Wednesday, December 14, 2016

5 Ways to Fight Your End-of-Year Writer’s Fatigue

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

December is both a fun month and a rough month. The holidays and festivities keep everyone busy and smiling, but that constant string of tasks and events wears on a person—especially us writers. It can be hard to write when all our energy is going to prepping, handling, and enjoying the holidays.

It’s also the end of a potentially long year of “I need to hit X goal.” You wanted to revise that novel, write that novel, publish that ebook, go on that book tour, revamp your website, and so on and so on…. This is the last few weeks to compete those goal(s) and the pressure is on. However, the motivation to actually do it is wanning or missing.

I am most definitely at this stage right now. I had a hectic year both personally and professionally, and several tasks on my To Do List just aren’t going to get done in 2016 (such as that middle grade novel I so wanted to write). I’ve accepted that some projects will have to shift to 2017, but there’s one last project I’m still trying to get done this year—a revision for an adult paranormal that’s nearly compete. I’ve about 20,000 words left to rewrite, which is doable with a little focus, even with the holidays upon me.

If I can summon the motivation and energy to do it.

I suspect I’m not alone in this, so here are some tips on pushing past the end-of-year fatigue and holiday stress, and getting that final 2016 goal completed:

1. Give yourself time to wrap up the tasks you know are going to get in your way

Odds are you have a list of tasks that need to be handled and they’re hanging over you and keeping you from getting any writing done. It’s stressful being yanked in two directions, so tackle the tasks you know you have to get done before you can shift to your writing.

For me, that’s this week. I have gift wrapping to do, packages to ship, holiday treats to make and hand out, as well as guest author maintenance on this site. Next week, I’m dedicating myself to finishing that revision.

2. Set reasonable daily goals to finish it

You know what you want to get done, so be smart about how much time you allow to do it. Figuring out what you need to do every day to hit that final goal helps tremendously, and makes the task more manageable.

For me, I have nine good writing days to finish my revision (there are more days between now and December 31, but I know I’m not likely to get any writing done on the weekends, or Christmas Eve or day). So that means to hit my goal, I need to write 2,200 words per day during those nine days. My target is 2,500 just to be safe, and that’s a number I know I can hit.

3. Find outlets for the stress

There will be days when you need to work and can’t due to holiday stress, so prepare for them. A friend of mine recently told me of a wonderful tip she heard at a recent conference (I forget where and who), but the keynote speaker said she wrote for 30 minutes, then took a five minute break and did something small—picked up, exercised, walked around the block, etc. My friend tried it and had the most productive writing day she’s had in ages.

Some other stress-reliving options:

Get out in the sunshine:
Being indoors all winter can affect a person’s mood, so sit or walk in the sunshine to recharge. I know first-hand this helps, and I can tell when I’m not getting enough sunshine. I get all mopey.

Smell citrus: Some research claims that citrus activates mood hormones and can lift spirits. Try lighting a candle or dabbing some essential oil on a nearby item, or even just having some oranges. Maybe switch to a citrus shampoo or body wash.

Laugh more: Laughter is the best medicine, right? Do something every day that makes you chuckle (or better, guffaw). There are plenty of funny holiday movies, so you can mix holiday cheer with healthy laughter (my suggestion—Arthur Christmas. It’s a great movie).

Exercise: Even just taking a walk around the block to look at decorations can help relieve stress.

Eat well: It’s easy to binge on cookies and naughty treats, but don’t forget to toss in some vegetables and healthy snacks. Too much sugar and caffeine will wear you down faster than last-minute shopping in a crowded mall.

Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation makes us cranky even on a normal month, but it gets worse when we add holiday stress and fatigue to it. Don’t skip the snoozes. Naps are good, but taking too-long a nap makes it harder to sleep at night, so nap effectively.

Don’t multitask: Studies have shown that trying to do it all actually doesn’t help you do it all. The more tasks you add, the lower your IQ gets. Focusing on one task at a time and getting it done is much more productive than doing six things at once.

4. Try something new to shake your process up a little

Some of the end-of-year fatigue comes from repetition, so if you feel as though you’ve done this same task over and over and over, mix up how you approach it this time. Change the process a little, or work in a new location, add music, eliminate music, write with a friend—any change can help make the task feel less tedious.

5. Accept that you might not get it all done, and that’s okay

This is by far the hardest option on this list, but the one that will relive the most stress and fatigue. It’s possible you won’t get your final goal accomplished, but worrying about it these last few weeks will only make it harder to do (unless you’re someone who truly thrives on pressure and deadlines, then go right ahead).

Tell yourself that you’ll do all you can to complete that task, make a plan to accomplish that goal, and then accept that whatever you get done is a victory. It’ll be more than you would have gotten done had you not made this plan, so it’s a win, even, if it’s not what you’d hoped.

December 31 is a deadline we all face, but it doesn’t have to be one we dread. There’s plenty to enjoy this month and we deserve to enjoy it with our friends and family. But we’re also writers, and we tend to push ourselves more than others, so we’re bound to do it again this year. Instead of stressing about it, let’s plan for it so we can have both a productive and enjoyable December.

Are you facing end-of-year fatigue? Do you have a project you’re trying to finish? How do you handle the stress of the holiday season?

Looking for tips on planning, writing, or revising your novel? Check out one of my books on writing:  Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, your step-by-step guide to revising a novel, and the first book in my Skill Builders Series, Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).

A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.

Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, your step-by-step guide to revising a novel, and the first book in her Skill Builders Series, Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).  

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


  1. Thanks for these suggestions. A digital detox (or at least not checking emails every 5 minutes) is also a good idea.

  2. It's so hard to be productive this month, between the holidays and the need to hibernate through these long winter nights. I like your plan for trying to reach my goals despite the obstacles!

  3. I've discovered sometimes a person has to be more selfish than selfless with their time. It's tough around the holidays, but worth a try!