The December Writing Struggle

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Me, with a torn leg tendon. Gotta tough it out. Or not.

You have heard that people are creatures of habit.

I knew people who used to have a cigarette and a cup of coffee at certain intervals throughout the day. It was a habit. Get to work, pour a cup of coffee. Finished lunch, have a cigarette.

I had habits like that too. Not smoking, but running.

Every time I would go in the workout room and start lifting weights and doing my thing, the closer it came time to get on the treadmill, the more good ideas I got for my story.

In fact, sometimes I would sit down and bang out a whole chapter rather than run.

(Running is not something I enjoy doing, it’s something I enjoy having done.)

That tree doesn’t put itself up!

Now, I mention this because everybody’s schedule gets really out of whack during the holidays. Friends come in from out of town, or relatives; you’re going out and buying presents and decorating. Writing time will be traded for shopping time, or Christmas party time.

Don’t worry about it.

It’s December, very little gets done in December as far as writing goes.

Just realize that any progress is progress. You’ll find out in January your routine kind of goes back to what it was and you’ll be all set to be a productive writer again.

Unless you don’t, in which case you’re fucked, but these distractions affect all aspects of writing. Editing, marketing decisions, you name it. I have a lot more distractions this year. My daughter is about to have two or three weeks off school! That hasn’t happened for a while. Don’t expect much to get done during that!

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My little cutie in a moment of non-destructiveness. Actually, that’s not true. A second before she pulled my chin stubble, which is why I’m holding her hand here. (Her fingers are pinched between my thumb and knuckles.)

Worse than that, as some of you are aware, I tore a tendon in my leg. It’s a little tiny baby tendon (longinus plantarus) and you only have to stay off it for a couple days and then you pretty much good as new—but as a runner, I had to bench myself for a few weeks!

Which, as I just explained, running—or the threat of getting on the treadmill—was where some of my best ideas came from.

Not having to worry about getting on the treadmill has caused me to not have as much writing creatively as I would normally have.

Plus it’s December and I have all distractions every else has with relatives coming in from out of town and going to parties.

And chocolate. There’s lots more chocolate around her and Christmas. I don’t mind that particular distraction.

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No, I don’t dye my hair. (Who’d make their hair that color on purpose?)

Anyway, rest assured of this one thing: It’s all going to get back in order in January sometime.


So, do what you can for the rest of December, and make a note for yourself next year that this is just how it works. Don’t get down on yourself.


Unless you get to January 15th and you’re still not writing. Then, yeah, put a foot in your own behind.


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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

After you FIND time to Write – actually WRITE!


Authors are, as a group, unorganized and easily distracted. Me, included.

Kim Cardashian's butt? AGAIN??
Kim Cardashian’s butt? AGAIN??

After I find them additional hours a day to write, they fill that time up with nonwriting. Emails, Facebook, Twitter, online writing course, articles.

Cat videos…

First, write.

ONLY when you have the writing finished for the day, then and only then do you allow yourself to access distractions like email, CC, etc. They suck you into a time vacuum and you look up and an hour’s gone. Set a goal, maybe for a number of words. (I usually go for a scene, not words). When the scene is completed, you’re all set. If you have time aside for writing, FB and Twitter and the rest will happily wait while you write. Because if the writing doesn’t get finished, the rest doesn’t matter. You need to set a date by which to have the book complete. What? Blasphemy! Well, if you know roughly how long it takes per chapter, and how many chapters roughly remain in your outline, you have a number to hit. Yeah, the numbers will be off, but every evening will be like Christmas when you are banging it out and getting closer and closer to your goal of a completed book.

01 postcards (2) b

Get the goal set right now, today, and then lay it out. It’s February. If you follow this advice, your book’s first draft could be finished by the end of February, depending on how far along you are with it. Allow a few weeks for editing and beta readers, and maybe another draft, and on March 31, you’re ready to publish. Friend me on FB and I’ll help you at every step along the way, but odds are you will NEVER finish the way you are going, and I want you to finish! The first book is the hardest. When that’s over, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. Like driving a car. You could barely keep it on the road when you first climbed behind the wheel. Now you can talk on the phone, eat a cheeseburger, tune the radio, and drive simultaneously. It’s effortless.

Get to the writing first. All the rest will wait.

As good as it feels to do all the other stuff, how SATISFIED will you feel on Tuesday when you wrote for 4 hours on Monday? You’ll feel amazing.

Now, how will you feel on Tuesday if you did CC and Fb and email on Monday – and didn’t write?

I still haven't finished my NaNoWriMo
I still haven’t finished my NaNoWriMo

Which feeling do you prefer?

Write. The other stuff will be just fine without you. Do that crap at lunch, do it at breakfast, or take a break from it for a month, but realize that IT IS PREVENTING YOUR BOOK FROM GETTING WRITTEN. A year from now will you be happier that you did emails and FB and CC, or put a book out that is selling?

It feels like this - but in my brain!
It feels like this – but in my brain!

Focus: keep your eyes on the prize.

Oh, and if you still need ways to find time to write, that’s here