writing routine

  • #NaNoWriMo Burnout

    #NaNoWriMo burnout
    #NaNoWriMo burnout

    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!

    More posts from the blog

    You need author photos but you’re camera shy

    Social media blockers

    Is dialogue ruining your scenes?

    Boost your writing with the Pomodoro technique

  • Social media blockers

    Blog image for 'Social media blockers'.
    Social media blockers

    Social Media Blockers Provide a Quiet Room

    Spending too much time on Twitter or other social media? Checking the #writingcommunity and #amwriting threads there far too often? Come on, be honest!

    This is pretty much the modern equivalent of tidying your desk or playing with your pencils. If you really want to maximise your writing time, you need to get tough. You need a social media blocker.

    I know, I know … you have this really good reason to be on Twitter. You have this writing or plot problem and if you just put out a tweet about it, maybe someone will answer. A blocker would totally interfere with that.

    So, there you are on Twitter, or FB, or wherever you hang out, and while you’re waiting, a million other fascinating tweets/posts will appear. Before you know it, a couple of hours or more have gone by, and you’re running out of writing time.

    Another problem is that social media just fractures your concentration. The internet throws so much information at us, and for so long, that our attention spans have diminished. We’re chasing one shiny new piece of information or entertainment after another.

    Sometimes you just have to get tough. One way to do that is to use a social media blocker …

    Protect your writing time by using social media blockers.

    I use the free version of Cold Turkey, though there are others available.

    On Cold Turkey, you can make up custom lists of sites you want to block. My two worst time wasters are Twitter and YouTube, so I have that as my A-List. My B-list is just Twitter. So, um, Twitter is definitely my downfall, with YouTube a close second.

    For other people, it’s Facebook, Instagram, or some other place. It’s always worthwhile checking your browsing history to see just how long you spend on certain sites, going from one page to another.

    Virginia Woolf talked about the necessity of having a room of one’s own to write fiction. But the internet gives us a neverending window of passing traffic, entertainment and noise. It removes that quiet room needed to get some writing done.

    And that’s why it’s worth using a site blocker. Cold Turkey comes with a timer, and you have the option to add in a break time.

    There are other alternatives – including a number of Chrome add-ons. Pause, for example, literally pauses your access to a site by showing a calming green screen for five seconds (or longer, if you want to adjust the timer). You are encouraged to reflect on whether you really want to continue to the site or not. This add-on is produced by Freedom Labs and you’ll find it in the Chrome web store.

    Then there’s the ingenious Forest, which encourages you to ‘plant virtual trees’ instead of visiting your usual internet haunts. It’s more of a nudge app than a blocker. So if you don’t mind your trees dying when you leave the app, then you need something stronger. Forest works on iOs, Android and Chrome.

    Other blockers and nudgers are available, some free, some with paid options. For now, I’m happy with the free version of Cold Turkey.

    Personally, I find it a bit of a relief to have the block on. And if you really do have questions you want to ask others in the writing community, you can always jot them down and ask them when the timer is up. Social media will still be there.