Survive and Thrive during NaNoWriMo (part 3)

2009 NaNoWriMo participant Most of us will be dividing everything in November up this way:

  • NaNoWriMo
  • The rest of my life

It will be like balancing in the middle of a tug-of-war rope, trying not to fall into the mud puddle underneath. Or maybe a better analogy would be standing in the middle of a teeter-totter, trying to keep it balanced while children of varying sizes bounce on the ends…

Oh, I don’t know, let’s forget the playground analogies and get down to the bottom line. No matter how much you put into NaNoWriMo, you still have to go back to your “real life” in December. So (unless you’re heading off to that full-service writing retreat I mentioned in an earlier post) you have to find some way to keep the two things in balance in November. Here are a few ways to do that.

Remember that writing is not a shameful secret
There are many reasons people choose to keep quiet about the fact that they’re participating in NaNoWriMo. It has an admittedly weird name that they have to explain every time they say it. Being a writer (or aspiring writer) is not an easy thing to own up to, due to the unavoidable and insensitive questions such an admission invariably evokes (oh, are you published? have I read anything of yours? etc.). And then there’s the elephant in the corner–the fear of failing to write those fifty thousand words and having to admit it to all and sundry.

However, there are even more good reasons to tell the world you’re doing NaNoWriMo. It gives you an excuse for all sorts of outlandish and eccentric behaviour for one golden month of the year. Ditto an excuse for eating/drinking just about anything you want to eat. Sometimes people will even offer to buy you those things to eat or drink if you’ll tell them how your novel is going. Being a novelist carries with it a certain cachet–many people will instantly think you are smarter than they previously believed you were. And there is a certain power in that unspoken threat…that if they are not nice to you, you will put them in your novel.

There’s also the very practical reason that the more people you tell about NaNoWriMo, the more likely you are to succeed. Most of us will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid public failure.

Clear your calendar
This could be the most practical piece of advice I’m going to give you in this entire series. For that reason, I’m going to give it special emphasis:

If there is anything that you do not absolutely need to do in November, reschedule it.

Well, duh, you’re thinking. But I’m serious. Most of us operate on the assumption that there is always one more thing we can squeeze into any given day. You’re already squeezing writing time into those thirty days; give yourself a break and remove a few things to make room.

Get your hair cut this week. Don’t make appointments that aren’t vital. Wait until December to get that new pet. As much as possible, clear your desk at work or delegate as much as you can get away with. Tell your teachers/professors you’re doing NaNoWriMo and see if you can get a break on homework.

And for goodness’ sake, tell everyone in your social circle, so that they’ll understand when you aren’t available for coffee, movies, happy hour, Texas Hold’Em, or whatever else it is you do for fun.

Recruit your family
I’ve touched on this in an earlier post, but it bears repeating. Having the support of your family/roommates/significant others will make this much, much easier for you. Do not feel that you are above offering bribes rewards. Make sure they understand that what you will need the most this month is time, and that you are willing to pay for it. You will name characters after them. You will give them treats. You will take on extra chores after November. You will take them out to dinner when you reach 50,000 words. Find ways to make your success a good thing for everyone. If they are really on your side it will make an enormous difference to your NaNoWriMo experience.

The first year I did NaNoWriMo our kids were one and six. I got up an hour early every morning, stumbled to the refrigerator in the dark and poured myself a glass of juice, and continued stumbling to the computer. My husband helped with everything he could. Out-of-town friends came to visit for the weekend and totally understood when I slipped away from hostessing in order to write. My mom fixed dinners and sent them over. I felt completely supported, and it was wonderful. (Now, of course, after seven years, they know I can do it, and it’s just not such a big deal anymore. So if you get that unqualified support, relish it while it lasts.)

Be good to yourself
You’re going to be asking and expecting a lot from yourself this month, so don’t forget to reward you, too. Allow yourself to revel for a moment every time you reach that daily word count. Promise yourself a treat at milestones. Pamper yourself a little if you get ahead on your words. Participate with other Wrimos in your area or online. Have fun. That way, even if November 30th rolls around and you don’t have 50,000 words to show for it, you’ve had one heck of a great month and you’ll still go back to “real life” with a smile on your face.

Next: If only you could find time under the sofa cushions, instead of spare change.

Survive and Thrive during NaNoWriMo (part 4)
Survive and Thrive during NaNoWriMo (part 2)
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