I’ve thought long and hard about attempting NaNoWriMo this year. There are plenty of reasons not to do it, but let’s be honest — there are always plenty of reasons not to write 50,000 words in one month. This will be my 9th year, and in the end, I decided I would feel better about trying and failing than about having not tried at all.
I’ve been out of the daily writing habit for a long while now. In the midst of my pregnancy, I was saddled with an overarching lack of desire to write. Which really sucked a lot. And while I’ve churned out a few short stories since Pippin was born, harnessing the energy at the appropriate time has been a struggle. So, if for no other reason, NaNoWriMo contains the potential power to get me into a daily writing habit again.
My 10 Commandments for Surviving NaNoWriMo as a New Parent
Here are the strategies I’m hoping to put into place to get me through the month and to 50,000 words.
Commandment #1: Trade Off Parenting Duty
I’m very lucky that I have a super supportive partner, who has also participated in NaNoWriMo the past two years. This November, he’ll be starting a new adventure — returning to school to get a teaching degree — at the same time I’m buckling down for NaNoWriMo. We’re typically pretty good about taking shifts watching Pippin while the other one goes off to do whatever we need to do — work out, create something, sleep, etc. — and that will become even more important moving forward.
Commandment #2: Take the Writing on the Road (or the Kiddo Out of the House) At Least Once a Week
A subcategory of trading off, we’re going to try to ensure that we both get distraction-free time each week. We can drop into our local Starbucks, or one of us can take Pip out for an adventure at a play place or a trip to the grocery store.
Commandment #3: Stop Wasting Time on the Internets
I know, I know. This is old advice. I tend to have screen-induced ADD, to the point where I tell myself it actually helps my productivity to pop over to facebook or twitter or Candy Crush (Dear God, why did I ever download that awful, terrible, horrible game?!) every five minutes. Well, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, there you go. If I have 15 minutes of downtime, I should use it to tap out a few hundred words instead of messing about on something useless.
Commandment #4: Get Some Exercise
My brain works best when I get my workouts in, so I need to continue making those a priority. I’ve already lowered my expectations for what I consider workouts these days, but if I can manage to fit in something active just about every day (a very brisk walk with Pip in the stroller, a 15- to 20-minute strength workout after he goes to bed, etc.), then I’ll be in good shape (both mentally and physically).
Commandment #5: Don’t Throw a Healthy Diet Out the Window
Our crockpot is going to see a lot of action this November. So are our freezer and our oven. It turns out babies and school are expensive, so ramping up the eating out isn’t really a great option for us — plus doing so generally tends to work against my previous strategy. But our budget can handle some frozen stuff we can just pop in the oven, like healthy fish, organic burritos, or pre-frozen casseroles from Costco.
Commandment #6: Write in the Morning; Write in the Evening
I get up at 4:15 a.m. in the morning to pump before I go to work, and during that pumping time, I am basically tethered to my computer. Same in the evening before bed. Those are also the times when Pippin is (usually) sleeping. If I can knock out 1,000 words at each go, I’ll be in very good shape.
Commandment #7: Jot Down Ideas All Day Long
Whether it’s scribbled on a piece of paper, hastily typed into my iPhone, or inarticulately blabbed as a voice memo, I will do my best to capture thoughts so I can incorporate them into writing later. No more ideas lost to the ether.
Commandment #8: Know What I’m Going to Write Next
I’m going to make an effort to plan the next bit I’m going to write whenever I’m getting ready to wrap up a writing session. I don’t think I need to go so far as stopping in the middle of a sentence, but knowing what I’m going to do next will enable me to jump in more quickly the next time I have a few minutes.
Commandment #9: Write Every Day
Even if I don’t think there’s any way, shape or form I can hit the 1,667-word quota, I can still write something. One hundred words are better than zero words.
Commandment #10: “Side Projects and Hobbies are Important.”
In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon talks about how having a hobby and actively pursuing it in the midst of his other “real” projects improves his creativity. I think it’s important to stay engaged with the world in as many ways as possible, which is one reason why I take so many photographs. It helps me see things I wouldn’t have even noticed had I not been looking for an interesting photo — and that in turn leads to interesting things popping out at me because my brain is trained to do that. And the hope is that that brain elasticity transfers to my writing. So I plan to keep taking photos during November (I participate in #fmsphotoaday every month, sometimes more fully than others), and I plan to take the time to make some physical art. I’m also going to hang out with my kid, watch some TV shows and go on a few dates hopefully. Because the best writing comes from what we discover while living life.
Join the Challenge — Sign Up for NaNoWriMo
The best and worst fact of NaNoWriMo is there’s always someone busier than you. If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, stop making excuses and take the plunge. It’ll be a grand adventure and one you most certainly won’t regret. No time like the present, so go sign up! If you’re planning on participating, I’d love to hear (and potentially steal) your strategies for making it through the month — leave me a comment!