December 10, 2019
Note From Rochelle
As my gift to you this holiday season, I am offering a special journaling workshop to help you reflect on 2019 and get ready for 2020. The class will be held on Monday, December 16 at 5:00 PM central time. The class is free to attend, but you must register at this page: Journaling Workshop. If you cannot attend, you can purchase a recording after the class.
Today I’m delighted to welcome author Elizabeth Cole. In August, we made a pact to stay off social media and write more, and she wrote about the experiment in, “Stop the Internet from Stopping You.” Today, she’s back to talk about NaNoWriMo and productivity.
Does NaNoWriMo Actually Do Anything for Productivity?
By Elizabeth Cole
So after a November full of work and family and mashed potatoes, I am reporting back from the Word Mines. I chose to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated: https://nanowrimo.org). It’s a month-long event in November that aims to encourage writers to hit a 50,000-word goal toward their novel. Thousands of people join in, from unpublished first-time writers to professional authors. The idea is that by publicly sharing our pain, encouraging others (and ourselves), and by posting word count as an accountability measure, folks will reach “The End.”
Which sounds great, but does it work? The short answer is “Yes, if you make it work.” NaNo isn’t magic. You have to sit down and write every day to get that word count (1667 words every 24 hours, for the math fans). The magic lies solely in the communal atmosphere and the public boost you get knowing that other writers are doing exactly what you’re doing: carving little chunks out of your day to write a few words at a time. Maybe you wake up an hour earlier. Maybe you sneak away at lunch. Maybe you just *look* like you’re taking really good notes at the company meeting. The point is, you still have to write. But NaNoWriMo helps you do it.
So what can you apply from NaNo throughout the year in order to keep writing regularly? For me, the single most useful step is accountability. I posted my word count on the NaNo website and shared it in my online writer group. I send a text to a friend every evening with my daily word count (no matter how pitiful), and she kindly sends a picture of her cats as my reward. Something a simple as this can propel you to write because you’re getting out of your own head and involving the real world in your process. You can decide what works for you. Try posting your word count to Twitter with the hashtags #amwriting #NaNo #wordcount or #whygodwhy (depending on how hard it was to write that day). You may find unexpected support from Author Twitter! If you don’t want to be so public, try posting to a venue like your local writing group or an online group that you’ve joined. So many writers can’t do NaNo during the month of November that you’ll find plenty of them trying it another time of year! Or just ask someone you trust to be your accountability partner. Set a reminder on your phone to text them with your progress. And make sure you’ve got the sort of friend who will gently “remind” you if you skip the progress report. (My pal sends me a picture of an ax!)
The other step that NaNo teaches is consistency. The website shows graphs of your progress and WOW it’s very clear that a few days off just kills your momentum. So getting in the habit of writing every day (or at least on a regular schedule) helps immensely. And because NaNo is only a month long, you don’t feel like your goal is completely unattainable: just 30 days and you’re done. I’m a professional author, and even I found that I was really rusty about my routine. Writing every day in November was hard, but it also felt very good to get back into a consistent rhythm. Year-round, I won’t keep doing it every single day. I find that taking Saturdays or Sundays off is very important for my brain. It lets me do the imagination work that writing requires. But taking lots of days off doesn’t make me more imaginative, it just makes me miss deadlines! So find a routine that you can live with, like 30 minutes of writing in the morning, or two 20-minute sprints during the day, and stick with it for a month. See if your productivity improves. I’ll bet it does.
The final lesson of NaNoWriMo is that you’re not alone! Whether you’re writing in November or any time of year, there are other people in the same boat, and sharing your triumphs and struggles isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you recognize writing a novel is a tough job. People who work alone can’t unload frustrations, and that stifles productivity. Find a person or group to kvetch with, and you’ll discover that the daily task of writing isn’t so daunting.
Ok, final final point. Just have a lot of this around. Happy writing!
About the Author. Elizabeth Cole is an award-winning author of historical romance. She can be found hanging around museums, coffeeshops, and graveyards…but not after dark. Elizabeth loves hearing from readers, because otherwise she starts taking the local cat’s advice a little too seriously. Connect with her and sign up to get early alerts for new titles at elizabethcole.co