Monday, December 6, 2021

5 Safety Tips to Prevent Writer Burnout this Christmas

by Kristen Hogrefe Parnell @khogrefeparnell

Artificial or real tree? It’s one of the many choices we have during the “most wonderful time of the year.” I’ve been in both camps, and while most of us focus on the beautiful decorations, we can’t ignore the potential fire hazards our trees present. 

The holidays present a related hazard for writers: burnout. Let’s walk through a checklist for Christmas tree safety that also applies to writers, and learn how to enjoy the holidays without going up in smoke.

5 Safety Tips to Prevent Writer Burnout

#1: Make sure your tree is fresh.
If you prefer a live tree, you want to choose one that is as fresh as possible. Florida girls like me can’t drive down the road to a Christmas tree farm, but our local stores offer pop-up tent collections. Either way, check the needles to see if they’re green or browning, because you want the healthiest one.

Fellow writer, today marks the first full week of December. We know what’s coming, because our calendars look like a three-year-old scribbled over them. But how can we be intentional about staying fresh?
  • Get enough sleep. Are you anywhere near the eight-hour goal?
  • Guard your mental health. Don’t get trapped in consumerism or comparison.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. Exercise and eating well can easily fall to the wayside during the busy holidays.
  • Set aside time for writing, even if it’s less than usual. Progress of any kind will help you stay focused on deadlines and keep the creativity flowing.
#2: Keep your tree well-watered.
Most of us love the fragrance of a fresh fir, but we can easily forget to water the tree. It’s not a hard chore, but it must be an intentional one if your tree is going to last until January.

How do you water yourself over the holidays? The best place to start is by prioritizing time with Jesus, the whole reason for this season. I realize we are all in different stages of life, and quiet time may be harder to find for some of us than others. But if you’re not in the daily habit of being in God’s Word or wish you had a more regular time with Him, what better month is there to start? 

Many ministries even offer a daily devotional delivered right to your email. Some I have used in the past include:
  • Solid Joys, a daily devotional with John Piper through
A friend of mine suggested an Advent devotional, and I’m going to dive into that book this December. What practices help you to stay “watered” during this busy time? 

#3: Guard your tree from heat.
This tip seems like a no-brainer, but we shouldn’t put the tree right next to the fireplace (even though that’s where it appears on Christmas cards).

Heat takes other forms for writers. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with December. I love the extra time with family and friends, but I easily burn out under too many demands for my time. Hear me, friend. It’s okay to decline a few party invitations. It’s okay to set limits on how many white-elephant gift exchanges you’ll attend.

Instead of worrying we’ll disappoint people, let’s communicate what we can do and respectfully set boundaries. 

#4: Shake your tree.
Shaking the tree seems counterintuitive, but it reveals if your tree is dehydrated. If lots of needles fall to the ground, your tree needs more water. The drier the tree, the more likely it poses a fire hazard.

Now is a good time to give yourself a shake as well. Do a stress check. Are you snapping at the smallest aggravation? Is your temper running short over trivial inconveniences? If so, your tank is dry. Go back and give yourself some water.

#5: Turn off your tree’s lights.
We know better than to leave the Christmas lights plugged in all night or for extended periods of time. The longer the lights are plugged in, the more likely the bulbs are to become hot and increase the potential for something going wrong. The key is to plug lights in when you’re enjoying them and immediately unplug them when you leave the room.

Writers, we need to unplug ourselves too. Unplug from social media. Unplug from over-commitment. Unplug from hurry for hurry’s sake. If possible, I like to take a few weeks off in December from any posting or social media. This break helps me savor the special time with family, focus on gratitude, and plan without distractions for the new year.

What tip can help you fight burnout this holiday season, or do you have your own practice you’d like to share? 


Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for adults and teens. Her young adult dystopian novels, The Revisionary and The Reactionary, both won the Selah for speculative fiction, and she signed with Mountain Brook Ink for a new romantic suspense series, coming December 2022. Readers can learn more about her upcoming release and receive a free novella by joining her newsletter at She and her husband live in Florida and enjoy sharing their lake home with family and friends.


  1. Loved your comparison of the Christmas tree to authors writing! Thank you for sharing your blog with all of us and for Edie's posting of it.

    1. You're so welcome, Diane. Blessings to you in your writing!

  2. I'm celebrating Advent for the first time and enjoying a lovely devotional. Loved your analogy here!

    1. I love that you're celebrating and enjoying an Advent devotional too! I'm really enjoying mine so far. It's Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift. So glad this analogy resonated with you!