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A NaNoWriMo Survival Guide


But, I'm So Busy...

"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans." - Peter Drucker

So you want to try out this National Novel Writing Month thing, but you've already got a lot going on in your day. I can sympathize with this one. I've got a busy job, and am currently living the experience of trying to figure out 'life with a dog'.

Everyone has their own sets of challenges, and I'm sure if you asked any group of 10 people, at least 8 would say that their day is fully time-blocked and they can't find any more time beyond their current engagements. So how do you carve out enough time to write 50,000 words in 30 days? One word: commitment. Do not rely on motivation, as it is a fickle, fickle friend.

Finding the Time

Below are a few tips that have worked for me, and my Nano experience has been much more successful when I have followed these tips to the letter:

  1. Prioritize. In order to make the time for writing, do an evaluation of how you're spending your free time. Netflix is great, for when you want to just shut off the brain, but suddenly you're 6 episodes into a new series you're watching just to finish and not because you truly enjoy it. This is a cliche piece of advice, but it's so important. I've also found that the Chrome extension StayFocusd can help when I'm having a particularly difficult time.

    There's also something particularly satisfying in the dreary month of November in letting yourself have weekends at home, cozied in a blanket, working on creative endeavors.
  2. Sleep is for the weak. Use this tip with caution, and sparingly. I've often found myself the most motivated early in the morning or later at night, which means that I might sleep a little less than usual during November. It's important to find a balance here, and I'm especially finding out I can't do this as much as I get a little older. It was easier before 30 hit.
  3. Treat yourself. Take a page out of the Tom Haverford playbook. You're doing a big thing, and it's important to treat yourself when you meet big milestones. I find this tip especially useful in the dreaded Week 3. (More to come on the cycle of Nano emotions in a future post...)

    What do I use? Nothing extravagant here, just a slightly fancier than usual variety of tea, a good cup of pourover coffee, or a small bit of good chocolate.
  4. Find comfort in friends. More specifically, find a group of likeminded folks also engaging in this crazy endeavor. You can laugh at your mistakes, share in your miseries, and encourage each other when the plot bunnies strike. Write-ins are scheduled locally throughout the month in Fargo, Grand Forks, and likely other cities in the region. While I find that I sometimes don't get a lot of actual writing done at the get-togethers, it keeps me encouraged to keep on writing and also provides some much needed connection at a time where we can tend to be very introspective.
  5. Take drastic measures. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and begin writing. During this time, it doesn't matter if you get stuck or lose the plot. The most important thing is that you keep on moving, fingers to keys (or notebook for the brave old-school souls). These short, focused bursts go a long way. You only need to write 1,667 words a day to add up to 50,000 in November. This could mean three to four short 10-15 minute bursts of writing in a day, depending on how fast your brain is moving at the time.

    A tool on the even more drastic side that I've found helpful is Write or Die. You can set a word goal and a timer and a difficulty level. There's even a Kamikaze mode, which will start eating your words after you've paused for too long. This mode shouldn't be attempted if you're not at least somewhat motivated by pure, unadulterated stress.

On a final note, whatever methods you take, whether you come out of November a 'winner' or not, just know that you will have written more words than you would have if you hadn't taken this crazy journey.

Now... stop reading and go write for fifteen minutes!

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