NaNoWriMo Week 3
My word count is 32,697, which is roughly 9,000 words behind where I need to be if I want to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo. What’s frustrating is that during any other month, 32k would be a pretty good haul, word-wise. But because this is NaNo it is a disappointment. This is what NaNo has done to me: it has robbed me of satisfaction of even what I have managed to achieve.
Despite sounding bitter, I still have hope that I can hit the 50k mark. It’s tough going, but I have been going to Write-Ins (including an all-night lock-in event at a nearby bookstore. Props to London’s hardworking municipal liaisons for putting it together). I’ve also just tried to take better care of myself. For example:
1. Eating a big breakfast. Lately I’ve been having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, which has been a big blow as morning used to be my most productive time (I blame the changing of the season, a killer cold, and the US election, and the fact that all three have just been feeding into each other like a horrible maelstrom of suckiness). But making myself actually eat breakfast in the morning has helped somewhat. Not only does it give me energy to get to lunch, it’s reminded me of two things I like doing: cooking and eating. One of the new recipes I’ve tried lately is tomato scrambled eggs from Leanne Brown’s cookbook ‘Good and Cheap’ (you can download it for free here). It’s a cookbook designed for people on low-incomes (cheap) and every recipe I’ve tried in it so far has been pretty tasty (good).
2. Taking a zinc vitamin. I’ve only been doing this for about a week now, but it seems to be helping.
3. Installing f.lux on my computer. F.lux is a free piece of software that will adjust your screen’s colour so that it will stop aping natural light once the sun goes down. Ideally this should make it easier at the end of the day to go to sleep. Of course, it can only help so much. You still have to find the will power to turn it off your computer and not write blog posts…
4. Drinking hot water. This was a habit I fell into while living in Shanghai and have only recently picked back up. In China it’s common to drink plain, hot water, rather than cold or room temperature H2O. It’s actually very relaxing. You might say ‘But I already do that! It’s called drinking tea!’ But no. For this to be a relaxing escape from the world it has to be just plain old hot water. Even chamomile is just too stimulating. Try it: turn off the news and put away your phone, pour a cup of very hot water into your favourite mug. Find a nice place to get comfy on the couch. Sip it slowly at first, carefully because it’s really hot, but as the water cools down you can drink more and more, feeling it warm you up. It is very chill, almost meditative, though it may also make you sleepy.
5. Really lose yourself in a book. Reading can be a great escape. But sometimes, when the world is being a bit much, you really have to commit to it. It’s like making a covenant with the author: I will believe everything you tell me. I will picture every character as if they were my own family. I will give you 100 percent of my attention from the moment I open the pages. You might think ‘But I already do that!’ in which case, good for you, but there are plenty of times when I am a slightly less involved reader. I don’t think it’s a mark against either myself or the book, just sometimes maybe you want to go a little faster, or you are enjoying it but don’t feel the need to really immerse yourself in it. For me, this kind of light reading usually lines up with me feeling good about things and not being particularly stressed, looking for a minor distraction rather than a major one. Well, lately I’ve been needing a major one, so deep reading it is. I’ve been reading ‘Children of Time’ and enjoying it.
Now, to end this post with some actual specific writing advice: one of the big things about NaNo is pushing yourself past your inner editor and allowing yourself to write crap. It’s important to get the words on the page: you can’t re-write a blank page. But after three weeks of writing crap it starts to wear you down. What I recommend is taking a break from the quantity over quality mind-set, just for a day, and write something that you actually like. Take time to go over the sentences and tweak them into something you are proud of. You might not hit your word count for the day but it will remind you that you still do have the goods.
I also recommend being a bit of a NaNo rebel and maybe working on something else for just a day or two (in my case, I took a break fro ma novel to work on a short story idea that popped into my head). It’s easy to get burnt out on your current project when you are barrelling ahead and it will be easier to remember why you liked it in the first place if you take a bit of a breather.