15 Do’s and Don’ts for Writers: Holidays, Family, and How to Deal with Them

Uh oh.

It’s Aunt Dolores. 

You can smell her leaning over your shoulder (too much perfume with a hint of wet cat).

She thinks she’s sneaky, her laser-pointer eyes locked on your screen.

You try not to cringe. You close your screen, grateful that you weren’t working on that “romantic climax” scene in act three.

“Soooo!” she chirps, “Your mother tells me you want to be a writer!”

Turn, smile, and pray that she won’t ask you-

“And what are you writing? It better not be any of that spacey, science-y nonsense.

She keeps talking without giving you time to answer…

“You know what books you should write? You should write like that one author, you know who I mean – oh, he’s so dreamy, you know the one-”

This one is for all the writers who will get cornered by family members this holiday season.

Read this and you will be more productive during this most trying time for writers.

15 Do’s and Don’ts for Writers: Family Vacation and Holiday Season…


15. Don’t tell people you want to be a writer.

Tell them you ARE a writer.

Own it!

If you WANT to be a writer, you need to start calling yourself a writer. Today. Get over your fears. From today onward, you don’t dream, you write.

14. Don’t tell people you want to write a book.


Certain psychological studies claim that announcing your goals to ANYONE makes you far less likely to actually achieve them.

Instead, you should tell them what you’ve written lately.

13. Don’t talk about YOUR politics.

We’ll get back to this one in the “Do” section below. Keep reading!

Related: Make Every Chapter an Irresistible Page-turner

12. Want family members to read your stuff? Don’t give them half-finished works or unedited first drafts.

Look, I know you’re excited. But first drafts go to the grave.

First drafts are never good.

You will get feedback, but it will most likely be unusable. First drafts are too early in the process to show off.

11. Don’t tell Aunt Dolores you are using her in your story.

Feel free to copy her mannerisms and words, but don’t let her know about it.

“It’s not creepy, it’s flattering.”

Yeah, no.

They will try to boss you around, they will act weird, and everyone will be on edge around you once they hear you are using them in your stories.

10. Don’t tune out non-writer family members.

I get weird advice from relatives all the time.

Most of it? Useless.

But every now and again, you get random flecks of gold from your non-writer relatives.

Either way, you will discover what THEY find effective in a narrative.

  • What made an impact on them
  • What made them laugh
  • What they hated or loved

And what works for one person will likely work for another.

9. Don’t tell your relatives about your latest Twilight Erotica.

Hey, you want to write erotica, I’m all for it. There is nothing wrong with that. 

But Thanksgiving is not the time dear old Aunt Ethel about that steamy hot tub scene with Jacob and Edward.


8. Do tell them you’re a writer.


7. If you write everyday, tell your folks about it!

Be proud. Writing everyday is a great achievement.

Try not to brag. But when it comes up, you let them know.

6. Family visiting for more than one day? Tell them that you need peace and quiet time.

They don’t know your word count goals. They don’t know your writing routine.

Ask them to respect your writing time.

If you, like me, have relatives incapable of respecting your writing time (“No, Uncle Dave, I still don’t care about your favorite Budweiser commercial”), I will refer you to the next to points…

5. Get an awesome pair of headphones.

Inner earbuds are the best for cancelling out sound WITHOUT investing in expensive sound-cancelling technology.

Also, for most people, they count as a “I’m busy, don’t talk to me” warning sign.

Headphones can save you from your second cousin Kelly who – oh my god is she still talking about her new boyfriend? EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU MADE HIM UP, KELLY.

4. Go to an outside place and try to get some writing done.

Say your family doesn’t get it.

Your little cousins are rough housing over the family iPad, and your nephew keeps spraying his new new “cologne” (Overpowering, by Axe) and your sister’s “cooking” (a luxurious Turkey, cooked to crispy and flaky and blacker-than-a-coal-mine perfection) sets off two fire alarms in the kitchen and one in the bedroom.

Get out.

Go to a coffee shop, a library. Both are great places for introverts and writers to get work done.

3. DO talk politics.

Not YOUR politics.

Talk with your relatives about their politics. Go outside presidential elections – ask them about laws, and local governments, etc.

Find out what people with different political views than you truly believe.

Not only does this save you from the Echo Chamber effect, it can help you write more compelling conflicts between your characters.

2. Ask people to tell family stories. 

Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah/Other Holidays I’m missing are a great way to relive the happiest and most dramatic moments.

Every holiday, and at every family gathering, the best story tellers come out to one-up each other.

Listen hard, and try to keep track of what you liked about their stories. Jot them down and use them up later.

1. Most importantly, ENJOY YOUR TIME WITH FAMILY

“Rare moments…”

“Treasured and cherished…”

“Insert another generic quote that is so sappy you could stick a spike in it and drown a whole Waffle House with syrup.”

Mmm… Image and recipe at Leite’s Culinaria

Don’t spend your entire holiday squirreled away in a hole, ignoring the real, true LIFE going on all around you.

This will all fly by in a moment.

Comment! Like! Tell me what are your tricks for surviving the Holidays with your writing word count intact?

Featured image from lifehacker.

P.S. – I love you, dear family. Yes, even you Aunt Dolores.

3 thoughts on “15 Do’s and Don’ts for Writers: Holidays, Family, and How to Deal with Them”

  1. Ugh! I hate the, “You should write a (INSERT UBER-FAMOUS AUTHOR HERE) novel.” Especially when it’s an author of a genre I don’t read. No problem, I’ll get right on that Nora Roberts-esque romance as long as I can throw in a few Stephen King-esque horrors to make it bearable to write.

  2. One of my favorite methods when there’s lots of sound is to put in foam earplugs, then headphones. The earplugs reduce the sound, and the music drowns it out without destroying my hearing.

    1. That’s a good one Adam!

      Mine is: White noise + music + earbuds. And then, putting myself in a corner, so I can’t see my Aunts flapping their hands and screaming with laughter after a little too much wine.

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