[Editor’s note: Part 1 of Self Care for NaNoWriMo posted November 8.]
Well hello there, Wri-mers . . . are you hydrated today? Have you taken a moment to breathe? Yeah? That’s great! You are well on your way to fostering some wonderful habits that you can carry over into your non-NaNo life!
But what’s that you’re saying? You’re creatively blocked? Sick of your story? Sick of spoken and written language altogether?
Ah, yes. Creative burnout is a very real phenomenon and not at all a pleasant one. Good thing I have, thanks to my personal experiences and suggestions from many other creatives I know, come up with some nice little block-breakers and creativity hacks!
NaNo Self Care: The Mind Edition
Here are some simple ways to not just survive NaNo, but to thrive in the process. These items can be done whenever you feel like your writing is stalled, your process is failing, or your mind is just not in the game.
Change up your scenery or work area. While repetition and routine can work wonders for forming habits, these things can start to feel more like ruts when you are experiencing creative burnout. You can change your routine in a variety of ways: move your computer or notebook into another room; change the decorations on your desk or add some holiday decor, soothing scented candles, or other happy-place items; mix up your mix–music-wise–and listen to some new stuff; get out of the house/office/regular writing cave and attend a write-in, find a nook in a public library, write with a partner, or write at a different time of day than usual.
Don’t be afraid to suck. Write a note to yourself and post it in your writing area that is a reminder to your writerly soul that IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE PERFECT. It’s okay for a first draft to suck. It’s MORE than okay, in fact . . . it’s normal. If it’s important enough to you, you can sand down the rough places in a later draft. We all go into this knowing that we are not writing our cleanest/best, and keeping that at the top of our thoughts can go a long way in breaking blocks that hold you back from getting out those words and having fun.
Talk about it. Speak–aloud–to yourself or a friend (or houseplant or pet) about what is frustrating you most. Talk about why you think your piece stinks. Rant about how crappy your word count has been, or about your insecurities or plot knots or whatever you feel is holding you back. At the end of no more than half an hour, make a plan: how can you move past these frustrations? What can you do to push forward? Articulating both problems and solutions aloud can go a long way in invigorating your process.
Remember to play. Set aside an hour in the day where you do nothing but play. Allow yourself the luxury of sitting down and typing nothing but nonsense. Plop your broody MC into a ball pit at Chuck-E-Cheese, scribble whatever random words and phrases pop into your head, make a bullet-point list like this one of all of your MC’s most hated foods, visit a random generator to come up with absurd prompts, take your antagonist to your favorite coffee shop for an interview session, give your broody MC a perky makeover. If you can’t play on the page, step away and watch an episode of the show that inspired your piece in the first place, do some fan-art of your world or characters . . . you get the picture.
Remember you’re not alone, then get back in the chair. Step away from your manuscript and visit the NaNo forums/blog/website to see how other people are dealing with their blocks and slogs. Engage, lurk, or whatever serves your process best, but purposely be aware that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in this . . . that the event itself is one big community of people doing the same thing: writing.
You are back in the chair now, write? I mean right?
I hope these lil’ tips and suggestions help you in your quest to crank out those words, and here’s wishing you a most lovely, joyful, and awesome NaNoWriMo 2019!