December 17, 2017

Why to Write Through the Holidays

shutterstock_43067356There’s an exercise I do with clients that I got from Tsultrim Allione, author of Feeding Your Demons. The exercise is more or less a guided meditation that encourages people to give characteristics to their saboteur (demon). The point is to give form to your saboteur—to determine its shape, smell, size, color, and even to name it.

Over years of doing this with writers, there’s been an interesting commonality: Oftentimes the saboteur haunting writers is sticky. I’ve seen saboteurs manifest in all sorts of ways—as humans, animals, beasts. But yes, they are often sticky.

It seems obvious when you lay it out in writing that the sticky has everything to do with being stuck. The holidays seem to exacerbate stuckness for lots of writers, too. Other pressing things start to take over, and December can and does easily become a month full of excuses not to write. It’s the holidays; family is in town; it’s stressful! Writers rationally conclude that everything will change in January. Writing more is a great new year’s resolution, after all.

But back to the sticky stuckness. What is this stickiness all about? Any writer who’s ever been stuck can relate. Your thoughts are as slow as molasses. Writing feels like a thing you should be doing, and at the end of the day it’s always the one thing you haven’t done. One of my clients once described her stuckness as a fur ball—and it was certainly threatening to be a sticky mess she’d have to deal with if she dared to cough it up. I had another client a few years back whose sticky demon was downright scary, conjuring an image from a demon in a horror movie. And this saboteur was doing a very effective job of keeping her from writing her memoir. Stickiness doesn’t just slow us down. It makes things unclear and messy. The very thought of dealing with it is hard work. Who wants to slog through a sticky mess? No one. Better to avoid it altogether. Better to save the writing for later when you have the energy to deal with the fall out, to clean it all up.

Structure doesn’t always work when you’re in this place, which presents a challenge for me because I’m the queen of structure. Get me on the phone and I can count off twenty ways to keep you writing in under fifteen minutes. But no amount of discipline or accountability—or even threatening—will make a writer who’s deep in the sticky stuckness start writing.

When you’re in the sticky stuckness you’re not just stuck, you’re also experiencing resistance. It’s not just about having other things to do; that’s always going to be the case. You sit with the knowledge that you should be writing, but you can’t figure out why you’re not making time to write. This is worse than being unconscious. It’s being in denial—making all sorts of good excuses to make you feel better about what you’re not doing. And those excuses sound really good: Right now is not a good time to write. You’ll come back to it when you have more time, more energy, when you’re healthier, when your family life isn’t so demanding, when it’s not the holidays. You can see this is a slippery slope. When will you make time to write? Once you get a different job? Once your kids go off to college? Once you’re divorced? Once you’re dead? I know this is a harsh way to put it, but this is how contingencies work, and we can find ourselves waking up to unfulfilled dreams at any point in our lives, wondering how we let so many months or years pass us by.

Do you have a project you want to write and you’re just not doing it? Are you finished with a manuscript that’s sitting in a drawer somewhere? Are you stuck midway through your book and failing to meet self-imposed deadlines?

There are consequences to being a person who answers yes to any of these questions. The primary consequence is heaviness. Yes, heaviness. Unfinished projects weigh on those who know their projects are destined for something bigger. Your unfinished writing lives in the recesses of your mind and weighs on your conscience. As much as you might think that there’s always going to be a better time, the truth is that there is no better time than now. Right now, smack dab in the middle of the holidays. If you can figure out a way to make time to write during the holidays, then you will always find time during the rest of the year. Right now is the worst time, unquestionably, so why not set the baseline now?

I challenge anyone who’s struggling to start, to finish, to complete, or to make a deadline to claim that this can be true. Do it here in the comments section of this post and see what happens. The only truly effective strategy I know is to voice out loud to yourself and others that you are making a commitment. Put it in writing and make it happen.

And now I will share with you my own struggle, and why I’ve set December and January up for myself as a writing sabbatical of sorts. I’m scaling way back on my coaching during these months to make space to write my book. This was a book that I promised myself I would start in April. I started taking Fridays off to write. And guess what happened? Fridays got filled up with my to-do list—mostly catching up on email. The sticky stuckness has visited me often in my life. If you do any kind of creative pursuit you recognize this as true. Very few people who write (or create other kind of art) are always in a state of productive inspiration.

So join me in a declaration to write through the holidays! I’m going to be, and I hope you will be too.

 

A previous version of this post was published on Warner Coaching as “The Sticky Stuckness.”

Comments

  1. Maybe I am in the minority but I don’t have time to waste when it comes to writing. I learned this a long time ago but the real wake-up call was when my mom passed in April 2013. I had never been confronted with the death of such a close family member and that’s when I said to myself, I will not stop until this memoir of mine gets written no matter what. Towards the end of her life, she started to support my efforts as a writer.
    Every day for me is a writing day – I write almost 365 days a year, whatever I can manage and whenever I am: during my son’s chess lessons, basketball practice, a noisy cafe. I take my laptop and memoir with me. I numb people out. I numb chaos out. I numb whatever I can out. I don’t care about the “noise” around me. (I used to.) But I am living my purpose and ultimately, giving voice to my dream. I don’t have family closeby so maybe my situation is ultimately easier. I don’t know. Everyone’s circumstance is different.
    I love how you solidified this experience of what people go through months and years in such a beautifully eloquent blog post. Kudos to you, Brooke for giving voice to the fact that there is NO such thing as a perfect moment.

  2. Dorit, you’re one of the most prolific writers I know. I wish you could find a way to rub some of that off on others. 🙂

    Thanks for this comment and for the context around the urgency. I think a lot of people relate to that kind of shake-up—whether it be death or illness or anything that reminds us how limited our time here really is. xo

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