As we’re coming up on National Novel Writing Month (also known as “NaNoWriMo,” or as I call it, “the most stressful month of the year”), creating habits will be vital to success. A published writer once told me about writing, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find time for it.” There’s plenty of truth in that – without finding the time, the writing isn’t going to happen at all. The words are just going to ferment in my brain until it explodes and I give up on ever starting.
Even when I find time to write, though, I usually find myself getting distracted by…everything. Oh hey I should check my email. And my other email. And Slack. And Twitter. Ooh there’s a pigeon on the roof across the street! I should send a photo to my friend. Haha that’s a funny cat meme she sent back. Wait, how did an entire hour go by and this darn Word document is still blank? It’s a disaster.
In preparation for NaNoWriMo, and to help myself with writing in general, I’ve spent some time developing habits over the past couple of weeks. I picked a writing spot in my house where I can be alone (the bedroom) and I turfed out every distraction I could identify. Can’t stop the pigeons from landing on the roof across the street, but oh well.
So, every day before I sit down to write, I start by making the bed. I can’t focus when there’s a job to be done that would make the room neater – I’m the kind of person who, if I have to stay home sick from school, I end up cleaning the house. But also, doing so is a mindless activity – it helps prepare my brain for writing by emptying it out. And now that I’ve been doing this for a few weeks, every time I strip the pillows off the bed, it gets the writing juices flowing. By the time it’s all tidy, I usually have a few good ideas bubbling up.
The second thing that has helped a lot is using an app that prevents me from going to time-wasting sites on my computer and phone. I use Forest, which allows me to set an amount of time I want to work and then plants a little tree that will die if I leave the app. Guilt is a great motivator for me, so this works very well. Don’t die, tiny shrub ☹
The last thing I’ve been doing is working by time rather than word count. I like to use the twenty-five on, five off method, so I get a break twice an hour. When I paced myself by word count, I had a lot of problems: I’d write bad scenes just to reach my word count, I got frustrated when I didn’t reach my count, I’d sometimes have to delete words and then I’d get set back. For me, setting timers works much better. Even if I barely write anything, I usually find that I’m prouder of one hundred words that I carefully crafted than I am of five hundred mediocre words.
There are still a couple weeks until November 1, so now is the time to start getting your own habits ready! Do you have anything that works well for you? Have any other suggestions? Leave a comment!