November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This week’s Pep Talk was originally sent to the NH Region Wrimos on 11/19/18. – Yvette/wilabea94
I hosted a work meeting with my co-horts last week and I bowed out of lunch plans so that I could spend that hour break preparing for a big work event that evening. Two of them shook their heads.
“You need to delegate,” one said, while the other chimed in, “Taking a break is a priority.”
I know what they mean – I had delegated and I had taken breaks from working on this event, but since these two co-horts don’t work at my library they weren’t familiar with the daily work flow. It was all about their own perspective. And I knew that on the day of an event, I needed to jump back in to preparations. Sure, I would end up eating something…but at my desk. I know they were trying to help when they offered their advice, but at face value it sounded accusatory.
Addressing any project – something at work, at home or NaNoWriMo itself – is a balance of planning, retreating and participating, and when I’m faced with many options, I usually step back and consider two questions: Where will I be most useful? and What will I regret? Sometimes I don’t make the right choice and yeah, I regret it afterwards.
There are many gauntlets that we need to run during November and it’s just not feasible to delegate some of these things to someone else. We can’t just not feed the kids or not walk the dog. Most of us shouldn’t stay home from work for a month or re-wear the same dirty clothes. We need to participate in life; that’s the stuff we’re writing about after all. Yes, I try to scale back social commitments and plan to take vacation days at work so I can have extra time for noveling, but it always brings me back to the question of what will I regret not doing? If I check out of too many life things will I end up resenting my novel time and sit staring angrily at a blank page? And if you study the habits of professional writers they’ve each figured out a balance of writing and attending to other responsibilities. NaNoWriMo is just a very condensed version of that.
To stave off resentment, I’ve decided to embrace how required stepping back from my novel (for a day or a few hours) is an opportunity to clear my mind. Stepping back is also helpful when our brains get over saturated with a problem, as you can see in this blog post.
This week, many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving. This event can bring its own variety of stress but I want to encourage you that adding NaNoWriMo stress to that mix does not have to be an annual event! Much of our stress stems from expectations and perspective. I can say “I have to go visit my sister-in-law” or I can say “I choose to go visit my sister-in-law” – and the latter is the true statement, because in all honesty, I’m the one holding the family calendar. I could have suggested to my sister-in-law that we get the families together in December instead of Friday after Thanksgiving. She knows I’m noveling this month and would totally understand. But then I’d miss out on seeing nephews and nieces home from college…and then I find myself facing those two questions: Where will I be most useful? What will I regret? So my plan is to go into the Thanksgiving holidays not with resentment but with gratitude – and I’ll enjoy this break from the beast that is my novel.
One of the goals of NaNoWriMo is to help participants create a regular (daily) writing habit, and if we’ve been keeping up with 1667 words a day, we’re well on our way to meeting that goal. Even for those of us whose daily word count is more wobbly, we’ve been spending more time in the world of our novel so it shouldn’t be so hard to jump back in. I’ve got two notecards taped to my computer monitor during November that help keep me focused on the noveling task at hand. One is a series of questions from Lisa Cron’s Story Genius:
- What does my protagonist go into the scene believing?
- Why does she believe it?
- What is my protagonist’s goal in the scene?
- What does my protagonist expect will happen in this scene?
The second card is a logline template from Save The Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody (based on the orginal STC on screenwriting by Blake Snyder):
One the verge of a STATIS=DEATH moment, a flawed hero BREAKS INTO 2; but when the MIDPOINT happens, they must learn the THEME STATED before ALL IS LOST.
Let’s try to return to our projects with a fresh perspective and energy after choosing to count our blessings with family and friends. We’re almost there, Wrimos – the end is in sight!
I’ll leave you with this last thought – a video clip of Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods) and Daniel Handler (A Series of Unfortunate Events) talking about advice to writers. It’s short, so watch it quickly and then get back to writing!
It was great to see so many of you last night at the NOWD in Merrimack and I hope everyone met their word goals. I know I made some good headway during the sprints. I think more importantly we made some in real life connections.
Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving! See you in Week 4!