Self Care for NaNoWriMo
It’s been a slightly rough start for NaNoWriMo this year.
With the exception of Sunday night, I’ve hit all of my word count goals - but at the bare minimum and after a lot of procrastination and dragging of my feet. Leading up to November as I was preparing and bouncing back after PitchWars, I was excited to dive back into this book. I’ve learned I like the revision/rewriting stage because you finally start to see your hot mess of a book become something pretty and shiny that you imagined it to be.
I saw VE Schwab speak at a local book store at the start of October and I loved how she talked about the writing process. When you get a new book idea, it’s this pretty shiny perfect sphere. Then, once you start to write you’re essentially throwing that sphere as far away as possible and as you write you’re making your way to wherever you threw it. The problem is, when you’re at the start of that journey you can’t see what the sphere actually looked like any more. Then, as you continue to write and revise, you slowly make your way to the sphere and you start to see what it looks like again.
I was excited to get closer to my sphere again.
Yet, each time I sit down at my computer with my notes and preparation, my mind panics and blanks. When I do eventually get the words on the page, I’m not satisfied in the least other than hitting that word count and being glad I don’t have to write any more for the day. This then makes me even more frustrated and confused. I love this book, this story, and these characters. I was so excited to get back into it. What happened?
It all culminated Sunday evening. I’d been coming down with a cold, I’d had a rough day at work, then had to go to an event right after which was great - but also left me feeling tired and drained, and on top of it all the crimson wave had to hit me that afternoon. I started my day around 5:30am and finally arrived home at 7pm. I tried to open up my Scrivener project but as I looked at the blank screen I couldn’t will myself to put any words on it.
But, it was only the 4th day of NaNoWriMo. This is the time when I’m supposed to be pumped up and ready to go! I couldn’t be burned out yet!
Friends told me it was okay to skip a day and reminded me that I essentially did my own NaNoWriMo in August in preparation for PitchWars. Then, someone on Twitter shared about how taking care of yourself is more important than hitting your daily word count goal sometimes.
If you’re not taking care of you, NaNoWriMo isn’t going to be a great experience. You won’t like or be proud of the work you’ve done. You’ll just be tired and burnt out at the end of November. No one wants that.
Take a Break
I took the night off from writing on Sunday. I got into my PJs, watched TV, and read a book instead. I went to bed with a clearer head and feeling much more relaxed. I even fell asleep almost the moment my head hit the pillow which rarely happens.
It’s going to be a pain to have to catch up on that word count because I know this week is going to be another busy one for me. Yet, when I got up on Monday morning and was drinking my coffee and heading out to work, the ideas started to flow again.
“What if I did this…”
“What if in this scene this happened…” “
I could do this in today’s chapter to prepare for something else in a later chapter…”
Do Something Completely Different
Most of the time on my commute to work I listen to podcasts. Usually writing and publishing based podcasts. Instead, the last couple of days, I listened to music. Your mind can’t be on writing 24/7. Sometimes you need to sit in your car and belt along with some show tunes. (Or whatever music it is that you listen to.) You can turn on the TV and watch an old favorite or start a new one. You’re allowed. It’s okay.
Write in Short Spurts
A friend of mine who is doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year texted me a picture of her coffee and laptop and talked about how she was so excited to get to writing! As a mom of two kids (both still in diapers) and watching a third kid during the day, she doesn’t have the time to sit for hours on hours to work on her book. Instead, she said that she’s keeping her laptop open and whenever she has a couple of minutes she jots down some words.
Your writing doesn’t all have to be done after you’ve spent long hours at a coffee shop with inspiration pouring out of you. Not many of us have the time or energy for that. Instead, take a few minutes here and there. It’ll make it easier to turn off your brain when you need to, and if you leave off at a spot where you’re excited to go on, it’ll motivate you to write that next time you have a short time slot.
Get A Writing Support Group
It can be other people who write, others who are participating in NaNoWriMo, or simply those who support you in your endeavor. There’s moments you need someone to give you permission to take a break, to give you a pep talk, and listen to you whine and complain about your words. (Or lack thereof.) Writing doesn’t always have to be a solitary act!
Here in the US, NaNoWriMo falls in the middle of autumn and we’re on our way to winter. Which means it’s cold and flu season. What helps to ward that off? Sleep. If you’re not getting the rest you need, you’ll be more likely to get sick, and when you’re sick you’re not going to feel like writing. Beyond that, when you’re well rested your ideas are going to flow more and you’ll get more done.
Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing This
In the midst of all of the frenzy of updating your word count, participating in word sprints, and trying to figure out your next plot point, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget why you decided to do this in the first place.
Make an inspiration board of all of the things you love about your book and why you made this goal. Keep a motivational quote by your computer or wherever it is you write to help you keep going. Be like Rachel Berry in Glee when she put a star in front of her treadmill to remind herself of what she was doing all of this hard work for.
You can do this my friends, and so can I! Take a break if you need to. Find a distraction. Then it’s time to get back to work.
Here's your #NaNoWriMo Eve pep talk: If @veschwab can completely rewrite Vengeful in two months - you can get 50k words in November. (This is basically what I keep reminding myself every few minutes when I start to panic) pic.twitter.com/aJvaRRikul— Emily - is NaNoWriMoing -Hornburg (@eehornburg) October 31, 2018
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