We’re halfway through the month and I’m super behind in NaNoWriMo. This is my fourth attempt at writing 50,000 words during the month of November and I have never been this far behind before. My work schedule has never been this flexible. I’m not planning a wedding, like I was during the first two years. So what is my excuse?
I’m not focused.
I heard this quote while listening to Lori Harder’s Earn Your Happy podcast:
Focus is more important than intelligence.
Being focused is more important than having an immaculate plot outlined. Being focused is more important than having endless hours to devote to your story.
Writing is work. Serious, hard work.
The key to being successful during NaNo or with any writing deadline is to sit down and crank out the words. There’s no secret way to magically have the idea in your head turn up on the page. Having the time doesn’t guarantee success because unfocused time spent writing is not worth the same as focused time spent writing.
But there are ways you can encourage yourself to focus. This is what works for me:
Step 1: Put your phone in another room. On silent.
Seriously. Just do it. You can play games and check social media later. Right now, tell your family and roommates that you need to focus. If you have kids, ask someone else to watch them for a while. You have a date with your characters.
Remove any other distractions that you can. Don’t pull up social media on your computer. Don’t throw a load of laundry in or bake some brownies while you’re writing. When you’re focused, you don’t want to pull yourself away from your story for something that can wait.
Step 2: Find or create a writing playlist. Find headphones.
I know blasting music while you write doesn’t work for everyone, but I know it works for me. I personally like fast-paced pop music when I write. I know these songs well, so I can focus on the beat while I focus on my story. Check out my NaNo playlist on Spotify at this link. The playlist itself is an hour and 14 minutes long, which is longer than my typically sprint.
Step 3: Give yourself a goal.
If you have five minutes, write for five minutes. If you have an hour, make your goal to sprint for the entire hour all at once, or split it up into three 15-minute sprints with three five-minute breaks. By now, even if you just started writing a couple weeks ago, you know yourself. You know how long you typically sprint, so make realistic goals for yourself and stick to them.
Step 4: Start a sprint and dive in.
Community does help encourage us to begin. But once we begin, we should go on this adventure alone. Just for now. When we catch up on our word counts, we can return to community to celebrate.
Join a sprint on Twitter @NaNoWordSprints, but then close the tab. (Refer to step 1.) Just trust me and close the tab. You don’t need the temptation right now. You have words to write.
Or, if the temptation is too big, do a personal word sprint on the NaNoWriMo website. Click “My Word Sprints” under the “My NaNoWriMo” tab in your account.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3 & 4.
If your goal is to write every day for the rest of the month, write until you hit your “Words Per Day to Finish On Time.” If your goal is to catch up, write like the wind until you cannot write anymore. Then write 100 more words to start the next scene so you can pick up again tomorrow. They add up.
I told you, writing is work and it requires focus. Without dedicating the time with focus, you won’t win NaNoWriMo.
Step 6: Don’t get discouraged.
Every year is different. During my past NaNos, I was more consistent, writing every day. But this year? I do it in spurts and then take a couple days off for life. It’s okay if this happens to you. It’s okay if you’re not doing as well as you hoped. I’m not either. But we can catch up.
With focus and some snacks, we will catch up.