I was recently talking to a group of students about where they are going. They are all seniors in high school, having their last Christmas truly at home, and looking forward (with dread and anticipation) to what is in store for them and their futures.
As tends to be the case with people who are finishing something, several asked what the impact would be if their GPA dropped, if they didn’t keep up their grades, if they coasted for a little while. And it made me think of airplanes.
If you have ever been on a plane, it is very easy to identify the time when the vehicle is using the most fuel because you can feel it: its during takeoff that the most work has to be done. And once altitude is reached? People relax, fall into a routine, and keep checking on things instead of trying to maintain everything.
Yes, when the plane is grounded, the pilots don’t have to do any work, but then the exertion of fuel and focus and work and instruments all has to start again, and it’s hard to get going.
We all know this – I’m not shaking the foundation of anyone’s belief with this. And yet, there is a tendency, when December rolls around, to slow down, to coast, to take it easy, treat ourselves, and, essentially, land our plane. We like to tell ourselves we deserve it, that we did lots of great things during the year, and especially if your 2016 has been anything like mine (and I suspect it probably has in its own way), the temptation to hide and wait for the new year is great.
Doing so would make starting in 2017 more difficult. And with holidays and school breaks and travel and all the other things, transitioning back into a normal life is hard enough already.
Remember, momentum can be kept through minor adjustments, small but intentional acts. Here are some hints to keep your writing flying strong into the new year:
1. Think about your story every day.
Consider the characters, how they’d react in a situation you are in. Look for nods to the people you are writing when at the store, waiting in line for gas/groceries/gift wrapping/Santa. Take in the smells around you and consider if they’d fit in your story. How do people around you (strangers and family/friends alike) act and how is that similar/different from how your characters might behave?
2. Focus on details and craft
Many hometowns of our readers are entering a colder season. How would you describe the cold? How does the cold look compared to how it feels? What’s the difference in brightness of people’s holiday decorations? What do your various errand running locations look like? Sound like? Smell like? Even if you can’t use these details in your story, really focusing on how you would describe them can help your writing because you are coming back to it again and again.
3. Sneak in words
I have been known to send myself texts throughout the day when I have an idea for a scene, a character, a line of dialogue, a description. And even if I don’t have time to write it down, speech to text while driving kids to their next party or performance allows the idea to stick around (and lets me stay sane).
4. Remember it’s NOT all about you (or your story)
Yes, the pilot makes the plane fly and keep course and land. But without the mechanics who hone the plane, the people who check tickets and baggage, those who load the luggage onto the plane, and the flight attendants, the ride would be worse, disappointing, and possibly life threatening. While there are sneaky things we can do to keep writing, we also need to be present and available to our loved ones during this time of connection and celebration. When you are with people you love, be all the way there.
How do you plan to keep your writing plane in flight during the holiday season?
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine, where she serves as a board member. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.