Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: December! Still Another Temporal Landmark

You haven't been seeing much of me here, because I've been intently working on my National Novel Writing Month project, which I did, indeed, finish his past Sunday, five days early. As I've tried to make clear, I wasn't doing a traditional NaNoWriMo 50,000-word first draft. I was doing a revision of a completed manuscript that I think comes in around 80,000 words. Nonetheless, it is probably my most successful National Novel Writing Month effort.

Now, this fall I went on, and not for the first time, about the splendors of NaNoWriMo as a temporal landmark, a special occasion/calendar date(s) that mark out a period of time that's different from what came before, an event or period that creates an opportunity for a fresh start. (Paraphrasing myself there.) Damn if we don't finish the NaNoWriMo temporal landmark season then we head right into another. 

Advent/Holiday Season/End of Year

Whether you want to go all Christian and think of December as Advent or you'd prefer to think of it as the holiday season, because there is a boatload of them (the article linked to is from last year, so many of the dates aren't accurate for 2023), or just preparation for the end of the year, December makes many of us feel that it's different from what came before and most definitely different from what will come later.

Often that difference involves being overwhelmed, because even if we're not big holiday people, ourselves, our culture (capitalist culture?) loves them. Town events, school events, family events, musical events--the demands and distractions go on and on. Additionally, many day jobs may require end-of-the-year rushes, because even if the year's end isn't the end of the fiscal year, it's the end of the year. Come on, people, everyone knows that means something.

Writers In December

Writers, especially writers with day jobs or families or day jobs and families, who also have a contractual end-of-the-year writing deadline--congratulations! Though it's been a long time since I've been in this situation, I know it's going to be rough for you. I'm going to be honest and say that I don't have much advice to offer other than:

  • The only way out is through.
  • Nothing lasts forever.
  • When this is over, think about some end-of-the-year life prep you can do in the future well before December to help if this happens to you again. 
For the rest of us, December may not be a good time to start working on a new novel or that history of women who received master's degrees in the nineteenth century. It may not be a good time to decide you must get up at five every morning to write or even to write two hours a day. Taking on big things when you're strapped for time is a good way to wreck your self-esteem and wrecking your self-esteem leads to failures of impulse control and once you're impulse control is shot, well, it's going to be difficult coming back in January.

That doesn't mean you should take the month of December off, either. December is a great time to work on small things that will help us next year and additionally support our identities as writers. Such as, Gail?
  • Got a manuscript ready to submit? Researching agents takes time, but can be done in short bursts here and then. Prepare a list of agents you can submit that project to in January. 
  • Do you write short pieces? In 2021 I spent the month of December just starting 31 short story or essay a day. That was one a day. Of those 32 starts, 6 have been completed and published. I started to do the same thing last year, but only made it to 15. Hey, but 15 starts. 
  • Research for a novel or nonfiction! I love research! It's great for December, because, like researching agents, it can be done in bits and pieces whenever you can make time. 
  • Reading markets, which is another way of saying researching markets, can also be done in odds and ends of time. I'm talking about reading print and on-line journals to see if they publish the kinds of things you write and would thus be a good choice for a submission next year.
  • Cleaning your office wouldn't require a lot of mental energy from you at a time when you may not have much. At least get the filing done? Make sure you're up-to-date with keeping track of your submissions? Yes, I have some things sitting on the desk that surrounds me that I could try doing something with. 
  • Have you got craft books (by which I mean writing craft) and articles stowed away somewhere? Another task that can be worked around the end of the year chaos.
Doing one or more things like these during December would mean truly accomplishing something, not just making you feel you have. 

Additionally, these are also all examples of how writers can work every day, or nearly so, without having to enslave themselves to the write-every-day order. Because being a writer involves more than writing. Working through December can help us learn that.

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