NaNoWriMo and Self Care

Okay, so It’s November 19th and I’m 35,000 words into the novel I’ve undertaken to write this month. It’s coming along very well, and if things go as planned — ha! — I should have my 50,000 words completed by the end of the month. That’s a big IF. In addition to the forced productivity, NaNoWriMo has given me a few nuggets of insight, which I thought I’d share.

1. Some days you just need a break. Last week, I sat down to write my daily 2000 word quota. I’ve never given birth, but I think on this particular day what I experienced creatively was similar to a breach birth in Colonial times, no anesthesia, no medical intervention, pure and unadulterated suffering. I wrote a 1000 words and quit for the day without a soupcon of a guilt. The next day’s writing effort was pure joy, and I realized that the suffering I experienced the previous day was a growing pain of biblical magnitude.  On the days where the process isn’t working, push through it, but don’t kill yourself.

2. I have limits, which deserve respect. I follow a lot of writer’s blogs and am always interested in their process, e.g. how many hours they write, how pages a day, how they research, etc., etc. Some writers write 1000 to 2000 words a day, and then go on to edit another WIP. I salute them! I tried to do that during this November NaNoWriMo, got up one morning, wrote 2000 words, ate lunch, walked the dog, came back to edit another WIP and couldn’t do it. My eyes rolled back in my head and my brain turned to mush. I sobbed, wrote my critique partner and asked if something was wrong with me.  I slept on it and woke up the next morning to realize that this knowledge of my own capability was a gift. I discovered a boundary and realized in the process that respecting that boundary is a way of self-care. There are personalities that do well with looming deadlines, pushing through exhaustions feeds them and they are always more productive under pressure. Not this writer. I panic. Note to self: stay on schedule as much as possible!!

3. Self-care. I didn’t write a stinking word last weekend. I read through my notes, made some goals for this week, and read books instead. Sometimes you have to give yourself a genuine break. Rest is so important for mental health and creative perspective. Our world s so focused on massive productivity it becomes even more important to drive off the freeway of life, park your car under a shady tree and check out from the traffic jam. I think all writers have a hibernation gene. Most of us are very comfortable spending the day in our jammies, laptops or notebooks at our side. Sometimes it’s nice to check out and do absolutely nothing and let the ideas cook in your subconscious.

I’d like to hear from others about their NaNoWriMo projects or any other artistic endeavors. I wish you all good luck and productive writing!

Terry

  1. NaNo is an eye opener, that’s for sure. You’ll hit your 50,000, but even if you don’t you’ve still learned so much about your writing self! And you offer great advice about taking care of ourselves so we’re prepared to “write another day.” That might mean different things to different writers, but the important thing is for each of us to know what works for us even if it is not the same as someone else. Whatever you’re doing is certainly working for you, because you’re producing quality work. Like you, I “check out” sometimes. Preferably with dark chocolate and a glass of wine. 🙂

    • Terry Lynn says:

      Lisa, Checking out is such a necessary thing for me, along with chocolate, wine and nice flannel jammies. (Oh, and bath salts.) 🙂

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