remember you are important and your dreams are important too. Have a wonderful holiday and keep writing!

Written by

Author of TRAFFICKED (Penguin, 2012) and THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER (Disney-Hyperion, 2018), creative writing teacher and mom of two fabulous girls.

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