Tuesday, December 9

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, December 09, 2014 6 comments
Photo credit: chamomile from morguefile.com

When the advent wreath comes out, my writing can often go off the burners entirely, which tends to make me a bit cranky and resentful inside. In a season in which special events and preparations for them can eat up most of one's waking hours, it can be really tough to carve out space for your creative life. But for my mental and emotional health, it's essential.

Finding writing time in December can be a bit like searching for loose change in pockets, under the couch cushions, in the washing machine, and under the car mats. Bit by bit you bank a little here, a little there, and your story continues to grow, like a bank account would,

The usual wisdom is to simply sleep less or decline invitations. That might be necessary if you're under an actual hard-and-fast deadline. But if you aren't, take advantage of the seasonal change to recharge and to stimulate your thinking.

Here are some ideas to try in various venues.


Imagine how  your character would approach gift giving. How budget-conscious or extravagant is she? How much does he enjoy or dread selecting gifts? Which secondary character would it be most difficult to shop for?

Imagine what it's like to be an employee or shop owner at one the businesses you visit.

Gather sensory details about holiday shopping. How does it look, smell, feel?

Observe how other shoppers embody emotions like frustration, anxiety, impatience, excitement, worry.

Buy yourself a few knickknacks that draw you more deeply into your characters' world. (For an example, see my post, 'Take Me There' Objects.)


Observe how party-goers interact with one another. Whose relationships seem shaky? How can you tell? How do family similarities express themselves? How do people flirt or try to blend with the wallpaper? How do listeners show speakers they are engaged, bored, or offended?

Try to discover connections between people you meet and your characters, whether profession, hobbies, life experiences, family structure, or temperament. Once the connection is established, ask things you wish you knew about your character. For instance, "What is the most difficult/annoying aspect of your job?" "What was it like to gain step-siblings?"

Seek out experts in areas you are researching for your story and bravely ask questions. (For more on impromptu research interviews, see my post Expertise is Everywhere.)

Try out your elevator pitch.


Gather sensory details about the airport. How does it look, feel, smell? How is it different now than in, say, July or August? Observe how fellow passengers express excitement, dread, impatience.

Research setting while on the road, everything from sensory details to the unique features of local culture as seen in architecture, speech patterns, clothing, food, music and art. (For more detailed ideas, see my post, Writer on the Road)

Listen to audio books in your genre.

Read books on the craft of writing or on topics you need to research.

Engage in an art or craft hobby that stimulates your creativity and helps your mind relax.


These are just a handful of ways you can stay connected to your story world during a busy season.

What new things might you try this holiday season?


  1. These are all fantastic ideas. Sometimes I'm successful at continuing my writing routine, other times I simply allow myself to be creative in other ways knowing I'll get back to the regularity of writing again in January.

    1. Even when out of routine, it's possible to stay in touch with our projects, if only in the capacity of thinking through and generating ideas. Sometimes these "fallow" periods enable greater creativity later.

  2. I love your #1. Imagining our characters in real life situations - and gift giving could say a lot about them - helps us see them in a different way.

    1. Most of these ideas could be adapted to any busy period when it's difficult to stick to a routine.

  3. I'm attempting to finish a first draft by the end of Dec. =/ Not the best time! I had about 10K, and hope to finish around 40K. I'm at 16K right now... Race is on! =)

  4. Just what i needed to read! Can still stay creative when there's so little time to write! Esp. love the party idea... will take advantage of that tomorrow night. Hope no one minds me sneaking notes into my pocket notebook :)