Are you writing fiction during the holidays? If not, or not as much as you expected, you're not alone.
I had high hopes for December.
In the fall, I taught a legal writing class and released a new non-fiction book. (Fiction Writing As Your Second Career – more on that here.)
But I made little progress on the rewrite of my latest novel. As I graded the last student papers, though, I felt so excited. Finally, stretches of open time in which to write. Or, in my case, rewrite.
First, the weekends filled.
The law firm where I do some project work hosted a gathering in New Orleans. I'm in Chicago and the firm's home office is in Denver. I hadn't seen everyone since about a year before the Covid pandemic began.
So how could I turn down a weekend-long party in New Orleans? And I'm so glad I didn't. It was wonderful. I ate good food. Saw beautiful architecture. Visited the WWII museum (worth a visit whether you are a history buff or not — I am not). And connected with my colleagues and met many of their friends.
It felt fantastic.
Then I had a chance to join a friend for a weekend trip to Geneva, Illinois. It's a suburb filled with antique and gift shops, a historic courthouse and inn, and the Fox River. It was all decorated beautifully for the holidays.
Haven't had that much fun in forever. I expected to have a similar time in Galena, Illinois, this past weekend.
Now you might think, as I did, that I'd write a lot during the weekdays despite all the weekend fun. And that was the plan.
Too Much To Do
But busy weekends meant taking care of things like eye doctor visits, renewing my driver's license (which took 2 trips to the DMV), and finishing holiday shopping during the week.
Also, I usually do many of my Buffy and the Art of Story podcast work on Saturdays. That, too, needed to get done during the week. As a result, I barely got halfway through the novel rewrite.
Still, things looked promising. This week and next were meant to be premium writing time other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But while I was traveling, I got sick.
Despite being exposed a few times, until now I avoided Covid. It hasn't been terrible, possibly because I had a booster shot in October. But I spent my last weekend trip in my hotel room either in bed or wrapped in a blanket. And since I got home I've mostly needed to rest. Today's the first day I spent more than 15 minutes at the computer without feeling exhausted.
I'm still too fuzzy headed to address the intricate plot rewrites I need to make in my cold case double murder mystery.
And you know what? That's okay.
You're A Person First
There are times to push through with writing fiction. In other words, to write whether you feel like it or not. Sometimes if you don't, you'll never get that first 1,000 — or last 1,000 — words on the page.
But we are not only writers. We're humans.
And the last couple years have been hard on most of us. You might have been ill yourself. Or lost someone you loved. Pandemic concerns might have isolated you and taken a toll on your mental, emotional, or physical health. Your creativity may have suffered from lack of new experiences or input.
So if you're enjoying this holiday season and feeling renewed and happy but you're not writing, could be you need this joy more than you need to write for now. And if you're not feeling so great and you're not writing, take a moment now to consider what will help you feel better. If it's diving into your fictional world, great. Write whatever you think you'll enjoy most.
But if what you need is to rest and you're able to, do that. Read a book, take a nap, binge watch TV. (Among other things, I'm rewatching Vampire Diaries — yes, again. Who knew it was a Covid treatment?)
And if you're not feeling great but still have way too much do for the holiday to rest, take a breath. You'll get through it. Your writing will still be there in the new year.
That's all for now. I hope you are finding some joy and peace this holiday season. Feel free to Reply to this email and let me know how it's going.
L. M. Lilly
P.S. I recently learned (due to a subscriber kind enough to email me — thank you) that my course How To Plot Your Novel: From Idea To First Draft was showing as closed to enrollment. That should be fixed now. If you tried before to enroll and it didn't work, you can sign up on this page. Apologies for any inconvenience!