For many writers, the holidays feel like a barrier to writing, not something to look forward, much less to be thankful for.
The holiday season is just plain stressful.
Short weeks mean extra work before and after the actual event. Holiday traffic makes the lines at the store longer, and that means shopping takes forever. All of this cuts into our precious writing time, or as many of us call it, spare time.
Most writers have day jobs, and no extra time, period, much less time to spare.
Whatever ‘spare time’ a writer has is already earmarked for writing. To make matters worse, November is a big month for many of us.
National Novel Writing Month is the annual writing contest in which authors try to write an entire novel in one month. Every November 1st, hopeful novelists write 1,666 words per day, and thirty days later, have 50,000 words done. It’s a lot, but with some carefully carved out ‘spare time,’ doable. For most of us NaNo participants, things do go well for the first couple of weeks. …and then we realize “Thanksgiving is coming.”
Thanksgiving is just one day of giving thanks, and it sounds good on paper, but then reality hits. It’s not just one day, and it’s not normal. It’s a holiday, and there will be people coming. There’s all the cleaning, shopping, cooking, airport pickups, football, drinking, snacks, and desserts that come along for the ride, too.
Suddenly one day of no writing has become an entire week lost to giving thanks. Many writers give up and give in to the stress and disappointment, then let the emotional eating and dreaded holiday weight gain begin!
Thanks and Gratitude
Before you sink too deeply into your non-writing slump of self-pity, know that the depressed, pajama wearing writer is a cliché, and you and your readers deserve better. You’d write your heroic character out of it, so why not treat yourself just as well?
Focusing on the negative helps no one. It keeps you from your passion and creates patterns of self-blame that cause stress levels to soar. Soon enough you’re dwelling on the negatives, and that drowns out your creativity, letting writer’s block seep in. Your stories are then held hostage by your subconscious, and your words kept off the page. Negative thoughts keep you from writing, and dammit, writers write.
Sure, we can’t always avoid the negative thoughts, but we can focus more on the positive. They might be hard to spot through the avalanche of holiday stressors, but it’s easy to learn.
Enter gratefulness and thankfulness. They have powerful and long-lasting effects on the ‘wiring’ of our brains. Studies show that simply acknowledging our thankfulness via the written word is enough to unlock positive feelings and creative energy, and keep them flowing for weeks and even months later!
Gratefulness and thankfulness will also help you with your self-care. A positive, creative, and productive writer is a writer who can keep to his healthy plan, walking regularly through the holidays, eating right, not giving in to emotional eating, and maybe even hitting the gym over the long weekend!
Thankfully, gratitude is easy
One of the easiest ways to start is with a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. If you’re a paper person, choose something you’ll actually carry around, whether it’s leather bound or a $1 composition book. If you’re all digital, use an app or program that’s easy to use and convenient.
Each morning, take five minutes to write down something you’re grateful for. It might help to keep it writing focused at first, but feel free to branch out.
- Reflect on those who have led you to become a writer — teachers, mentors, famous or infamous writers, family and friends.
- Consider the times in your past when writing reflected who you were, wanted to become, or guided your life.
- Think about how you are thankful for health, family, friends, your writing network, your readers, or your biggest fans.
- Be thankful for all the writing ideas inside of you. These ideas are why you write, why you need to write, and they keep you writing.
- Finally, be thankful for the obstacles and lessons that you’ve overcome along the way. Hard as they have been, each has helped create who you are today, a writer with passion and a drive to get your story out to the world.
It’s a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Studies have shown that the act of expressing thankfulness has lasting effects. Neural scans prove that the ‘rewiring’ of the brain lasts for months, and the effect is cumulative and builds on itself. The more you practice gratitude and thankfulness, the easier it becomes, and the longer the effects.
Five minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time to get anything valuable written down or accomplished, and that’s where the magic happens — Because it’s just five minutes, with no drawbacks and huge, long-lasting benefits, you’re actually going to do it.
I’ll be back next month, and if you want to be an indestructible author, so will you!
Is there anything you’re thankful for that came as a surprise to you? I’d love to know!
Originally published at oc-writers.com.