(Yes, I'm cheating. This is a reposting of the letter I wrote last year. But the advice is good, so read it again)
December 24, 2011Dear Melanie,
When you open this, it will be October 31, 2012. Halloween. A little early to be thinking about Christmas, I suppose, but if I know you, and I know I do, you're starting to think about it--maybe even to dread it a little. You know what's coming--the exhaustion, the aches and pains, even the panic...it's all part of the Nanowrimo/Christmas deluxe package, right?
I don't think so. This year can be different. You can give yourself something special for Christmas this year, but you need to start TODAY. Are you with me? Here's the plan.
October 31, 2012: This is the make it or break it day, right here. Somehow you always manage to push it out of your mind, but you have a serious sugar addiction, and if you aren't tough today, you'll spend the rest of the year with your blood sugar soaring like a kite. So, as a gift to yourself for Christmas this year, make Halloween a sugar free day. DO NOT buy candy until moments before the Trick or Treaters arrive, and let someone else pass it out. Or give out pencils.
November 1, 2012: Nanowrimo, Day 1!!!! I smile just to think about it. You've been training for this for months, and I know you've got a lot to say. Give yourself an early Christmas present: DO NOT buy candy when it's marked down 75% and tell yourself you'll save it for Christmas. You won't. Besides, if you're not in the store, you'll have more time to write.
Exercise. I'm serious. I know what you've got to give up in order to find time to write a novel in November. Trust me. I've been there, done that. But exercise. In the morning. It doesn't have to be a ton. In fact, I'd say that 10 minutes 6 days a week ought to cover it. 3 days of strength training, 3 days of running a mile or doing Zumba or jumping rope. Just break a sweat. You try for any more than this, and you'll probably decide to skip it altogether.Throughout the month of November:
When you're in a writer's haze, you won't even notice whether it's carrots you're chomping on or Laffy Taffy. For some reason you never remember this until the last week of November. Instead of stocking up on bargain priced candy, stock up on healthy foods. Whatever's easy to grab--that's what you'll eat.
And a month of eating green salad with chicken and walnuts for lunch never hurt anyone. If you get sick of it, Italian Peasant Stew is always a pleasant alternative, though I recommend leaving out the Italian Peasants. They are awfully expensive this time of year, and you'll hardly miss them.
Moderation has never been your strong suit. It may look like one candy bar to you, but it's really two months of swirling in a vortex of bad health choices until you are spit out onto the rocky shores of exhaustion. You're not a spring chicken anymore, you know, and those days of trekking back where you belong are getting tougher.
November 26, 2012: Cyber Monday. No matter how far behind on your novel you think you are, stop what you're doing and order Christmas presents. You'll be glad you did. Remember how long the World Soccer Shop and Deseret Book take to fill your orders?
December 1, 2012: Time for another early Christmas present. Finish that book. Even if the last half of the book is encapsulated in two pages, get to the words "The End" and leave it alone. You've got the rest of the winter to edit and tinker and add to your book. That's why you write a novel in November in the first place. But December is for family, and trying to add novel writing into the mix is a well-known recipe for transforming yourself into Scrooge! Everybody needs an occasional vacation from writing, and December is yours. Let the guilt go.
Merry Christmas, my future self! If all went the way it was supposed to, your back didn't go out on you the day before Thanksgiving, your Christmas preparations didn't exhaust you, you didn't gain lots of weight between Halloween and now, and you spent more time enjoying the things that really matter.
January 1, 2013: Go on, open up that novel and start editing. You know you want to.
(All photos from http://www.sxc.hu/home)