Are you currently engaged in National Novel Writing Month? Have you been furiously writing away and watching your word count build as the days go on? With the middle of the month approaching, maybe you’re already suffering from #NaNoWriMo Burnout?
Maybe you’ve even fallen behind or dropped out. Due to that one or two days when you couldn’t get any writing done… You felt like you’d failed and you dropped out.
Or maybe you picked up your thread again, but those missing days still bug the hell out of you.
Don’t heap unnecessary pressure on yourself
The truth is, with everything else that’s going on – Covid, lockdowns, restrictions, job worries – you don’t need the added stress of writing obligations.
Or a feeling that you’ve somehow failed.
#NaNoWriMo is great for getting people engaged in an activity for a fixed period of time, where you can also talk to other participants.
But if you find it’s all getting too much, it’s perfectly okay to drop out.
Your health is more important than a word count
First of all, your health and wellbeing come first. Secondly, your writing won’t necessarily benefit from you feeling stressed out and under some kind of obligation to produce.
If you feel that NaNoWriMo is the boot up the backside you need to get you motivated, there are others ways to get the same results. And they don’t involve the same short-term pressures.
If you can find a writing group – including an online writing group – that would certainly help motivate you.
You could also try and find some accountability partners. It can be one or two and then check in with them periodically. Set reasonable goals for the next check-in.
Never set unreasonable goals. You’re just setting yourself up to fail and feel bad about it.
And that can keep you trapped in a negative downward cycle of ‘what’s the point’ and ‘I can’t do this’.
One technique I found helpful in the past
One thing I’ve found helpful in the past is writing down a word count for each day. Even if it was just 30 words. Tiny word counts were fine because there were other days when the count would be in the thousands.
Momentum was the key.
I could count up the words at the end of each month, each quarter, each half-year, and each year.
Over the years, the overall word count went up dramatically.
At first, there was novelty and enthusiasm. Then there was the sense of obligation and the grind of having to do it. This is why even allowing small word counts can help. After a while, I had to write and if I didn’t there was a feeling of dissatisfaction. I didn’t associate it with a sense of failure or duty either. It had more to do with the feeling that writing was such a part of my daily life that I missed it and didn’t feel right when it wasn’t there.
Nevertheless, we’re all allowed breaks.
If you feel that a month of writing isn’t for you, it’s fine to take a step back. Never mind what other people are doing. Writing is not a competition – though it might feel like it is sometimes when you’re on social media.
Still intent on finishing #NaNoWriMo?
If you’re feeling a bit burned out, but you still want to continue, remember to take breaks. Go for a walk. Listen to music.
If you need help concentrating, you can use a social media blocker like Cold Turkey.
You can also use a Pomodoro timer to pace yourself.
Whatever you write this month is just a jumping-off point, not the end goal. You can rework it later. Or even run off with a side character and live happily ever after in a new plot/novel!