Oct 17

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo

I firmly believe that everyone should try NaNoWriMo at least once in their life. Sure, the writing elitists hate it and like to make fun of those who attempt it. But there are some legit good reasons to do it!

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo

Original photo by MJ S

If you looked at the title of this post and thought that maybe I was speaking another language, then allow me to educate you. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month — which is November. Participants spend the entire month trying to bash out 50,000 words. And you should try NaNoWriMo if you’ve ever thought about writing a novel, or if you want to make some headway on a big writing project.

In the past, I have forgone participating. November typically falls smackdab in the middle of grading season, and it’s way too hard to grade a hundred research papers as well as write a novel.

But this semester, I finagled my schedule so that I can finally participate, hopefully with a minimal amount of grading interference. (I’ll still have tests and presentations to grade. But those tend to be a lot easier.)

And because misery loves company, I think you should try NaNoWriMo too. It’s the perfect opportunity to set a goal and meet it. And by the end of the month, YOU’LL HAVE A FINISHED MANUSCRIPT. (MAYBE!)

Why should someone try NaNoWriMo? Click To Tweet

Still not convinced? Well, okay. Here are 10 reasons why you should try NaNoWriMo.

001: You owe yourself the escape.
I won’t lie when I say that it’s been hard to write lately. Politically speaking, everything is shit, and I feel such an immense amount of despair and inefficacy that it’s hard to do anything, much less build an entire world from scratch and then bleed it out on the page. But I’ve realized that not writing has contributed to that despair.

And while I can’t write a story that fixes the world, I can write a story that makes me feel good about the world again so I can be a more effective fighter when I see injustice. And I can escape into that world via writing. And hopefully, readers who need to escape can use my story for that as well.

002: So you can say you did it.
Admittedly, not everyone knows what NaNoWriMo is. So telling strangers that you completed NaNoWriMo might bring more questions than awe. But that’s okay. You ain’t here for the validation of others. Accomplishment is it’s own reward. And just think how rewarding it will feel to finish a project of this magnitude. Pretty damn good, right?

003: It’s nice to stretch your writing muscles.
One of my favorite things non-writers say is that they could write if they just had the time. WELCOME TO THE CLUB, ASSHOLES. No one really has the time to write The Next Great American Novel. And yet, writers make time every single day. What some jerks don’t realize is that they can’t bash out that word count if they haven’t built up their writing muscles by practicing every single day. It’s hard to sit still and make words happen if you aren’t in the habit of it. And NaNoWriMo is the best time to work those writing muscles! Build up the calluses on your fingertips from  hitting the keyboard! Put characters in mortal peril!

Sure, you don’t have to write fiction. You can actually use NaNoWriMo for whatever you want. And if you’re looking to get back into the writing game, November is a great time to do it. Not only do you have the support of the NaNoWriMo community, but you have the laser focus and accountability that community provides.

004: Lighting the deadline fire is good.
Are you one of those terrible people who’s always waiting for Monday so you can get started? (I sympathize with you, but like, just do what you want to do. You’re wasting so much time with a lame excuse about needing to start on Monday.) If you’re the type that needs the conditions to be set so you can get to work, you should definitely try NaNoWriMo. Not only is there a deadline looming like a sword of Damocles, but you also know exactly how many words you need to get each day to hit your goal. (It’s 1,667 a day. Totally doable!)

So if you’re the type that’s always looking for the ideal conditions, look no further. Try NaNoWriMo today!

005: Learn what you can cut out to achieve something.
So, still think you don’t have time to write? Well guess what? I don’t have time for idle TV watching. In fact, since I’ve lived in my current house, I’ve turned on the TV twice. Sure, I still watch Netflix and such on my iPad, but I don’t turn on the TV just to have the news on in the background, which also means I don’t spend Saturday mornings idly watching cooking shows on PBS.

There are plenty of ways we make time for stuff in our lives without realizing it. A commitment like NaNoWriMo makes you look at your time, and intentionally schedule it. So take a look at your day. What nonsense can you cut out? And don’t be ashamed to cut something that might be frowned upon. I fully admit that I’ll be living on Lean Cuisines for the entire month of November to cut out unnecessary food cooking time.

006: Meet other writerly types.
Writing can be a solitary thing if you let it be. I’m currently in the process of constructing a writerly mastermind group with some local ladies, if and when our schedules align. (Probably the week after never.) But if you don’t know any other local writers, NaNoWriMo is a great time to meet them.

If you sign up on NaNoWriMo.org, you can see the meet ups that are happening in your region. In some cases, there are gatherings aimed to get everyone acquainted, there are workshops to help you prepare, and there are even write-ins during the month of November to help you meet that word count!

007: You get to play around in your imagination like you haven’t done in years.
Look. I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time, but I didn’t know how to say it. So, I’m just going to spit it out. You’re a boring adult. So boring. You watch the news and pay bills and go to work and drink coffee and talk about your 401k. YOU’RE SO FREAKIN’ BORING. It’s about damn time you remembered the fun of being a kid.

For me, the best reason to try NaNoWriMo is to remember the fun of imagination. Sure, I use mine every day, normally to terrify myself in the bathroom. But with NaNoWriMo, you get to put your imagination to better use. Dragons! Spaceships! Pizza delivery guys! A malevolent computer system! Can you make a story with all those elements? If you use that imagination, you can.

008: Your ideas are rattling around in your brain and need to be set free.
I fully believe that if you don’t use your ideas, you lose them. So you really need to make sure that your head isn’t just full of ideas that are never going to be put to good use. The longer they sit dormant in your brain, the more likely they are to adhere to the gray matter and just really gum up the works. (I think that’s the basic premise of neuroscience. Or something. Honestly, you’re not here for science. And if you are, well, that’s the type of science you deserve.)

You should try NaNoWriMo just to get those ideas out in the open. They may not be worthwhile, but they might be. They may not create a cohesive story, but maybe they will. You really never know. You just have to get them out so you can finally see what you’re working with.

009: You can tell your inner editor to burn in hell.
My inner editor is hypercritical. She’s a popular blonde middle school girl, and she’s a real jerk. I hate her, and I hope she gets gum in her hair at a slumber party. She regularly stops me mid-creative burst to remind me that everything I do is stupid garbage and that I’ll die cold and alone. And worst of all — she prevents me from making any sort of progress in my writing because she’s always there telling me what sucks.

Well, if you try NaNoWriMo, you’ll quickly see that you don’t have time for that inner editor. You may have only blocked off 30 minutes that day, AND YOU ARE GOING TO GET THOSE 1,667 WORDS COME HELL OR HIGH WATER. So that inner editor? She’s got to go. And I’ve found that the fastest way to shut down that internal critic is to brutally bash a keyboard with your manic words.

010: It will build your writing routine.
At the end of November, you may not be left with a brilliant work. In fact, it may be total garbage. This is the proverbial roll of the dice of writing, though. You work and you work and you work, and you may not wind up with much to show for it. It’s a lot like pretty much every other aspect of life, come to think of it.

So why would anyone try NaNoWriMo if it meant that they wouldn’t wind up with solid gold? Because, my dear one, you will have built a writing routine. That’s right! After one whole month of brutally taxing your brain and creative energies, you will be in the habit of writing daily. You’ll know how to find blocks of time to get work done, and you’ll be in the mindset of putting words on paper.

And that, my little writer, is the solid gold of it.

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? Are you going to try NaNoWriMo this year? Gimme some of your NaNoWriMo hacks in the comments!

Nov 16

10 Ways to Make Time for Writing Even If You Think You’re Too Busy

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of an idea must be in want of some time to write. But let’s be real. The hardest thing about writing is figuring out how to make time for writing.

10 Ways to Make Time for Writing

In undergrad, I majored in creative writing. One of my best friends at the time was pre-med. Once I told her that I couldn’t go see a band play because I had to write. Her response was “I wish I had time to sit around all day and write.”

Wish you had time to sit around all day and write? YOU DO. #amwriting #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

To this day, it remains one of the shittiest things anyone has ever said to me, even though I doubt she meant for me to take it that way.

The thing is, everyone has time to write, and I find it hilarious that she didn’t see what I was giving up something to MAKE TIME FOR WRITING. But whatever.

Anyhow, that’s what this post is about. In honor of #NaNoWriMo, I thought I would bring you a list of 10 ways to make time for writing. So, if you’ve fallen behind a little in your word count goals, don’t stress. There’s always time for writing, and here’s how I make time for writing.

001: Wake up early.
I’m a morning person, so it’s easy for me to wake up, brew a pot of coffee, and settle in to write. There’s just something about grabbing a notebook or laptop and getting your brain out on the page before anything else has a chance to dilute your thoughts. Plus, coffee just tastes better when you’re writing.

002: Use your lunch break.
When I worked at the job from hell, I used to take my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard to the foodcourt at the outlet mall. I’d buy some frozen yogurt and type my heart out. The foodcourt was nice and quiet during the middle of the day, and it was the best way to escape for just a bit. While I didn’t really write anything that turned into something bigger, I was able to crank out a lot of words.

003: Embrace your phone’s notes app.
I think one of the biggest complaints I have about everyday life is the amount of time I waste waiting on other things. Standing in lines, sitting in waiting rooms, or just killing the next 15 minutes before a meeting DRIVES ME CRAZY. Ideally, I’d never have these weird lulls so I could get everything done and then head home for the day. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. So, instead, I use my phone’s notes app when I find myself in those situations. Generally, I just outline stuff, but occasionally I’ll be able to bash out a whole scene while I’m waiting for my day to resume.

004: Say no to an invitation.
Remember when I told my friend that I couldn’t go see a band play? I made time for writing by saying no to an invitation. We are currently in that time of year when there are no less than 76 billion invitations to various events. You’re going to have to say no to some of them, especially if you’re going to write.

005: Call in sick.
Okay. So, this isn’t always advisable. But sometimes, it’s necessary. I know that most writers are hustlers. By that I mean that if you’re a writer, then you probably also have a side gig. And when you couple that with family and life obligations, it’s easy to see why calling in sick might be the only way a writer can get some time to hit their word count. When I was in grad school, I called in sick to work because I had approximately 9 hours to write a 20-page paper. So, if you’re way behind in your word count and you have the paid time off, call in and take your day.

(P.S. I made an A on that paper.)

006: Batch other tasks.
I absolutely hate taking time out to cook dinner every night. If I’ve worked out, gone to my day job, and dealt with life in general, there’s no way in hell that I’m going to also cook dinner. So, on Sundays I prep all my meals for the week. I make enough for lunches and dinner. Overall, this takes about 2-3 hours on a single day, but it makes big windows of uninterrupted time in the evenings on week days. Instead of having to make something, I can pop a plate in the microwave, and have a full meal. Then, I have the rest of my evening to write and not babysit a pot on the stove.

007: Never turn on your TV.
I am one of those horrible millennials who doesn’t have cable. But I definitely like to binge watch. And, even when I’m not watching Netflix, I’m totally addicted to PBS’s Create channel and all the great cooking shows they have. (Do you think Jacques Pépin wants to be my French grandpa?) If I’m not careful, I’ll spend way more time in front of the TV than I intend to. And that goes double in the morning when I’m sipping coffee and listening to Charlie, Gayle, and Nora on CBS This Morning. So, if I know I need to get something done, the TV has to stay off.

008: Take away what makes you procrastinate.
It’s really easy to tell yourself that before you hunker down to write, you need to check your email and Twitter. And then, before you know it, you’ve lost the whole hour you had to write. So, to make time for writing, you have to take away what makes you procrastinate. I’m always more prolific when I don’t have an internet connection. Recently, I purchased a used AlphaSmart 3000 on Amazon, and every time I sit down with it, I get a lot of words in fast. Why? Well, because it’s a word processor that doesn’t have an internet connection. That means I can’t stop writing and Google information that I probably don’t need in the middle of a writing session. (That’s what editing is for, dammit.)

Writer tip: Take away what makes you procrastinate.#amwriting #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

009: Do it first thing on your day off.
I don’t teach on Fridays. This means that while Chris is at work, I’m home alone. I try to take advantage of this time as much as I can. While my to do list is generally jam-packed with every sort of teaching administrative task that I can’t get done during my office hours, I prioritize writing first. That means I have to bash out some words before I will allow myself the privilege of putting grades into a spreadsheet. And once it’s done, I feel so much more productive and motivated to get other things done.

010: Live in squalor.
Okay. Maybe this is an exaggeration. But if you’re trying to write something, that means you have to let something else fall by the wayside. And you know what’s really easy to give up to make time for writing? Cleaning. I’ve read interviews where both J.K. Rowling and Rainbow Rowell have stated that while you’re writing, the house is going to be a mess. And I have to say, I’m fine with that.


So what about you? How do you make time for writing? Any tips or hacks for making time during #NaNoWriMo?