Survive and Thrive during NaNoWriMo (part 4)

2009 NaNoWriMo Participant One thing a lot of people will tell you is that, if you want to succeed at NaNoWriMo, you have to find time to write. Sounds reasonable, right? Even a little bit “well, duh!” again.

Unfortunately, time is not something you can find under the sofa cushions like spare change or lurking in corners like dust bunnies. Your time is, in one way or another, completely used up, filled up, and taken up already. Finding time is not the problem. Allocating your time is what counts.

Thinking about re-allocating
I’ve written a whole article on how to re-allocate your time so that writing can fit into your schedule, but since it is now just a few days before NaNoWriMo starts, we don’t have time to work through the entire exercise. I’m going to present you with a condensed version of the idea so that you can use it in your November writing plan.

Most of your time right now can be categorized in one of three ways: non-negotiable, give-and-take, and free. Non-negotiable time is time that is filled with the things that only you can do: working, going to school, or, if you’re an at-home caregiver or fall into some other category, performing your primary and necessary tasks. This includes required take-home work, homework, sleep, and time it takes you to shower and get ready to go out. If you’re like most of us, this takes up the bulk of your time.

Give-and-take time includes the time you spend on things that you have some control over, or that someone else could conceivably sometimes do. Unless you live alone, this means household chores and housework, yardwork, grocery shopping, and food preparation (if you live alone and can’t pay someone to do them, these things have to go under “non-negotiable”). This also includes the time required for participation in any groups or associations, time spent with your significant other and children, and volunteer work.

Free time is the time you spend on leisure activities and hobbies. How many hours a week do you watch television? Read? Surf the Internet? Sort through e-mail? Go to movies, parties or other social activities? Participate in physical activity? Work crossword or other puzzles? Read the newspaper? This includes everything that you are absolutely free to do or not do as you choose.

What I want you to do now is to consider all the items we’ve categorized in these three headings, and think about how you can re-allocate time from any or all of them and turn it into writing time. Of course, the easiest of these is the time that you’ve already counted as “free” time. You’ll have to make a few sacrifices here, choosing writing over television, social events, and idle Internet surfing, but if you’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, you’ve probably already thought of that.

How to “find” time
With some creative thinking, you should also be able to find writing time in the other two categories, too. For one thing, think about all the time spent doing things that are essentially mindless or do not require your full attention, or when you could conceivably work on your writing at the same time. If you commute by train or bus, you could be jotting notes, re-reading something you’ve written already, reading research material, or simply thinking about and planning your next writing session. You can also do much of the “brainwork” of writing while you’re in the shower, washing dishes, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn. You can actually write during your lunch break at work, free time between classes, and when your children are asleep or otherwise occupied.

Some people sacrifice an hour’s sleep each night, get up early and write. Some people scrape up the money to pay a babysitter for a couple of hours a week, or pay someone to mow their lawn. Some people negotiate with their families to take on a few extra chores (don’t forget bribes rewards!).

It’s not that you need more time during November (or anytime) to write. It’s just that you have to use your time differently. A little thinking and planning now, a little bit of resolve in November, and you’ll find you have exactly as much time as you need.

Next: Get the most of out NaNoWriMo…including your novel

Survive and Thrive during NaNoWriMo (part 5)
Survive and Thrive during NaNoWriMo (part 3)
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One Comment

  1. Where did you get your blog layout from? I’d like to get one like it for my blog.

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