It’s mid-November! You know what that means? We’re in the throes of NaNoWriMo – likely one of the most grueling times of year for us writers. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about their own techniques that help them through November. And I’ve seen just as many people asking for helpful pointers.
As much as I love NaNoWriMo (it is, after all, how I wrote my very first book), I do worry about some things for first-time authors. More specifically, the “all or nothing” mentality. “I must get this book written in 30 days or I’ve failed,” “if I don’t get to 50k words what’s the point?” It’s a stressful undertaking, especially for those of us who get into our own heads. It’s an issue that extends past NaNo as well, which makes me feel like it’s an important conversation to have. Which is: how do I write a book without falling apart at the seams? In other words, how can I make this process less stressful?
I’ve written plenty about organizational tips and tricks in this blog. This week isn’t about that. It’s about getting out of that beautiful little noodle and enjoying the journey to writing your book.
Listen, I’m far from the paragon of being well put together. I have left my car keys in the fridge, turned the Keurig on with no cup underneath, and confessed the time I stole gum when I was five to an attractive stranger more times than I care to admit. I am, in general, a hot mess express.
That all being said, there are some things I have a good grip on. Like, having a steady writing schedule, a healthy work-life-writing balance, and a healthy sense of confidence about my writing (I’m particularly proud of that last one).
The journey we all take to get to that point is unique. What works for me might not work for you – what works for you, might not work for me. That being said, I don’t see a lot of conversations about how to stop yourself from falling into the pit of ‘all or nothing.’ If I can help or inspire someone with my little bag of tricks, I wanna do it.
So, first, let’s start with the most important one:
I practice positive self-talk.
I know! It seems super cheesy. And cringe. It seems strange to talk ourselves up, especially since when we do acknowledge our strengths people seem to think that’s being ‘cocky’, or ‘arrogant’. We have created a culture where we require affirmation from our peers, our loved ones, and strangers. While that’s lovely to have, that doesn’t come all the time – sometimes, not even when you really need it. If we’re relying on someone else to fill our cups, we will go thirsty. Maybe for a little while, maybe for a long while. We have to know our value, our worth, and further, we have to know our talent.
If I’m ever feeling down, I remind myself that I am a good writer. I tell myself my strengths – the things I’ve worked hard to achieve. I gas myself up.
I accept that not everything I write is going to be literary gold.
Trust me, as a compulsive overachiever, I want everything to be perfect. I want everything prim and polished. I want every paragraph to house a masterpiece. You know what, though? That’s not going to happen.
Some days I sit down at the computer with my chin resting on my mug of coffee and pray for words to come. Some days I struggle to spit out anything that isn’t, “he do the action and she have a response to it. It was great/horrible/nap.”
What matters to me is getting the words out. In moving forward and telling the story. I can always come back to those spots and re-work them. I can add more, take away some – whatever the case may be. It doesn’t have to be perfect. If all I did was strive for perfection, I’d cement myself in place.
I take breaks. And frequently.
Once an hour my fitbit screams at me, and I yield to the robot overlords. It started off just as a means of keeping my pedometer from considering me an obsolete human specimen (who should be purged first when the robot uprising begins)… But then it became a habit. One that greatly kickstarted my creativity.
Just getting up and moving got the brain to start working again. People always told me to ‘take a break’ and ‘come back to it with fresh eyes’ (people I thought were just giving me bad advice because it just didn’t make sense), but I get it now. If I’m slogging through my chapter and just desperate to get to the end those last few pages are going to feel like an actual nightmare.
I pace for ten minutes every hour on the hour. I know, that sounds insane, and my partner smirks at me from over their phone every time I do it. But you know what? It works for me and the little hamster on the wheel in my brain. (Jokes on them though, they’ve adopted this method and they swear by it, too).
I do not compare my talent or my success to other writers. I allow myself to be inspired.
It’s too easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to someone else. To their successes, their talent, their following. I’ve certainly done it before – been envious of something someone else has. But their journey is not my journey. I have learned to be happy for people when they thrive, regardless of whether I am currently thriving myself or not.
My time will come. And I hope that when it does, they’ll be just as happy for me!
But, anyway, seeing people do so well – seeing people with such raw talent inspires me to be better. To write more, to read more, to put myself out there – again, more.
There are many more…
But these are the habits I feel I would most like to share with you, the reader. I feel that we creatives are incredibly hard on ourselves. Sometimes, to the point of being cruel. Your words, your talents are valid, wanted, and needed. I’m not about to let you forget that.
What are some habits you’ve picked up on your writing journey? Is there any wisdom you’d like to share?
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