(Image Source: Author’s Own)
Many of us participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where we had to write 50,000 words for the month of November. We might have been tired, cranky, swamped under work, going through personal turbulence, and yet we kept writing. Some of us didn’t even write at a regular pace and then we attained the superhuman feat of somehow still winning it by the end of November. And even if we didn’t win it, we still wrote a hell lot more or put in the best of our efforts despite our circumstances, and that counts as an achievement in itself.
This year was better for me as the last three days had ‘only’ ten thousand words to be finished. Just kidding! Though it wasn’t a smooth sailing, yet, it was better than last year where I had just over a week left and 32,000 words to go! Yeah, to my surprise, I still won last year. It was my first win. What that win taught me was that I can write like a beast when I wanted to. So, this time I was more confident, and relatively more disciplined as well. Plus compared to last year, this year was a less eventful one (like I didn’t go for a four day trip or my mother wasn’t suddenly hospitalized).
Anyway, the point that I wanted to discuss here is that Nanowrimo makes us silence our inner critique and like Cheryl Strayed said, ‘Write like a motherfucker‘.
In case, you haven’t read this before, I urge you to stop here and read the article first. This has some of the most valuable lessons on writing that I’ve ever come across. Not only that, it is one of the most moving pieces on writing that made me cry buckets as I kept reading it and kept identifying with it so, so closely. I believe everyone should read it once. You can read it from the link below:
(Image Source: AZ Quotes)
Anyway, So What After Nanowrimo?
Do we take like a week long break and come back?
I don’t know about your temperament but my body doesn’t have a single bone that is so disciplined! So, last time when I thought of taking a break for a week, it turned into two weeks, and then three, finally ending up to around a couple of months’ break! If you’re anything like me…
Do Not Take A Break!
No, don’t get me wrong. Of course, you don’t need to write the daily average Nanowrimo quota of 1,667 words, but write a few words. Write 500 words, or maybe even a hundred. But do not stop!
This year I’d started following the newsletters of two brilliant minds. Both of them changed my life for the better. One of them is Dr. Cal Newport, whose posts on how social media is preventing us from thinking deeply is the reason why I’ve limited my usage just a tad bit (I was a serious addict so I’m guessing it is at least some improvement!).
The next person is James Clear. James helped me learn and embrace the term called ‘micro habits’ into my life. It means that you can build up a good habit better when, instead of setting a mammoth goal, you focus on the journey by performing the habit daily. Even if for five minutes.
I’ve tried applying the same principle on my exercise routine, on my meditation practice, and of course on my writing routine and I’ve seen significant improvements in all the three practices.
Focus On A Small Piece Of The Cake
So, it is like this. Even on the day you don’t feel like writing, write 100 words. It takes hardly ten minutes. If you want to build a workout routine, do just one squat and start from there. Chances are you won’t stop at 100 words or one squat, you’d probably want to continue. This micro habit is a clever way to trick your brain into thinking that it will just take five minutes (and who cannot spare five minutes, yeah?). Instead of intimidating the brain by giving it a mammoth task to complete, like writing a novel or achieve a certain fitness level, just ease into it by focusing on the tiny bit you need to achieve today.
It means writing for a few minutes everyday. Even when you’re on a holiday or binging on your favourite TV show, you pause it and you write for just ten minutes.
All these are small ways to simply train your brain to know that you will do this certain activity (preferably at the same time of the day) almost every day. Almost, because you do need at least a day’s break in case your goal is to exercise. For writing, however, you do it everyday.
No, you do not need to write your novel, necessarily. For example, right now I’m writing this article. I also wrote another book review.
Spice Up The Writing Habit By Having Fun
Additionally, you can make your writing routine more interesting. Like, how about taking on challenges and fighting monsters while your word count shoots up? Just before the onset of Nanowrimo, I was lucky enough to listen to this podcast by Writing Excuses.
Here, Mary mentions about the online game 4thewords that helps her boost her word count. This game was perhaps one of the biggest reasons why I wrote everyday and was mostly on track in this year’s NaNoWriMo. This is a fun and addictive game where you keep slaying monsters by writing a certain amount of words within a set time. You can choose the monsters. During Nanowrimo, they even had a carnival area where you could play many more such games. And hence, I’d keep slaying monsters and going further in the game. I didn’t even realize when my free trial got over, but it was so worth it that now I became a paid member which too is pretty cheap ($4 for a month). So yes, even after Nanowrimo, I wanted to maintain my daily streak on 4thewords, which you attain by writing 444 words in a day. This again is helping boost my word count and my writing.
Whether You Write Or Edit, Just Don’t Stop
Don’t get me wrong, writing is not only about boosting your word count. But like any other skill that you want to excel in, it takes a hell lotta practice! And what better way to practice than to write more and more? Of course, you need to give time to editing and the rest and of course, that too counts as working towards your writing. What I meant was just don’t break the streak of being regular!
So, here are a few observations and suggestions that I gleaned over my two years of winning Nanowrimo that I wanted to share with you. Hope it helps you, as well.