The NaNoWriMo season is nearly upon us, and I don’t know about you, but I am not ready. Not at all, and I’m beginning to wonder…Am I crazy to attempt NaNoWriMo? Where will I ever find time to write an average of 1,667 words a day?!? I’m too dang busy.
But isn’t everyone busy? And isn’t the inherent craziness of NaNoWriMo exactly why we love it? I think many of us face the same problem when it comes to our writing lives. We want to write, we love to write, but finding time to write is nigh impossible. Between school, work, laundry, groceries, family, the days slip away in a monotonous blur without us having written a single word. But you know what? Most writers are too busy to write. In fact, most writers, like you and me, have great reasons not to write.
But they do it anyway.
This November my reason not to write comes in the form of a newborn babe. How on earth will I ever get anything done when this tiny human wants nothing more than to be held 24/7 and suckled on demand? Since the birth of my bundle of joy the days have passed in a whirlwind of breastfeed, burp, bounce, repeat. I’ve lost hope of ever sleeping through the night again and most days I struggle to find time to shower. I surveyed the veteran mommies in my life and was told not to expect to get anything done until the baby is 5 months old…my little human will only be 7 weeks when November rolls around.
We all have spouses, or children, or dogs, or cats, or houseplants that we’re responsible for. Some writers even have another full-time job that (gasp) has nothing to do with writing. Yet, they still write. Instead of finding the time to write, they make the time to write. Although I’m more than a little intimidated at the prospect of balancing baby duties with noveling, I’m going to do it anyway because that’s the kind of craziness that NaNoWriMo is all about.
If you’re overwhelmed with life and not sure if you can take on NaNoWriMo, you’re not alone. The key to success when you’re busy is strategy. If you ask yourself these basic questions and put together a simple plan, then you’ll be well on your way to victory.
When will you write? The toughest obstacle is finding and protecting your writing time. Maybe you need to set the alarm to an ungodly hour of darkness so you can get words in before work. Maybe you’ll be writing like the wind on your lunch break. Maybe you’ll be giving up facebook and netflix. In our busy lives finding time is hard so plan ahead. If you are committing to NaNoWriMo you need to answer the when question. My strategy consists of writing when the baby is sleeping, eating, or being entertained by someone else. After my little one is fed into a milky slumber at 3 AMI’m going to hit the keyboard before I hit the hay. During November I expect to sleep less, but when you stuff something new into your life something has to give.
Where will you write? The easy answer is everywhere. At work, at home, at the coffee shop. At the kitchen counter in between stirring the soup and bouncing the baby, at the dining room table while the family eats, propped up in bed while the spouse snores. If possible carve out a physical writing space and make it sacred. This means that when you sit in this location (be it desk, couch, or kitchen stool) you are writing your novel, not surfing the internet. Having a space where you can get down to business without being disturbed helps you get into the flow of writing faster and be efficient with your limited writing time. Let your family or roommates know that your writing space is an interruption free zone. Use your writing space as an island of tranquility in your hectic life.
How will you pull this off? How will I write a novel when the house needs cleaning, dinner needs cooking, and the newborn needs diapering/feeding/constant cuddling?! First of all, let the house fall apart. Would you rather have the house get dusty or hold a novel? As for dinner, make big pots of soup that last several days and thank the heavens for my favorite two words: frozen pizza. How you pull off NaNoWriMo largely depends on your current time management skills. If you have a pinning, facebooking, tumblring, or netflixing obsession than you need to practice self discipline, or give it up cold turkey. What works best for me is breaking up the large task of NaNoWriMo into smaller goals. For example: “I will write 5 days a week and write 2,000 a day” or “Before I go to bed tonight I’ll hit 10,000.” NaNoWriMo is a marathon not a sprint. Achievable goals, however modest, will keep you moving forward toward the finish line.
Why are you committing to this writing goal? Because you love your story. Because you have something to say. Because you love the risk, the challenge, the work itself. There are as many answers as there are writers and answering the why question will help you find the motivation to succeed. If you’re struggling to answer the why question than NaNoWriMo with a major obstacle – like a newborn or high pressure job or general busyness – may not be for you. If you have an answer to the why, if you have a reason that drives you, then you have a motivating force, and thus a means of solving the when, where, and how.
We all have challenges. Many who attempt NaNoWriMo are tired/overworked/underpaid/at-wits-end-and-barely-keeping-it-together. That’s what inspires me about NaNoWriMo, jumping in with all the other crazy hopefuls, all the other passionate writers who want to see their dream made reality.
Wherever you are in the strategizing process, please don’t panic. You’re going to rock this. I can tell you from experience that the hardest part is simply making the commitment to do it. If you’re looking for ideas, you’ll find plenty of help and resources. Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem! is a great place to start, and if you need help picking a topic check out Brooke’s post.
If you have a novel inside you waiting to get out, write it! You won’t regret it. Remember, if it’s important to you you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.
Godspeed my writing friends.
Will you be joining Brooke and I for Nanowrimo this year? We’d love to hear about it.