Columns > Published on December 9th, 2015

Winter Break Breakdown: The Argument Against Submitting During the Holidays

Between last September and November, several regular writing clients of mine either closed their doors or cleaned out their freelance staff, leaving me to scramble for new contracts during December. This did not go well. Instead, the experience became a lesson in why submitting during the holidays is not a great idea, and how to survive if you have to do it anyway.   

The Most Hectic Time of the Year 

Why isn't December a great time for submitting queries and generally finding work as a writer? The main reason is fairly simple: people tend to take time off around the major holidays. Between office parties, vacations, and family screaming matches, emails may go unseen until after the madness has passed. There's also that last frantic push to wrap up any stubborn, ongoing projects before moving on to new ones at the beginning of the year. 

Everyone is just trying to come out on the other side of the holidays with all their organs and limbs intact, and sometimes we all need a break.

It's possible to make an argument against submitting at basically any time of the year. Publishing supposedly slows to a crawl in summer as well. But looking at things objectively, who really wants their email to be the first thing some tired sap sees while nursing a hangover the day after New Year's? Maybe your story/pitch/query is so fantastic that they open their eyes wide and exclaim that this is what makes coming into the office after a quart of Kraken-spiked eggnog worthwhile. In which case, that's wonderful. But for anyone who knows the odds of getting a piece accepted on even a typical day, this scenario doesn't seem very realistic.

Practice Craft & Patience 

One option is to hunker down until the holidays pass, fine-tuning your work or doing research for future projects. But you could also do what I did last year after watching several regular gigs dry up—obstinately press onwards despite less than stellar results and a lot of radio silence. If I learned one thing from last December, it's that the best tactic for getting through a difficult stretch is to slow down and focus on the craft. Find the most compelling stories and characters, and write for the story's own sake instead of an invisible person on the other side of a screen. Easier said than done, but it's a goal worth striving for. 

When you invest a good deal of time and effort into building a relationship with a publication as a regular contributor, it can be disheartening to watch what looks an awful lot like your work collapsing into the dust. But the bad times pass. They always do, eventually. December turned to January, and I slowly began to rebuild my clientele from a trickle to a regular stream. If you rely on your writing for an income or a side income, maybe getting through the holidays (or any lean stretch) means taking on extra work somewhere else.

US News & World Report has an article on job searching during the holidays that contains a few grains of excellent advice. If you're trying to plow through the season without pause, you may end up facing some unpleasant rejections close to Christmas and other holidays. If this is a time of year that tends to make you feel a bit down even under ideal circumstances, that might be something to mentally prepare for.

Be kind to yourself and practice patience. Even more than the usual amount necessary to exist as a writer. Everyone is just trying to come out on the other side of the holidays with all their organs and limbs intact, and sometimes we all need a break.

About the author

Leah Dearborn is a Boston-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations from UMass Boston. She started writing for LitReactor in 2013 while paying her way through journalism school and hopping between bookstore jobs (R.I.P. Borders). In the years since, she’s written articles about everything from colonial poisoning plots to city council plans for using owls as pest control. If it’s a little strange, she’s probably interested.

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Reedsy | Editors with Marker (Marketplace Editors)| 2024-05

Submitting your manuscript?

Professional editors help your manuscript stand out for the right reasons.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: