National Novel Writing Month is a really neat idea, and the core idea is actually good for writers almost all the time. Write. Write without your editor’s cap until you are finished. And that is cool, but what I love about NaNoWriMo is the accountability and the experience. It’s just different. There are all levels of players there for different reasons. Some will give up early on, others will have all intentions of “knocking it out of the park.” Most will finish by the skin of their teeth, while a handful will overachieve and reach the 50K long before the month is finished…and we will collectively hate them…I mean cheer for them. Yes, cheer.
NaNoWriMo kind of reminds me of running a 10K to support breast cancer awareness. Early morning. The finish line is somewhere off past a winding trail and out of sight. Everyone is excited and hopeful. There is an amazing mix of all kinds of people.
There are the professional runners who are going to blast ahead. They are concerned with their time and might even have sponsors. Often they are wearing some outfit that, in any other place, would get them a ticket for public indecency. A race is generally one of the few places one can see straight men in shorts that look like Daisy Dukes and wind-shorts had a baby and no one makes fun of them.
One can also see the folks who are in respectable shape. Been hitting the gym regularly enough to actually jog the entire 10K.
The there will be people like me, who would normally would only consider running 10K if an ax-murderer were behind them, and even then, after 5 we would seriously just consider letting said ax-murdered go ahead because we want to die anyway. Yes, we are the final and probably most common group. We are the out of shape (but well-meaning) people who are only there because of peer pressure and to support a really great cause. We gather in the cold morning air wearing sweatpants we found stored with the Christmas ornaments and running shoes so new they still have the price tag on the sole (Hey, I didn’t see it there). Most of us are clutching a cup of coffee and wondering if we parked too far away. Will we need a taxi once this thing is over?
The several times in my life I have “run” in a 10K (I will use the verb “run” very loosely) I actually ran the entire thing…even if it was like that bouncy duck-walking run that is probably slower than walking but looks to others like you haven’t punked out and stopped running. Why? I hate running. Always have. And yet there is something about all those other people around me that makes me suck it up and go. Just Do It.
I feel so Nike.
Yeah, Nike. It’s a new word. Just made it up.
Anyway, on Twitter it is fun to watch all the participants, just like race day. There are those who bust out 10K words a day and finish their 50K in the first week (professional runners). Those who bust out 12 K the first day and are never heard from again. Yeah, ambulance carted them off at the banana stand. Those who write 3-5K a day, the “respectable runners.” This year I am so far in better shape doing 2500 a day. A jogger at the least, although they could scrape me off a banana stand clutching a Gatorade here in the upcoming weeks so root for me. Don’t let me punk out. Even if I do the sad duck-walk writing that isn’t quite prose, but not yet incoherent ramblings of a madman.
But, like a race, it has been amazing to get to cheer others on, encourage them, and let them know that even if the writing is never published it still counts. We might not be the professional runners with sponsorships, but when we cross that finish line, we can dance with the lone guy sweeping up the cups and squeal I did it!
Even if we are dead last, we finished and that is the most important step of being a career writer; learning to finish what we start. I have never done NaNoWriMo, but I have worked as a writer for almost ten years, so these tips should be good for NaNoWriMo too. So far I am doing pretty well.
Tips for NaNoWriMo
- Keep your eyes on the prize
- Baby Steps. Break big goals in to bite size steps.
- Focus on success. Dwelling on failure is a waste of time and a formula to fail.
- Drink lots of water. Brains are like plants. Dehydrated brains are like MY plants. Dead. Fried. Being used by the cat to hide her toys. Want the cat hiding toys in your cerebellum? No. So drink water. Our body is a bioelectric system and water is what helps the current flow. No water no charge. So drink.
- Stretch. Blood will pool at your feet after a time. Get up and stretch. Not only do you need it so you won’t be a human pretzel of agony, you need to get oxygenated blood back in the ol’ noggin. Flushes out cat toys.
- Try a little yoga. Any pose that gets your head below the heart is great. Gets oxygen to the brain.
- Use a timer. Set for as little as 20 minutes and write. Sometimes we just need to prime the pump.
- Focus on the real goal of NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is not the time to try to win the Pulitzer. It is about word count. If your focus is to write pretty then that’s like bringing a bike to a swimming race. Wrong objective and doomed to fail.
- Tell your family, “Don’t go away mad, just go away.” Well, you can be nicer than that, but they might not believe you are serious. NaNoWriMo is good practice for banishing loved ones. Get used to it if you want to be a career author. “This is the line of death. Cross it, you die.”
- Push yourself just a little farther. If you write 300 words, great. But try writing 312. It is such a bizarre number that most of you will have to “even it out” to 350. Then write 354. You get the point :D.
So I am off to do my NaNoWriMo due diligence. I hope you follow me on Twitter or Facebook. I am reporting in regularly and my peeps have really kept me encouraged as I try to do the same for them. After I post this I am going to get a giant glass of water. Feels like Roo-bee (my cat) stuffed her cat toys in my noggin. Gotta follow my own advice and HYDRATE! Then play Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” over and over, :D.
I feel so Nike. There, I used it again.
In the meantime, what are some tips you guys would like to share? Have you failed at NaNoWriMo before? Why? What did you learn from it? Have you succeeded at NaNoWriMo? Any tips for the rest of us, people like me they’ve historically had to scrape out from under the Gatorade table? We want to hear from you!
Until next time….
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