The holiday season with our designated semester breaks is a time when academics reconnect with family and friends but may become disconnected from our research or scholarly writing projects. No holiday season or break is the same, but all can be made better with some initial planning and some tried and true strategies.

Perhaps this is your winter break plan: to put your writing on hold and to take a break from all things academe.

Perhaps, however, you have a combo rest and work winter break plan: to spend time away and to spend time moving projects forward.

Or, perhaps your plan is to write consistently from December 22, 2021, when CSU closes for break, to January 18, 2022, when the spring semester starts. If you have a regular writing practice (e.g. 30+ minutes per day), this may be “your jam” and the way you live your best and fullest life. If, however, looming deadlines require you to work over break even as you wish otherwise, remember to balance your daily efforts so that you build in time away from writing: rest and recreation, walks, dinners with friends, designated time with an activity you enjoy (puzzles or coloring, anyone?).

Regardless of your winter break plans, you can draw on and modify the pack up and pick up strategies below to help you get back into writing on your project more quickly and efficiently. These are simple—even obvious—reminders that we all too easily forget to do, but when we implement them, they help us build momentum on our projects over time (even when taking breaks). We practice these techniques in the CSU Writes’ writing retreats, and they are useful for everyday or every semester writing:

To pack up (at the end of your writing session):

  • Use a writing log or journal to record what your worked on and progress made in your session. Include details like project name, section attended to, and accomplishments made.
    • Experiment with the data/metrics that work best for your tracking. You could focus on words, pages, sections, or time spent engaged.
  • Record notes about next steps or new directions while your mind is fresh and connected to the project. Jot down instructions for your next writing session:
    • Do you need to reach out to contributors? Do you need to craft an additional figure or paragraph? Do you need to review additional literature?
    • It can help to imagine sitting down at that next session: what will make it easier for you to jump back in?
  • Organize your writing space (desk, computer desktop) so that your log/journal/materials are ready and available upon your return.
    • If you live and work in the same space and will need to use your writing space for other tasks while away, consider using a project box to contain your writing project, files, log/journal until your return. Close your project box when you have finished writing for the day; open it when you return.

To pick up (at the start of your writing session):

  • Open your writing log/journal and review your next steps.
    • Have you thought of additional tasks for this first session? Add them to your task list.
  • Spend a few moments identifying which tasks will be best to tackle first, second, and so forth. Which tasks will require additional steps, writing sessions or planning?
    • If needed or as part of your new semester’s writing process, plan to use a portion of your writing session as a planning session.

If a writing project is left for a day or two, we can usually pick it up and reengage quickly. There is no need to reconnect and reorient ourselves to the “what, where, why, and how” of our next steps. That is because we will have built momentum, which is maintained by our consistent and timely return to our writing. We will likely have pondered the next steps in the prior (or midnight) hours—preparing our minds to add new insights, conceptual framings, connections, or language to the document.

The goal with navigating any pause in writing production—whether a day or two, a week or more—is to build a conceptual bridge to reconnect you with your project so that you can move forward quickly. The key to bridge-building is to pack up your project at the close of your working session so that you can pick up when you return. May you have a wonderous winter break—no matter your writing plans—with a well-rested return to your writing, just as you have planned.