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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Holiday Writing



I wish this post was about writing a holiday romance—something I love to do. Witness my super fun holiday release, Last Chance Christmas. But I wanted to share a few insights about another kind of holiday writing today—writing during the holidays. That can be decidedly less pleasant.

It’s an interesting dichotomy for creative folks when we are lucky enough to work in the field we once passionately pursued for fun. Mixing up the income stream with something that was once a labor of love is an emotionally confusing place. This puts a whole lot of demands on the labor of love to be much more than that. It must also be a labor of efficiency. A labor of smart economy. A labor of financial means.

Ask any Muse and she’ll tell you how much she hates this.

Pre-published writers don’t give any thought to this dilemma. I know I didn’t, and I had years of intense writing before I sold a book to consider every facet of the craft. But I was far more focused on craft than business, and I sure didn’t think about problems that selling a book could introduced. I thought only about the problems that selling a book would solve! I mean, if I was spending 90% of my waking hours writing anyhow, it only made sense that I’d love getting paid for it.

Of course, I do. Thank goodness I finally cleared that final hurdle to selling my stories. I’m happy
I won a Snow Globe Award for Last Chance Christmas! 
and grateful to be able to share those works with readers. But the creative dynamic shifts in immeasurable ways once the passionate pursuit becomes a livelihood, and those changes are never more evident than during the holidays when a writer wants to play.

Writers aren’t unique in this, of course. We all want to play during the holidays and chances are you have to earn a living too, so you can’t play all month long. What’s different about creative work is that—to do it well—the time investment is huge. Often, we are thinking about our work the majority of our waking hours. A piece of our brain is always engaged with the work-in-progress. Most of the year, that’s okay, because of the “labor of love” element. We wanted this job, after all. During the holidays, however, we all want to labor over gingerbread houses or tree trimming and—more importantly—to be really present in those moments. Too often when I’m writing through the holidays, I feel like I’m going through the motions since my story is always consuming huge amounts of brain space.

My cure is to write as little as possible during December. I’d rather work like a madwoman in January and November and close my laptop for a couple of weeks in December. Some years that’s just not possible, but every year, I try. For the first five or seven years of my publishing career, I tried to maintain my schedule through December (Be more disciplined! I told my Muse). For me, that was simply an exercise in frustration. I didn’t write well anyhow, and I still felt cranky and robbed of my holiday.

This year is one of those years where I really needed to write some during December. I’m super excited to have a new series out with Harlequin Desire in 2017 and I very much wanted the extra releases to get the McNeill Magnates up and running. That helps, knowing that I set up this schedule to accomplish a bigger goal. Another trick I’ve finally discovered after writing for almost twenty years? I can write the framework of a story without knowing every detail. That’s been revolutionary for me since I used to get stuck on small plot points in my writing, wanting clear answers before I moved forward. In the last few years, I’ve gotten much better at moving plot points forward, then going back to layer in depth and conflict elements. Go me!

Turns out you can teach old dogs new tricks. But next year, I’m going to box up all my tricks when I close my laptop early in December to simply enjoy the holidays! Until then, my friends, I’m focusing on what I love most about my stories, just like I did back in those pre-published days when I wrote because I couldn’t NOT write.


***I’m not the only one wrestling with how to do it all this holiday season! Tell me what parts of your holiday feel daunting and we’ll commiserate or share ideas to make it better! As a bonus, if you share your thoughts with me this week, you’ll be automatically entered to win this fun prize pack with Christine Rimmer’s Carter Bravo’s Christmas Bride from her award-winning Bravos series, plus my holiday 2-in-1 with Tawny Weber featuring two sexy Blaze Christmas stories AND a Runaway Brides tee!

25 comments:

Susan N said...

I have 80 plus people in and out of my house... my challenge with wokring 9 -5 is getting it all done and ready. Never seems like i have enough time :)

Erryn Barratt said...

I'm having surgery this year so will be balancing healing with family time. At least I'm able to get the time off work and have a family who support me. I'm pre-published, so I'm hoping to get some writing in as well.

Ashlie Elari said...

This year it's a financial challenges with husband getting out of hospital then losing his job

Cam B. said...

This Christmas season I'll have to be careful not to overdo things because I had back surgery three months ago. I'm still going to attempt to make candy. It's a family tradition.

kerri fowler said...

Being a working single mom of two boys it always seems to be an issue with time and extra money to get everything done but I always keep my faith that it will happen ��

Anonymous said...

I know I shouldn't sound like a downer and since my mom is my only parent living, and to say , I'm not close to her and never will be at this point and I'm also the only child so this falls all onto me, and me alone. I was thrown for a loop last winter/ early spring when her room mate decided he could no longer care for her an won't let her come back to live with him. I was able to find a very nice place that is an adult assisted living but sadly costs way too much for her to continue to stay there much longer. I literally don't know what to do! I'm hoping for a miracle at this point that the VA will allow her a pension from my dad that had passed away 21 yrs ago. Sadly, it's not going to be enough to last once spring get's here . I will be back in the same boat as I am now. However, today we are putting up the Christmas tree and going to a parade of lights and will see Santa! I'm listening to Christmas music on the computer thanks to you tube! Merry Christmas!!! Pam

Shelly Keller said...

I have financial challenges and not enough energy with CFS for shopping and all of the festivities.

Julie Ford said...

My most daunting aspect is coming up with a unique gift for my kids and husband. Every year, they give me a list of what they want. I purchase off that list but I also find one unique gift that they didn't ask for. This year is giving me problems coming up with something.

Joanne Rock said...

Susan N, the 80 people trooping through are a testament to how very loved you are, and how welcoming your home is!! But I absolutely get it... sometimes we dream of running away and going ice skating on a nice frozen pond with that free time. I'm wishing you a few moments for just YOU doing just as you like for your holiday!

Erryn... I don't envy you!! Having had multiple surgeries for my RA, I also tend to schedule them in winter so I won't miss the nice weather of summer. But there's no good time for surgery :-(. Just remember the first few days you feel far worse than you imagined you would, but you WILL gain more energy and that feeling of being totally zapped doesn't last forever. Watch Christmas movies and let people wait on you until you're ready to do things.

Joanne Rock said...

Hugs, Ashlie... so stressful to lose a job. The $ loss is one thing, and then the uncertainty for the future is a whole other element of worries. I recommend watching lots of The Grinch because Christmas comes to Whoville no matter what and you will have a happy holiday together with whatever you can do to celebrate. Here's hoping great new opportunities find you in the New Year... or sooner!!

Cam, be kind to yourself! Although I can completely identify with wanting to continue any tradition that involves candy... yum. And Kerri, the kids only remember the love and the fun of it. You're doing a great job. Some years I wrapped stuff like a home made card that said "One Sleigh Ride" or "One Hot Chocolate-- extra marshmallows" and decorated them... it's different and memorable, and the price point is right!!

Joanne Rock said...

Hugs, Pam. That sounds incredibly stressful and you're not a downer. I hope your mom's current assisted living facility has some ideas for financial assistance or can let you know other options they've seen past residents use who were in a similar situation. Maybe they know of alternative residences or room-sharing facilities that would be easier for you? You're a good daughter-- even if you're not close to your mom--to help her find a place to go.

Shelly, as much as I love supporting local stores, I turn to Amazon to ship gifts for me to family. Prime has been a very worthwhile service for me!! It saves you the wrapping and shipping to buy online and ship direct. You deserve to make things easy on yourself, and who doesn't love to get a package in the mail?!

Julie, I luck out with my family as they are all sports fans and I can always find something different that's team-related-- a funny scarf for a hockey team or a book on the team's run to a championship. My wedding gift to my husband was a Cincinnati Reds watch with an engraving on the back that send Until the End of Time... Every now and then I wonder if I really understood what that meant at 24 years old when I signed on for this, but so far so good ;-).

traveler said...

After several surgeries in the past four years I have been diagnosed this past month with RA which is upsetting, but something which I have to accept and adjust to. I will do what is required but cannot allow myself to be persuaded into many favors.

petite said...

Having enough time and strength to prepare meals, and take care of the little ones is important so I must be organized.

dstoutholcomb said...

I still have 2 kids at home. It's so hard finding the balance to write when shuttling them to their sports and activities and always playing catch up. I need to find a way to care out time and adhere to it.

Denise

dstoutholcomb said...

**carve out time

C-Jay Mc said...

I usually have all the holiday celebrations at my house. I wanted to have Christmas, but had already decided not to have Thanksgiving this year as I have Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy and it's getting harder for me to do things. I was glad I had, as my almost-91 year old mom died the Monday before it – on my son’s birthday. We didn’t feel like a big celebration, so it was very relaxed with just immediate family. I am still planning on having people over for Christmas; by then I’ll expect to feel a bit more festive.

Angela Crockett said...

I am doing the slow and easy holiday celebration this year. We do a simple Christmas gathering. (A Walk-Thru) My girls and I will meet at my favorite bookstore and the boys will come in but won't stay because they say we embarrass them. It's easier because the children are older so it will just be me and my (books)husband with quiet holiday. My lights and ribbons are already up outside and unless it's very cold out, I think I will do ribs on the grill.

ptclayton said...

I have been thru that with kids and i know that it is so hard to do the juggling act. Mine is that i am disabled and i feel bad as my husband kicks in to help so much so i try to do some of the things like calling his kids about something or calling or writing somewhere for him so we have tradeoffs . That also works when you have kids and they have an afternoon out with dad so that mom can have mom time and then turn it around then family time at night where everyone is together. Somehow in the end it works out as long as both of the partners do their part. We do a simple Christmas and send the kids stockings filled with their fav things. On Wed or earlier we mail out Advent calenders to all the kids in our family or extended family and that is the first thing i do to start my Christmas off.

Diana Tidlund said...

none of it feels daunting to me... it is my favorite time of year even married then.... start shopping the day after christmas for the next year and wrap all year as I buy them so I don't stress over it... i send out cards in the beginning of November so I don't forget or stress over it... all I do is really sit back and enjoy it... and you get the best deals if you start early like that...

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I'll admit it's a lot to get done, but I also have learned to say 'no' to time sucks and am willing to do shortcuts!!!

Alyssa said...

I think the part where I have to give out the gifts to their respective recipients can be pretty daunting to me because I don't know whether they'll like it or not.

Alyssa @ Diary of a Book Maniac

Joanne Rock said...

traveler, hugs on the RA. I was diagnosed at 12 and have battled it for years-- some years more successfully than others. I didn't talk much about it for a long time, but I finally used some of my journey in my book Dances Under the Harvest Moon, where I shared RA with my heroine. One of the real challenges of the autoimmune diseases is not appearing ill. That's a blessing too, of course. But well meaning friends and family don't always understand how truly exhausted and in pain we are. It helps to share articles and research so they can get a better idea of what we go through. There are very good drugs... I hope your doc finds a program that makes you feel much better soon. xo

Petite... I want to do one of those cooking parties where you get your friends together and make freezer meals for the next month. Doesn't that seem fun and helpful too? Denise, it's an ongoing challenge to protect our personal time, isn't it?

C-Jay, I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope the weeks bring you comfort.

Joanne Rock said...

pt, I don't think it ever gets easy to accept our limitations, but we find ways to work with them, don't we? Your husband understands. It sounds like you have a very wise and thoughtful partnership!

Diana, you're my Christmas Mentor. I am watching and learning!!

girly... it's a great gift of my 40s that I have been able to let go of my early notions of how things "should" be done. A perfect holiday can mean the one where you have lots of TIME with your family. It doesn't have to mean everything is homemade from scratch!! It took me all of my 20s to realize this ;-).

Alyssa, I went through this angst just yesterday as I shopped online like a fiend!! Some years I try to get really individual gifts, but this year, I went for things that I felt like were USEFUL no matter what. A good cardigan. New PJs... maybe not hugely exciting gifts, but things that were going to find their way into someone's clothing rotation.

Audrey said...

I enjoyed these posts! Indeed, the holiday season doesn't have to be daunting. As long as I can carve out some leisure reading time, I stay balanced! :-)

Joanne Rock said...

**Winner** Congratulations to Shelly Keller, winner of the thread prize!! Shelly, I will message you privately, but all you need to do is email me jrock008@gmail.com with a mailing addy! Thank you all so much for visiting with me this week and have a wonderful holiday!! I'll be back after Christmas with a new post on the 27th.