This probably doesn’t come as news to anyone reading this, but the holidays are slow in publishing. Slooooow. Glacial. Watch-icicles-form speed. There’s a good reason for this. Agents and editors frequently work in New York, which, in a lot of cases, is far from their hometowns, and they travel home during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Like you, they have family obligations, holiday parties to go to, kids out of school far more often than usual, and a killer list of non-work tasks to accomplish. As a matter of course, most read their queries and requested/submitted materials at night. When nights are spent trimming a tree, going to obligatory cocktail parties, or baking cookies for the office exchange, there’s a LOT less time to read manuscripts. I know this sounds crazy, but many would prefer to actually talk to their families during the holidays than read your manuscript. I know, right?
Bottom line: expect no activity in your writing-related email box until the middle of January. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. Some agents and editors will surprise you and get back to you during December. Some like to clean off their desks before they leave to go home to Des Moines or wherever. Take all gifts like that as gifts. Appreciate, don’t expect.
What should you do to kill the time? Staring at your calendar or your inbox is not productive. It will induce panic and twitchiness. Trust me: I tried that last year. It didn’t work.
Instead, here are twenty things to do to distract yourself.
*Volunteer. At a food bank or a school or a charity or anywhere at all. Call them. They’ll be delighted to fill your hours.
*Find somewhere to ice skate. Fall down a lot.
*If you celebrate Christmas and decorate, try to incorporate a book theme.
*Bake some cookies. Eat them all.
*Bake more cookies. Give them away to unexpected people: the mailman, your child’s teacher, the receptionist at your work.
*Call your parents. Tell them you love them.
*Go for a hike outside of a city. Find somewhere with a view. Take deep breaths.
*Go to the mall and watch the children on Santa’s lap. You can see the full range of emotion written on their faces and those of their parents. It’s a character goldmine.
*Go to a concert. Any concert. Any kind. Music is good for the soul.
*Watch Love Actually. Greatest holiday movie ever.
*Listen to the Hamilton Broadway Cast recording. Discover that you are extremely interested in the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who you vaguely remember is on the ten dollar bill. Cry.
*Stay off social media for a full twenty-four hours. Pretend you’re a time-traveler. Marvel at how much time you have to read.
*Talk to your own family. You’d be surprised how interesting they can be.
*Read. Challenge yourself to read four books in your genre before New Year’s and one far outside your genre.
*Swap manuscripts with someone. Help her get ready for January, and she’ll do the same for you.
*Put money in the Salvation Army red bucket. Add a note.
*Outline an idea for a book you will not allow yourself to start until January. Feel the thrill of germination when you can’t write it.
*Do three kind things for other people every day. Vary it up. Hold doors. Pay for the car behind you at the drive-thru. Give big tips. Say something nice to someone you don’t have to speak to.
*If you live where it snows, go out and play. Catch a snowflake on your tongue. Make snow angels. Throw a snowball. Then drink a hot beverage.
*Build a fire. Be warm. January is coming. I promise.