Most people who undertake a first project for NaNoWriMo aren’t “career” writers. For them, it’s a hobby they must fit in around their work schedule.
When we first set out to write, we are fired up about our project, and the words flow. Unfortunately, the fire of enthusiasm burns low as time goes on, and the magnitude of the undertaking becomes apparent.
I think that to be successful as a writer, one must be obsessed with their own art. However, even many successful authors either have day jobs or a spouse whose salary pays the bills. Unless you write Romance, royalties and fat advances don’t fall from the sky except for the lucky few.
We must make time and steal time to write. When you have bills to pay and mouths to feed, there is no other way to produce a finished book.
But to be happy, one must have a balanced life. What is the point of life if you’re so busy writing about fictional lives that you aren’t present in your own?
That need to be present in my real life is why I schedule my writing time. It’s also why I reward myself for achieving my writing goals.
Some people manage to fit short bursts of writing into their daily schedule, writing at work while on break or at lunch.
Others must schedule a dedicated block of time for writing, either rising two hours before they depart for work or skipping some TV in the evening.
During my working years, I fell into both categories.
When I am gripped with a new idea, I find myself stopping wherever I am, pulling out my notebook, and noting that idea for later use.
While driving on the freeway, this isn’t possible. And that is when my best ideas all seem to occur, more’s the pity.
First, we must write at least 1,670 words every day (three more than is required). This takes me about 2 hours because I’m not fast at this.
I can’t stress this enough: write every day, no matter if you have an idea worth noting or not. If you are a person who needs a dedicated block of time, do it even if you have to get up at 4:00 am and don’t let anything disrupt you. On December 1st, you can reward yourself by sleeping in.
But maybe you can’t sit still for too long. Write in small increments—ten minutes here, half-an-hour there. These short bursts add up.
Perhaps your mind has gone blank. If you are stuck, write about how your day went and how you feel about life, or write that grocery list. Just write and think about where you want to take your real story.
Write about what you would like to make happen in that story. Soon, you will be writing what you intended, and everything tallies toward your daily word count goal.
Stay connected. Check in to the national threads and your regional thread to keep in contact with other writers. This is a reward that will keep you enthused about your project.
Nowadays, I fit household chores into my writing time the way I used to squeeze writing into my working life.
But we have one hard, inviolable rule in my home. Whatever else happens during the day, we sit down to the table and eat dinner together. Then we work together to clear the table and clean the kitchen, continuing any discussions that were begun during dinner.
This is a reward for all the goals each family member met that day, a pocket of time dedicated to keeping the lines of communication open and maintaining the connections that bind us.
All through “the blender years” of child-rearing, dinner at the table with the family was required. Some evenings, food was accompanied by the sarcasm of a disgruntled teenager who was angry that we couldn’t “just nuke some Hot Pockets like normal people.” Yes, they were upset, but they were there.
Balance and rewards are the keys to a happy writing life. We want to feel productive and creative, and we want to share our experiences and interests with others.
Achieving your word count goals for NaNoWriMo is a reward but enjoying your life while doing it is critical.
We who write must make time to write, allowing us to be creative and still support and cheer on our families who all have activities and interests of their own. You might find yourself sitting in the car while the children are at sports (as I have often done), but I look at that as at least an hour of undisturbed writing time.
Use it to your advantage.
To be a writer requires discipline and the ability to set aside an hour or so just for that pursuit. You deserve that pocket of time where no one is allowed to disturb you.
I used to encourage my children to use that time to indulge in their interests and artistic endeavors. They became hard workers with challenging day jobs, but with hobbies in music and the arts.
As November and NaNoWriMo progresses, writing becomes more challenging and more onerous.
It becomes work.
Rewarding yourself for achieving your word count goals is essential, especially since you won’t receive a raise or a promotion for them.
Some rewards aren’t good for us. Giving yourself permission to eat junk food as a reward can be a bad idea.
If you want junk food or chocolate, just have it and enjoy it, no strings attached. Life is too short to waste time denying yourself the small pleasures.
However, a reward like scheduling time to watch something on Netflix or a regular show you’ve been looking forward to is a good thing.
The most important thing is this: don’t punish yourself and don’t feel guilty for not making a goal one day. Simply try to make it up over the next few days.
That is what NaNoWriMo is all about. Writing, developing discipline, and feeling good about indulging your creativity.
To be happy, one must have a balanced life.
Above all, be present in your life, and be happy with what you create.
4 responses to “Goals and Rewards – the No-Punishment guide to #NaNoWriMo2020 #amwriting”
Nano wouldn’t ever be something I could fit into my lifestyle, although I know lots of people who do it and I admire them for dedicating themselves to it.
I do, however, have one little wrinkle inspired by your post – my best ideas also come when I’m driving, which I do a lot of for work. I keep a little Dictaphone in the car (left over from my journalism days). I can click it on without needing to look at it (unlike a phone) and make voice notes. I would have missed so much without it, I highly recommend it as an essential author tool.
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@Deborah – I am ordering one now! Thank you for the idea!
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Great idea about the Dictaphone! Connie, as always, I really appreciate your level approach.
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Hi Johanna! I just write better when I’m relaxed, is all 😀