NaNoWriMo is on the horizon again, starting November 1. The global attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days is a lot of things: invigorating, challenging, and inspirational, to name a few.
But it can also be grueling, disappointing, and a reason to blame yourself when you don’t meet your own expectations.
You have enough stressors in 2020 (and most other years, but especially this year). If you’re going to attempt NaNo, you need a strategy to keep your spirits up.
Decision Fatigue is Real
Decision fatigue is just what it sounds like–when you have to make a ton of decisions, one after the other, your brain is using up mental resources. Too many decisions will deplete your reserves, until you hit a wall, otherwise known as burnout.
You can ease the rate of depletion by putting in place routines or rules, or limiting your options. For instance, getting dressed can be overwhelming on a bad day–there are so many combinations! So, make some guidelines. Maybe this November you’ll only wear black pants. Maybe you’ll set up a weekly routine, of red sweater Mondays, green shirt Tuesdays, and so on. The point is, make it so you don’t have to think about what you’re going to wear.
A morning and evening routine can also decrease decision fatigue. Do the same things in the same order so they become habits. It can also be extremely beneficial to have a writing routine. If you write at the same time of day, you prime your brain to be creative at that time. If you start every writing session with a cue like the same playlist, the same scented candle, or the same flavor of gum, your brain will start to associate those cues with writing and kick into gear.
Save your decision-making resources for your novel.
Writer, Feed Thyself
Food is another area to think about. Again, you have potential decision fatigue. You also run the risk of spending all day writing until you get hungry… only to realize you haven’t grocery shopped, or don’t have time to cook something.
There are numerous ways to solve this issue. You can:
- Plan every meal for the month of November, including when you’ll make grocery runs. Remember, it doesn’t have to be elaborate!
- Choose a small number of easy to prepare meals, and only eat from those during the month.
- Ask someone else to take on some or all of the meal prep. (Offer a favor in return for when your novel is done!)
- Lay in a big supply of easy meals and snacks that aren’t perishable, or are easy to replace. That may mean ramen or TV dinners.
- Prepare big batches in October and freeze meal-size portions so you can reheat and go.
- Clear one day a week when you’ll prepare food for the rest of the week.
- Save up now so you can order takeout or delivery a few times in November, because you will a) have days where you can’t bear to eat the same thing yet again, b) cannot muster energy to cook, or c) want to reward yourself for hitting a milestone.
Keep in mind that all of the above are temporary. You are not setting a pattern for the rest of your life (although you may find some of these helpful outside of November), you’re experimenting for thirty days.
Oh, and don’t forget to hydrate! (Hydration has the added benefit of requiring you to get up to go to the bathroom!)
Keep It Moving
Do not spend November glued to a keyboard. It’s not healthy. And you do not want to give yourself a repetitive stress injury that will make writing physically painful.
That means you should schedule regular breaks to move your whole body, and your arms and hands in particular. Moving around will also help get your blood pumping, and fresh ideas flowing.
I really like Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, and she has a bunch of relevant videos:
- Yoga for Writers (29 min)
- Yoga for Focus & Productivity (9 min)
- Yoga for Wrist Pain (22 min)
- Yoga for Creativity (41 min)
- Yoga for Hands, Fingers, Wrists (11 min)
Look Forward to Something
Set up some rewards for when you reach big milestones! This is supposed to be a fun challenge, and rewards can be very motivating.
They don’t have to be based on word count, you could also associate them with the progress of the story. If you use the The Monster Novel Structure Workbook you could have a reward for finishing the Inciting Incident, or when you reach Turning Point 1, and so on.
Need some reward ideas? You could buy something, or indulge in a favorite food or drink, but you also don’t have to spend money. Sometimes the reward is more about how you spend your time: watching a favorite movie, going for a walk, calling a friend for a long chat, or relaxing in a bubble bath.
Just make sure the reward is something you want so you’re inspired to get another 100 words written.
Remember the Real Goal
NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun. The true ‘win’ isn’t actually writing 50,000 words. Writing anything during November counts as success, because it’s more than you would’ve had written otherwise.
You should never be so stressed or anxious over NaNo that you stop having fun. If you find yourself dreading your daily word count, it may be time to reassess why you’re doing NaNo in the first place. Yeah, you want to write a novel… but you also want to be kind to yourself while you do it.
Whatever you get done this November, take a moment to be proud of yourself! And indulge in something you enjoy as a reward.
Use the power of bullet journals to prepare for NaNoWriMo
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Get help from a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner who always does prep work. Give yourself the best possible chance of winning NaNoWriMo this year!