A Christmas Survival Guide for Writers

It’s that time of the year when no-one can keep track of what day it is, we feel obliged to be moderately nice to each other, and the pressure to have fun overwhelms the grumpy git in us.

Writers can find the Christmas season a chore. It disrupts our writing lives. It’s full of sociable type things when we’d rather be holed away in our writing caves.

Here’s how to get through the most wonderful, scratch that, trying, time of the year.

Watch Crappy Christmas Films

From the second summer ends, we are inundated with truly shite Christmas films. It appears that if it’s based on Christmas it can be as awful as it wants to be because it’s festive.

Watch every single one.

It will restore your faith in your ability to write. Don’t watch flipping classics like Die Hard (and yes, it is a Christmas film, don’t argue). You need to binge through the Hallmark, Channel 5, sentimental, claptrap.

You will learn that plot matters. Just because it’s about Christmas doesn’t mean you get to put a bit of Christmas shizzle on the end of the story to make it relevant.

You will see that clichés are the writer’s devil’s spawn. You will ditch any ideas of two people who hate each other falling in love because it’s Christmas. If it was any other time of the year it would be a horror flick.

Fill your boots with this schmaltz. Your writing brain will feel huge in comparison.

Protect Your Space from Visitors

Christmas survival guide for writers - crime sceneEvery single freaking person on the planet will want to visit because it’s Christmas.

You’ll spend the rest of the year wishing plagues and poxes upon each other but at Christmas we must show the love that’s not there. Cue the hordes of family descending upon your house throughout December.

Your writing space diminishes.

Your parents sleep in your office.

Your gran uses your writing desk as a space for her dentures and a bucket of Werther’s Originals.

Your baby niece pisses all over your writing chair because her mum insisted she’s nappy trained and can sit bare-arsed on your hallowed seat.

Protect your space, fellow writers.

Seal it off with crime scene tape. Tell visitors that something horrible happened in that room that you’re not ready to talk about.

Don’t make it sound too juicy. Your nosey Aunt Mavis, who loves a whodunit, will whip in there quicker than you can say ‘Christie on crack’.

Alternatively, confine your visitors to one room. Tell them the rest of the house is subsiding, flooded, or full of asbestos.

Do what you need to protect your sacrosanct writing space.

Read Your Writing Aloud

Your loved ones will always purport to be fully engaged with your writing gig. Some really mean it. Others are indulging us and our little foibles.

If you’ve had enough of sitting in a room, musty with Brussel sprouts induced farts and your Grandad’s stuck pig snoring, offer to read your novel aloud.

Marvel at the panic in their eyes as they know they cannot refuse you. No one wants to be that person in the family who is shown not to care about your writing.

Crack upon your novel and begin to read.

Better still, get the posh bird who reads it aloud from Word documents to do it for you. It saves on your voice and you get to watch your visitors mentally figuring out how far in they will get before they suddenly remember they left the iron on at home, the kids need to go to bed (at 3pm), or the turkey is giving them dodgy guts.

Warning: do not try this tactic with deaf loved ones or those who love audio books narrated by posh, robotic people. They’ll be in your home forever.

The Art of Freaky Observation

Christmas survival guide for writers - creepy santa
Creepy, staring Santa? Nailed it.

Writers like to observe and make notes. Use this time, hemmed in with humans, to collect writing fodder.

Stare intently at individuals and scribble away. Add the occasional gasp and giggle. It will freak your visitors out.

If anyone dares to ask what you’re doing, tell them you’re researching a psychotic, dysfunctional, evil, serial killer for your next novel and you’re so grateful to your family for helping you with that.

They will either think they’re the main inspiration for the character or you’re implying they are.

Off they go, mortally offended, and hopefully never to be seen again.

Find Your Writing Opportunities

Christmas cuts into writing time. People tend to want to do the stuff. The stuff stops you writing.

Be savvy. Find your writing opportunities around the festivities.

Christmas survival guide for writers - BubleWrite on wrapping paper. When wrapping presents, get your first draft written on the plain side of the paper. Then, have fun retrieving all the discarded wrapping paper to put it all together.

It can’t be any worse than your usual, cobbled together, first drafts.

Play ‘The Editing Game’. Give your visitors a copy of your novel. Each time they spot a typo, incorrect grammar or punctuation, they are rewarded with one of the Quality Streets you don’t like. Don’t give the good stuff away.

Warn participants in ‘The Editing Game’ that if they edit for content or just to bitch about how crap your novel is, they will be rewarded with a swift kick up the arse and Michael Buble’s Christmas album playing on a loop.

Blame overindulgence and spend epic time on the toilet. Use the toilet roll to outline a book. No one will dare interrupt you because we don’t talk about the reasons as to why someone is sat on the bog for three hours.

The Writer Repellent

Write a notice on your door, ‘Writer on a deadline. Do not enter’.

Nice people will leave you alone. The more determined, like your mother, will ignore it. This is where the next stage comes in.

Open the door. Make sure you are wild-eyed, stinking of booze, and cannot word. Emit gibberish whilst holding up a note, ‘The end is nigh’.

Your mother has seen this before when you were getting towards the end of a novel. She knows this is serious and scary. It is time for her to leave her child alone.

Celebrate by not writing the end of your novel. Treat yourself.

Merry Christmas to You All!

Christmas survival guide for writers - santa blogIf none of the above work, go on a long holiday abroad. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got left.
I’m busy fending off everyone I know claiming to be a writer.

There’s Aunt Doris with another of her anecdotes about the time she wrote a letter to The Times.

Uncle Sid submitted a smutty story to Playboy, and a woman claiming to be a distant cousin wrote about some wizards. How lovely. She says her name is Joanne but she prefers to shorten it. Anyone know her?

It’s Christmas Day next Monday so I’m allowing myself a blogging day off.

Merry Christmas, fellow writers, readers, bloggers, and everything in between.

May it be filled with artery-clinging snacks, fizzy booze, and silent nights instead of rowdy relatives.

Happy Christmas!

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.

6 comments on “A Christmas Survival Guide for Writers

  1. Contrary to the scenario you wittily paint about freeloaders who masquerade as in-laws at Christmas time I am strangely nostalgic about those days. In those days when we lived in Blighty in-laws from both sides of the family would arrive loaded with useless presents from around the country for an extended Christmas stay because our kids were little. Now those days are gone. Much like my ex-wife (I wonder where she is, or for that matter, if she is alive?) and the kids who are now all grown-up and doing their own thing (2 are working over Christmas and my daughter is in India for some reason) and I miss them all, even the missing ex-wife.

    So this year I aim to got to my local pub and get pleasantly inebriated so the missing them feeling can’t be felt. So Merry Christmas Lisa, I hope you survive and reach the Beta reading stage. Have fun.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that this is a hard time of year for you, Ian.

      You may not think it but I can relate. I find Christmas really hard. More so this year. Humour is my shield.

      I hope you have the best Christmas you can.

  2. On very rare, or low occasions, I miss the olden days of family filled houses. Most of the time I am counting down the last few days of work-work and anxiously awaiting the two free meals at the separated parents, the leftovers, so I don’t have to cook for three days, and four whole days of ME time!
    Whoot writing sprints here I come 😛
    Being a grown-up has some benefits.

    1. Christmas time definitely has its benefits too. For many of us, if we do it right, it’s a time to chill out too.

      Thanks for commenting, Theresa. Merry Christmas!

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