For those who are not aware, I am participating in bothÂ National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)* andÂ National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) this November. If this sounds like madness to you, that’s because it is, my lovelies, it is.
I’m finding the dual challenge fun, at least in these early days of the month. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far.
1. Exceed the Daily Minimum.
I kind of knew this one from the previous years I’ve done Nano and it feels like it should be obvious, but I feel like it’s something I always end up learning all over again. If you just meet the minimum requirements of the challenge, then you can get in trouble if life gets in the way latter down the road.
I try to at least get a few hundred words over the 1667 minimum required for Nano, that way I’m not stressed if I don’t feel like writing one day.
For the blogging challenge, this sometimes means I’m writing two blog posts a day, one for the day I’m on and one in preparation for the day after. It’s the same amount of words, but helps me have all my bases covered. In some cases this has resulted in two posts in the same day, because something new and relevant has come up. So, at the end of the month, I may have more than the minimum 30 blog posts (way cool).
2. Write First. Life Second.
Simple, and something I’ve known for a long time. Get the work done that needs getting done first and use the time left over for cleaning your room, chores, errands, watching TV, reading, friends, family, etc.I think this works best for the craziness of these writing challenges, since it only has to be sustained for this short period of time. During the rest of the year family and friends are the priority; cleaning, errands and chores end up on fairly even keel with my writing activities; and play (i.e. TV and movies and such) should be lowest, but isn’t always.
For day to day life, I won’t be able to keep this manic energy up, but I can set aside specific days where I come home from work and make writing my priority.
This work first attitude is also helping to build a habit of getting stuff done, which I’m hoping will carry over after the November challenges are completed.
3. Get Out and Do Things.
Once the day’s goals have been met and exceeded, get out, get away from the chair, go do something. It’s kind of like a reward for the hard work done that day, but it’s also a way of maintaining mental order.
Last weekend was perfect. I got up early (but not too early), had some tea and toast while doing my Nano Novelling, and then went out and took walks with my baby niece and sisters, went to the farmers market, played with the baby, watched some movies. I
I have also been keeping up with my exercises, which helps keep me physically capable of sitting there and writing without feeling like I’m going to fall apart at the seams. And it also helps clear my head and exorcises stress.
These kinds of challenges require a lot of endurance, especially if you are combining them with full time jobs or education activities (and btw, parenting counts as a full time job, for realz). With the combination of work, life, family, friends, and the challenge, I’ve experienced serious Burn Out before, where I realize I’ve taken on too much with the result that I start to get physically sick or I get to the point where I don’t even want to look at a computer. Maintaining a sense of balance by stepping away from the challenge, taking a break, is a good way of surviving the month.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of Going for the Gut.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I discovered over the course of this week that I’d been taking the easy way out in regards to my novel, playing it safe for both me and my characters. But it’s so much exciting for both readers and the writer to go for the gut and take risks. It can be scary, but it has the potential for better writing.
Taking part in NaBloPoMo has had me reading more blog posts this month than I normally would, and I’ve been struck by the honesty and courage of my favorite posts. I haven’t managed this much in my blog, as I tend to avoid writing posts that could be the least bit controversial or argumentative. I’m trying to put more personality into my posts and would like to get into more creative nonfiction, adding stories from my life in (hopefully) interesting and creative ways. It’s something for me to work on.
5. Work Breeds Inspiration.
I rediscover this every time I find myself enmeshed in a big project or doing a lot of writing or a combination of writing and other creative things. The more I write, the more I feel inspired to write, the more easily new ideas and words come, the more quickly I can get those words on the page.
To me, writing kind of like having a big round stone in the middle of a field. You know you want to roll the stone over to the other side of the field. As you stare at the stone sitting there, the idea of moving is looks daunting. The stone is too heavy. It’s too much work. Then, you start pushing the stone and it’s hard, but slowly it starts moving. As it starts moving, it starts to pick up momentum and that momentum makes it easier. If you stop, the momentum stops; you have to start the hard part over again. But if you keep the stone rolling until you reach the end of the project, then the momentum makes the work so much easier.
Nano-ing and other such challenges are huge massive heaps of potential and momentum. They start a pace, which the writer can either keep going or not.
For me that momentum is invaluable. It gets me going and keeps me going, and the sheer act of writing is what keeps my inspired.
Since we’re on the subject, my lovelies. Are you doing any personal challenges this month? What have you learned in the process?
PS. This post was inspired by BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo prompt for Day 8.
- Oliver Gray at Literature and Libations is not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. But he has posted a series of links to posts offering writing advice that might help others survive the challenge and there’s some good reading in there.