Professional Writer? Survive The Holiday Season

You’re a professional writer, but… here come the holidays. Parties and more parties, celebrations with relatives you haven’t seen all year, and shopping marathons at the mall. Are you looking forward to it all? If you are, that’s great.

On the other hand, maybe you’re cringing at the thought. One of my friends split from his partner in June; he won’t see his children until January. Another friend is dreading the holidays because in her family, quarrels and arguments are guaranteed whenever they get together.

You’re a professional writer

Whether your holiday season promises to be happy or stressful, remember, you’re a writer. Not only can you cope, you can mine the season for story ideas to keep you happily writing all next year.

Want to make the most of the season and enjoy it too? Here are some ways to do that.

1. Get behind the lens: take photos for story ideas

I love my phone camera. I’m always snapping away, collecting story ideas, or just memories.

You can snap away too, not only during holiday celebrations, but on shopping trips: remember to take your business cards. Freelancing is a 24-hour-a-day gig. You’re always hunting for the next writing job.

Jill’s been a friend for years. She started out as a business writer, now she’s a ghostwriter. She makes an amazing living, recording people’s lives and memories.

Her cell phone’s camera is her primary writing tool. She says: “I usually take at least 20 photos on every shopping trip, especially if I’m in a larger city. When you ask someone whether you can take a photo of them, or their place of business, it gives you a chance to hand out your card… AND get their email address so you can send them the image.”

As I’ve always said, and as Jill knows too, it’s not who you know, but who knows you. Snap away. Hand out cards. Collect email addresses: build your writing career.

2. Everyone knows something: ask lots of questions

A writer’s always looking for story ideas. This holiday season, ask questions. Your friends and relatives are walking, talking sources of inspiration.

Relatives with children can supply you with ideas for parenting publications. If someone’s sold their home (or business) and made a killing, you can mine them for story ideas for business publications.

Pass around your business cards. Tell everyone what you’re working on, and if you need writing gigs, say so.

3. Write every day

Yes, it’s the holidays. But you’re a writer, so write. Writing isn’t just writing: it’s a way of learning, and discovering.

If you’re super-busy, write for five minutes on your phone—develop stories you’ll pitch after the holiday madness is over.

4. Observe your surroundings: describe what you see and hear

Make notes in the Notes app on your phone. Describe people and your surroundings. Not only will the act of recording ensure that you remember more, it triggers inspiration, especially if you’re writing fiction.

Make up little stories about the people you see. Who are they? What’s their life like?

Record jokes and anecdotes you hear. If you’re shy, leave a party for a few minutes and write up your notes in the bathroom. Even if you never look at your notes again, the fact that you wrote something fixes the person or event in your memory.

5. Collect memories: journal

The holidays are a wonderful time to develop a journaling habit. You can keep your writer’s journal the old-fashioned pen and ink way, or you can keep a digital journal.

Collect your memories of this holiday season. It will never come again. Who knows where your friends, relatives and you will be this time next year?

When you remember that you’re a writer, you’ll not only survive the season, you’ll thrive.

Have fun.

(A version of this article was first posted on Medium.)

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