It is November and you know what that means? The whole writing world has been taken over by NaNoWriMo.
As someone who has been participating in and leading creative challenges for over a decade, I have some tips to help you make the most of this month of extreme creativity.
Listen to the full podcast on the subject, here.
1. Find a crew to support you
If you’re part of the StoryADay Superstars, you already know how powerful it is to write with and stay accountable to other people.
If you’ve only ever treated writing as an individual sport, this is the perfect month to find a writing or a group of buddies online to keep you accountable. This works best with people you have a real connection to, so try to buddy up with people you know in real life or have met in some deeper way online.
I also recommend getting out of your house and finding spaces where people are writing in public together. It’s ridiculously effective at helping you focus.
2. Take a day off…or don’t
There are two schools of thought on this and it will depend largely on your personality.
For some people taking a break during an extreme month of creativity signals failure. If you feel like you absolutely have to write every day, do so. Perhaps allow yourself to miss your word count goal on some of those days, so that you’re not torturing yourself.
If, on the other hand, you’re like me, you need to take days off. It’s OK, just try not to take more than two consecutive days off. That way leads to madness and, more importantly, losing the thread of creativity in your story. It’s harder to come back from two consecutive days off than a single day here and there. The psychic weight of having to make up for two days‘ worth of word count is much heavier, plus you really do stop living in your story world when you take more than a day off at a time.
But it can be important to rest and recharge so make your decision based on what works for you.
3. Have a plan for reaching the end of the story
Yes I know NaNoWriMo talks about 50,000 words as the goal, but it is incredibly powerful to reach the end of the month and also reach the end of the story.
You don’t have to be a natural plotter to be able to do this.
I highly recommend taking a look at the book “Save The Cat Writes a Novel“ by Jessica Brody, to help you figure out what each week of the writing a novel should look like.
“Save The Cat“ breaks the story into four handy pieces.
Use it to try to help you reach the first turning point by the end of the first week, the midpoint by the end of the second week, the climax somewhere between weeks three and four, and the resolution in the last few days.
The beautiful thing about this understanding of story structure is that you don’t have to actually know what happens before you start writing, but you do know what the story needs to be doing at every point.
I find it much more encouraging to come out of November with a completed story, than with every section of the book fully-fleshed out; every scene that will be necessary in the finished piece, written. In fact, getting to the end allows me to more fully understand what scenes are really necessary at the start of the book and in the middle.
Do consider thinking about story structure and trying to get to the end of the story by the end of the month.
4. Get ready to delegate
When things go bad in life, when we’re facing a bad crisis, we find ways to limit our obligations. I would make a strong case that we should try to do the same when we are facing a “good crisis”, too.
If this seems selfish, remember that you put aside other things for your paid job. You put aside other things when a friend needs your help. And most importantly remember that when you are writing, you are a better person. If you make time for writing, everyone in your life will benefit.
And if they have to help you with the housework for a month to get that benefit, I think that’s a fair trade. Start to believe this. Start to ask for help. Start to live the life you were meant to live.
5. Take care of your meat sack
Our brains are part of our bodies. Really and honestly: take care of yourself. Eat whole foods. Get outside. Get some daylight. Take walks. Download a meditation app. Make a food plan. Drink water. Learn to love vegetables. Sleep as much as you can.
It may feel like you don’t have time because you’re busy, but taking time for self-care will increase your productivity.
If you don’t believe me, read The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, Bright Line Eating by Susan Pierce Thompson, and Healthy As F*ck by Oonagh Duncan.
Your brain can’t do its job if you are starving it of nutrients and sleep.
Oh, and if you need to learn to cat nap, check out this power nap meditation from Andrew Johnson.
You deserve this. You are a writer. Your friends and family will benefit from this time that you are taking to pursue your dream. I’m looking forward to seeing your novel.
What do you do to take care of yourself during a time of stress (good or bad)?. Share in the comments!