Escaping the Holidays (and other stressful times) with Writing: From Fictional Worlds to Thank You Notes

Written by Claire L. Fishback, PMP

Book Coach & Story Strategist

December 1, 2022

Wow, another post in one week!? I’m on fire!

Funny story, one time I texted my sister that I was on fire after pitching to agents at a writing conference and getting requests for full manuscripts. My nephew Logan, who was pretty young at the time, saw the text, woke my sister up (she’s two hours behind in Alaska) and whispered, “I think Auntie Claire’s house is on fire.” Poor little tyke didn’t know what it meant to be metaphorically on fire.

Okay, on to the main purpose of this bonus post! I figured on the tail end of the Plan for Anything to get in your way episodes, plus the Guilt of taking time off episode, I would talk to you today about writing through the holidays.

Because maybe you don’t want or need to take time off. Maybe you have a sweet streak going since episode 2 when you learned about Toucan20 and you don’t want to break it.

Maybe, like me, writing is your escape from reality, something you look forward to, especially when stressed.

Whatever the reason for not taking time off, I present to you today:

7 ways to use writing to unwind during the holidays


#1 Escape to your fictional world. 

Escape from holiday stress–or dysfunctional family gatherings–by immersing yourself in your fictional world, cavort around with your characters.

Write them into worse situations than you’re currently dealing with. Remember that old adage to remember, no matter how bad off you feel you are, someone else out there is far worse off than you?

Make your characters worse off than you and maybe it’ll make you feel better about whatever your situation around this time of year may be.

Set aside 20 minutes every day to “touch the ball.” I thought I stole that phrase from basketball, but I’m not actually sure where it came from… anyway, touch the ball by adding a sentence. Add a word. Write a little summary of the next scene or a future scene you want to write. Find a placeholder that needs more research and check some resources.

Do something to keep from losing your momentum, even if you can’t write for a solid 20 minutes. Touch the ball and keep your mind in the game. The game being your story, of course.

#2 Write what you’re grateful for.

Writing three things you are grateful for or that went well in your day is a great way to destress, unwind, and ultimately feel good inside. It’s a way to focus more on the positive aspects of your life or your day and move beyond the things that might not have gone so well, or things that are affecting you negatively.

According to “gratitude can make you feel more satisfied with life and boost your self-esteem.” It can also lessen feelings of depression among other things.

#3 Write thank you notes.

Thank you notes are like gratitude lists, but for other people. Not only do they make other people feel good, but they typically bring about this really lovely feeling inside for you, too.

Write thank you notes to others, not only if they gave you a gift, but to tell them you are grateful they are in your life or are your friend. Maybe it’s a quick note just to tell them they’re great.

You could even write a thank you note to Old Musty (you know, your current manuscript) telling it why you are grateful for it.

Write thank you notes to your characters. Write thank you notes from your characters to yourself. Get crazy!

#4 Journal about your day.

Journaling is a great way to unwind either before your day begins, or at the end of your day.

You can essentially dump out your brain and all the things taking up space in your mind onto paper.

If you want, you can even burn the paper to help you let things go if your brain dump is too negative.

#5 Do some daydreaming

This one might be a little out there, but it could also be really fun.

Write a fictional holiday letter about you and your family, but write it as if you are a best selling author.

Or, add some genre fun to it. Are you a family of vampires now? Did one of you get bitten by a werewolf? Did your dog turn into a dragon overnight and now you’re dealing with the red tape and bureaucracy of keeping an illegal creature under your roof?

Maybe you’re single and you stumbled into that cute guy from high school and he’s also single. Perhaps your holiday letter is all about how much you hate him but also how much you love him (I obviously don’t write romance, lol).

Alternately, write holiday letters as if you are your characters. What might they say to let their families know how their year has been? What resolutions are they looking forward to getting started on?

#6 Write a letter to your future self. 

Ever since 2020, I have written a letter to myself on my birthday. I seal it in an envelope and write the Open on that same day the following year. It’s so much fun to look back at who I was and what was on my mind and what goals or dreams I had the year before.

You could do this any time of year, but perhaps, with the new year right around the corner, it could become a tradition for you in December.

Write a letter to your future self with your plans for the coming year. Seal it in an envelope and write “Open on [today’s date one year from now].” Be sure you put it somewhere where you won’t forget about it. I always put mine on my desk. The challenge is not opening it until the date you wrote on it. It is tempting to peek, but don’t give in!

#7 Write lists.

One of the key things I learned from my mom is writing lists. She has lists for everything! She’s one of the most organized people I know. Writing lists will help you with any feelings of overwhelm you may have.

One of the best ways to beat overwhelm during any time of the year (or week or day sometimes for me) is to write down all the things you need and want to do. Then, either prioritize which things are most important, or start picking off the smaller easy to accomplish things first. When you start checking those little things off, you’ll be more motivated and inspired to keep checking things off your list.

Use Toucan20 to your advantage.

Toucan20 isn’t only for writing. You can use it to knock out some of those tasks on your list from number 5.

What other ways can you think of to use writing to unwind?

I for one, love to escape to my fictional worlds and cavort around with my characters for a bit. It makes me happy, keeps me sane, and oftentimes, I use my strong emotions to fuel the writing.

Don’t forget the Toucan20 method. On days when you have time to write but are too drained, brain dead, unmotivated, distracted, stressed, to write, set your timer and write anyway.

Sometimes our most unmotivated days are our best writing days.

I have a little workbook that goes along with this post that includes a few holiday themed Toucan20 trackers. You can get it below, along with a bunch of other fun resources in the Resource Library.

If you ever have any questions about the content of the podcast, something you read on my website or in my newsletter, or questions about writing, time management, project management, anything really! Even if you just want to send me a comment and words of praise or gratitude even, like my dad does, I have a question submission form. I’d love to be able to answer some questions on this blog or even on the podcast!

And one very last thing. Thank you so much for being here. I am grateful for you and the time you use to read my posts and/or listen to my podcast.

Set your timer. Go write!



Get the 7 Ways to Use Writing to Unwind Workbook in The Resource Library. The Resource Library is chock full of useful cheat sheets, guides, workbooks, and planners. More added as I make them!

Get it in the resource library!

Get this resource AND MORE in the FREE Resource Library!

Get the worksheet, workbook, guide, or other tool mentioned in this post FREE in the Resource Library. The Resource Library is chock full of useful cheat sheets, guides, workbooks, and planners. More added as I make them!

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