The holidays are a particularly daunting time to be a freelance writer. Most people have the idea all year long that you’re not really working, but they don’t bother to voice this opinion until time comes to start organizing big family meals and do massive amounts of shopping. “Oh, Kristi can do it… she’s not busy.” Two words: My Ass.
The holiday season is actually one of my busiest times of year, both in sheer volume of writing and in terms of corresponding with new and future clients or with old clients on upcoming projects. December is for selling and planning and both must be done at an insanely rapid pace. So, without further ado, I’m offering you four pro tips for surviving the holidays as a writer.
1. Set Boundaries. Remind everybody that you only have so many hours in a day by actually setting hours. Tell your contacts that you’ll be available from 8am to 6pm or whatever and stick to it. Divide that time between negotiating new contracts, tending your social and writing — and if something doesn’t get done, keep in good communication and let your client know that you’ve gotten behind. Most will forgive you, the rest are either stressed out because they don’t have boundaries or are total dicks.
2. Don’t Make Excuses. Excuses put you in a weak negotiating position, be that for worming out of making yet another round of pies, skipping shopping for your nephew’s Christmas or getting late work to a client. Don’t whine, don’t scream and don’t fucking be a baby. Just tell people the way it is — “This article is going to be late, but I’ll have it for you tomorrow,” “If I have to bake another pie this year, I’m climbing a bell tower with a 12 gauge,” or “Fuck your shopping trip, I have to work. Like a grown-up.”
3. Do a Little Planning. There’s no way to cram ten pounds of shit into a five pound bag without a plan. Even if you don’t use a scheduler or calendar the rest of the year, break one out in mid-November and use it through the end of the year. This simple strategy will keep you from violently over-committing, which is a serious problem during the holidays. A lot of unpredictable things spring up during this time of year, so leave extra time to complete each task on your list.
4. Ask for Help. Chances are good you know other writers, other parents, other people…. so when your calendar starts to indicate that you might be in too deep, reach out and touch someone. Somebody, somewhere believes you actually work for a living, so see if they’ll take your kids for a few hours, if they’ll help you get some shopping done or can take some of the workload off your desk. ‘Tis the season.
My friends, try not to panic as the Big One nears. You’ve still got time to get your work crammed in sideways, do a little shopping, bake like a fiend and remind people that you actually have a job.