(Laura’s note: I’m on maternity leave, and while I’ll be blogging occasionally over the next few weeks, I wanted to use the opportunity to run guest posts by some of my favorite bloggers. Enjoy!)
by Joy Weese Moll
National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, is November. Each year thousands of people challenge themselves and each other to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Of course, no one expects it to be a good novel, but this crazy method can generate a first draft with a lot of energy. It can also yield surprising insights about how you spend your time. This will be my fourth year of participation. I’m looking forward to the general silliness and camaraderie in social media and local write-ins, the sense of accomplishment that comes with setting and meeting a specific goal, and the annual boost that writing a novel in a month gives to my time management skills.
Here are five ways to use NaNoWriMo to enhance your work+life fit (thanks to the guest posts by Cali Williams Yost for giving me this new term and paradigm — Escape the 10 Tyrannies of Work/Life Balance and Sometimes Your Work + Life Fit Just Stinks).
- Figure out which TV shows you really like. The ones you still choose to watch in November, with a novel deadline pressing, are the most compelling. Maybe the first one or two recorded programs you choose to watch in December are worth keeping in your schedule too. After that, do any of the rest of the shows really matter? The same principle applies to computer games you play, news outlets that you read, and blogs you follow. I spend the first week of December ridding myself of all the media that took up time in October but I didn’t miss in November.
- Invent kitchen time-saving techniques that work in your life. Running out for fast food seems like a quick solution to a problem, until you compare it to how long it takes to fix a peanut butter sandwich, a few carrot sticks, and an apple. Back to writing in no time! Last year, I made salad once or twice a week, tossed in nuts, dried blueberries, and dressing at the last minute and had a healthy lunch in less than 5 minutes. The same bulk salad preparation method worked again during a jam-packed holiday week in December and several time-crunches since then.
- Find forms of exercise that feed creativity. William Wordsworth famously walked long distances each day while constructing his poems. Last year, I discovered that I could walk on the treadmill while watching old episodes of Torchwood on my iPad. I cast John Barrowman as the hero of my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel, so watching him act while I exercised generated ideas that showed up in later writing sessions.
- Experiment with not doing things. You may find that while your hair needed washing daily as a teenager, it now actually looks better when washed only two or three times a week. See how long it will take for someone else in the house to do the dishes or laundry if you let those chores lapse. Practice saying “No, I’m working on my novel,” to all requests made to you in November.
- Discover the social in loner situations. Writing is generally considered to be an isolated activity, but not during NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo feels like a great big writing party with write-ins at local coffee shops, an active twitter hashtag, and a plethora of forums. Outside of November, my brother and I have been experimenting with mini write-ins, managing to get together most weeks for the last several months. What other ways can you combine a desired activity with some social time? Try exercising with a friend, following a twitter hashtag related to a hobby or craft, or starting a once-a-week supper club with neighbors by alternating hosting and cooking duties.
Joy Weese Moll is a librarian writing about books at Joy’s Book Blog.