Hi, my name is Mary Helen and I’m a procrastinator. Sure, I start stuff months in advance and then when I hit a creative wall, I decide to push it off until I can’t anymore. 

But, I also have come to realize that I do some of my best work under pressure. 

With this column, I try to do a mix of practical writing advice but also share with you things I’m struggling with week to week.

Sometimes, I have a solution. Other times, I just want you, as my readers, to know that you’re not alone in your struggles. 

Spoiler alert, this week is in the later category. 

It’s the holiday season and I love everything about it. I love decorating, I love wrapping, I love eating things others bake (I’m not the best baker but i can do it in a pinch), and I love watching Hallmark movies.

Trust me, I want to do as much as I can. 

Plus, I’ve got writing deadlines, I’m trying to not let this column slide into a hiatus again, the first full-length All The Petty Myths novel is in the middle of being rewritten and I’m outlining and preparing to start another novel. To say nothing of a couple short stories and articles as well. 

This isn’t me complaining. I’ll admit there’s been times in the last few days where I wonder if it’s okay to let myself have fun and do all the things I enjoy doing this time of year knowing that I’ve got a pile of work that needs my attention. 

I’m a workaholic. If I’m not at my day job, I’m writing or working on a project or reading (half the time for research for a project). Occasionally I let myself unwind by playing some video games (Stardew Valley – I NEED to get on and see the new update and the Spyro Reginited Trilogy are two of my current go tos). 

When I lived in Florida, I had at least one Universal day a month. It was a way to allow myself ot unwind and have fun. 

I’ve discovered that if I have times where I allow myself to check out and ignore my work that when I come back, I can focus a bit better. 

Back in 2013, I had a bit of a meltdown and completely burned out. There was a six week period where I maybe wrote 300 words the whole time. I wanted to work on stuff but I just had nothing in the tank and had to take the time to allow myself to return to a state where I was able to write again. 

Since that happened, I think both consciously and subconsciously I make an effort to avoid allowing myself to get to that point again. 

I’ve noticed it happen and I try to force myself to push through and to be honest, sometimes there’s nothing there to push with. 

Sometimes, I have to just realize that maybe it’s a night to either grab friends and game or do it myself. 

So what do you do when deadlines are looming and you’ve got a lot going on in your personal life as well?

1) Do not be afraid to say no

I’ve had to say no to things. Occasionally it’s been writing projects, or it’s going out with friends. I’ve been lucky that a lot of my friends are understanding about how I take my writing seriously and that I need time to work on it. 

Saying no is hard, especially for me because I really do like to make everyone happy – even if it is at my own expense. 

It’s something I’ve had to work on. It’s something I’m still working on. 

But it’s necessary. 

And sometimes you need to say it to yourself. 

Sometimes you have to tell yourself that no, you can’t do this because you need to write. Sometimes you have to tell yourself that it’s okay to take the night off and that you don’t have to be a workaholic. 

2) The Reward System Does Work

Is it wrong to bribe yourself?

I’ve done it. In fact, I do it all the time. Sometimes, it’s if I hit my writing goal than I can play my video game of choice. Or, I can go to this show. Or, I can slack off and watch a Hallmark movie or another beloved Christmas classic. 

Sometimes, you need an incentive. And sometimes, you do need to feel like there’s a reward. Let’s be honest. Writing is something we do because we love it, not because we hope to get rich from it. 

Sure, we hope to someday make enough to live off of and be able to quit our day jobs. But it takes time for that to happen. 

My first royalty check was barely enough to fill my gas tank. 

So don’t feel afraid to reward yourself.

3) Don’t feel guilty about doing things you love

This is something I have to remind myself this time of year. Yes, I need to write, Yes, I have deadlines. 

But it is Christmas. And there’s so many special things to do this time of year. Plus, I work in retail so I’m taking all the hours they will give me. 

So, the biggest thing I’m working on this holiday season is finding the balance. Making sure I spend time with my friends and family, finish my shopping, work my shifts, and meeting my deadlines. 

This time I have two questions for you!

  1. How do you find the perfect balance? Do you? Do you feel like you lean to far one way or the other? What are some things you do to keep yourself on track with deadlines? Do you use a reward system?

  2. And what are some of your favorite holiday traditions? 

I’m hoping this month that I’ll do a series of holiday themed posts. To me, it’s a fun challenge to see what I can come up with.