There is a terrific post over at Rants and Ramblings about writing habits during the holidays. Her blog post for nov 23rd suggest we as writers should make a 'holiday plan.' This is a superb idea and not only for the holidays but for all year. However let us stick to the theme she started and only address this busy and festive time of year.
With all the extra activities pulling our attention away from our writing it is easy to lose the drive, the desire, and the momentum of writing. I offer a simple method to combat this through this time of year. Real quick rummage through that desk of yours and grab a small notebook, or heck a blank sheet of paper will work too. Now stick it in the back pocket of your jeans or into a purse whichever is appropriate for you. Oh and don't forget a pen, you'll of course need it.
Okay now the next part is a bit trickier. I want you to tuck back into the desk your ability to write complete sentences. I want you for the next couple of weeks to become more of an observer than a writer. The caveat of course is that I don't want you to completely forget your work in progress, as if you could anyways.
Pay close attention to what you see over the holidays, the scenes, the smells, the colors, etc. More importantly take a moment to really take a close look at people, because let's face it our books are pretty much about how people interact with one another. Even if you are working on a period or fantastical piece where the characters are nothing like the humans in the here and now, one very important fact remains true. The people around you at the mall, the in-laws house, the gas station and the subway are all your potential audience. They will need to feel the connection to the relationships and scenes you depict in a way that they can relate to. Good observation skills can definitely help you. What better time than during the holidays will you have at watching the behaviors of folks you normally don't interact with on a daily basis. You are out of your norm and so are they.
Remember I told you to forego the writer in you, that person inside of you that fights to be an artist. Stop it, just let go and stop trying so darn hard to be poetic with your usage of our incredible language. Instead listen and watch the world around you. Now jot down a single word or phrase to remind you later what it is you are experiencing. Like I said though keep it relevant to you WIP so that when the busy part of the year is over and you get back into the grind, you have some material to work with and help you get back into the swing of things smoothly and easily.
Tough I know, but let me give you an example from my work (Chances Are - Chap 20.)
"The cracks continued to grow and rippled outward from the walls and more Leesermen were tossed off of their feet. The keep, upon a pillar of soil and rock, was then lifted skyward. Upwards it climbed with all of its contents and occupants; dirt spewed forth and stones fell from the cliff face that was being created."
Now this isn't too bad but we can definitely add to it. I'm riding along the rural road out near Jackson GA on my way to a horse show with my wife and I look out the window. The angle of the sun and curvature of the road have aligned themselves just perfectly to make it appear as though the shadow of the horse trailer we are pulling is actually out pacing our truck. It struck me then that the excerpt above is lacking one key detail that would be obvious to the Leesermen army if they were observing the rise of the keep upon the pillar of stone. In my notebook I simply wrote. "Shadow of the keep."
(Be nice on my handwriting, I was in a truck going down the road, lots of bumps.)
Sometime later I came back and added this to the above passage:
"The cracks continued to grow and rippled outward from the walls and more Leesermen were tossed off of their feet. The keep, upon a pillar of soil and rock, was then lifted skyward. Upwards it climbed with all of its contents and occupants; dirt spewed forth and stones fell from the cliff face that was being created.
Dust bellowed out and rolled towards all that stood on ground level. A great shadow was cast downward and grew larger as the keep rose higher and higher. The Leesermen cried out and began to pray as the darkness fell on top of them. The sun was eclipsed and they feared their god's wrath was behind this cataclysmic event."
So yes please set a goal for yourself during the holidays and throughout the year, it is a crucial step to writing in my opinion. You should also certainly reward yourself for reaching those goals, but also make sure to include the tools you'll need to make the goals possible when life gets busy. So you are at a holiday dinner party and have no access to a computer, whip out your tiny notebook and joy down that cool word or phrase that will later add levels of details to to your work to help make it shine.
Also if you are looking for other great holiday advice, check out this blog post over at Confessions from Suite 500 and get some tips on your query.