Columns > Published on November 25th, 2015

5 Holiday Writing Hacks

The holiday season is upon us. So much to do! So many people to see! So much food to eat and booze to consume! So many group activities in which we must take part! 

All that warm, fuzzy togetherness is part of the joy of the season. But we all know that when you don't get time to write, you're a total pain in the ass. So do yourself and your family a favor this holiday season and avail yourself of these tricky writing hacks.

1. Write While Traveling 

Sure, you could spend those long layover hours chugging overpriced drinks at the airport bar and making small talk with the man from Arkansas who loves his off-road vehicle.

Or you could pack a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and crack open your laptop. The lubrication provided by the bar may be just the thing to get those words flowing (though not having access to the Internet once you're three thousand feet in the air can be an added bonus as well).

We all know that when you don't get time to write, you're a total pain in the ass. So do yourself and your family a favor this holiday season and avail yourself of these tricky writing hacks.

If you've never tried it, give it a shot—many writers swear by writing while traveling. Just make sure you heed Margaret Atwood's advice, in case your seat lacks power: Bring paper and pencil. At high altitudes, pens can get messy.

2.  Take the Night Train

Family gatherings are generally not situations where people are going to stay up all night. Even if you've played a few rounds of cards or polished off that second bottle of wine, both older folks and those with kids will start to peel off to bed before the midnight hour rolls around. 

If you have a kid or two yourself—or have to get up early to make everyone breakfast—you may want to join them. But consider: Is there someone who'd be jazzed to spend the early morning with the grandchild? Some naturally early riser who could handle the pancake operation? If so, consider getting in an hour or so at night before hitting the sack.

3. Steal Away

Parents of small children know this. People who work in the service sector know it too. Sometimes, when you don't have much time to write, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time. 

It often helps if you let your mind dwell on a scene, passage, or poem in odd and idle moments—and the holidays are generally full of them. The ones when you can't leave the house yet because so-and-so can't find their phone; the ones when you're wandering, zombie-like, among the aisles at Costco.

That way, when you finally do get a few free moments between one activity and the next, when your participation is not required, you can often pound out a page or two that's better than many you've obsessed over for hours.

4. Ditch the Fam

Of course you want to do all the things. But there comes a point, inevitably, where nearly everyone is more excited about a group activity than you. (Seeing holiday lights? Going to the mall? Getting Honey Baked Ham?) In the past, you sucked it up and went along. But maybe this year you won't.

Maybe this year, you'll hang back while others venture forth into the great and fabulous fun that, truth to tell, you've never enjoyed all that much. You may endure some ribbing for it—this is your family—but after a long stretch of overstimulation, the silence that descends over the house when everyone else leaves can really be quite sweet.

It can also be an excellent environment in which to write.

5. Tube Time

There are times when watching TV or a movie with the fam can be a bonding experience. But if you're doing the standard American thing, there will also be times when your brother-in-law is watching a game you couldn't care less about, or your sister has tuned in a hospital drama, just for something to do.

You could sit there and watch it, or you could tune into this much more interesting thing going on inside your laptop. Again, you may endure some teasing. But at the end of the day—or year, as the case may be—you'll have a book to show for it, and they'll have an encyclopedic knowledge of commercials addressing male erectile dysfunction. The choice is yours.

What about you? What handy tips do you use to get writing done during the holidays?

About the author

An author, editor, and educator, Susan DeFreitas’s creative work has appeared in the Writer’s Chronicle, Story Magazine, the Huffington Post, Daily Science Fiction, and Southwestern American Literature, along with many other journals and anthologies. She is the author of the novel Hot Season, which won a Gold IPPY Award for Best Fiction of the Mountain West, and holds an MFA from Pacific University. She divides her time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon, and has served as a freelance editor and book coach since 2010.

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