While “Preptober” invites planning your NaNo project, it’s as important to also prep your life to get the best out of this month.
The biggest stumbling block can be finding time. But you can do it, even if you think you’re swamped. A lot of it is in your power to make choices. How? Take 5+ minutes right now to write down the major events, and tasks that will vie for your attention in November. Family, Doctors, Holidays and prep), sports, etc.. and your writing goals.
Excellent! Now look at the list and designate the top priorities, down to the low, with a simple star or number system. Once done, focus on the top priorities.
CREATE A CALENDAR
One clean month – ahhh. Now fill in ONLY the top 5 things to see where they land and how much time is devoted to them. If your writing is in the top 5, great. If not, this will show you the free spaces to write – or the space you must clear TO do so.
ASSESS NANO SLOTS
First, determine when you have the best energy. If you are able to arrange to write in those times, even if only a time or two a week, that would help you feel extra good about your words.
Visit to our regional calendar to see when our live write ins, kick off, all night write, and wrap up events are scheduled – all of which will again be held virtually this year… which was really successful last year. Pencil in the ones you are interested in.
Now you have a complete calendar to assess.
Too much to do? Look at the calendar and ask: What can I cancel just for this month – or miss just once to make time for writing? What can I reschedule? You will be amazed of what alternatives you think of. I’ve even rescheduled non-essential docs visits. It’s easy to just call to check if you can reschedule without waiting long. There are cancellations all the time. If you’re in book clubs, you COULD just skip one month to write, right? Can a haircut in a good writing slot be booked on a different day?
For the rest, like laundry or dishes, you could ask aloud, “Is there anyone who could do this (once or one day each week in Nov)? If alone, can someone come in to clean, can you switch to paper plates (recyclable natch), or have groceries delivered? Or this month, shop for shelf stable items and make things like lasagna or soup that you can freeze in portions to free up time you’d spend in prep and cooking time. With things a friend can do, like walking the dog or picking up dry cleaning, you never know till you ask! And you can do a favor back… after November. Get creative! You can to do this!
You can handle this two ways: If people are on your priority list, then schedule time with them at intervals, do get your writing time in-between. Then you can use the upcoming visits as motivation to jam on your word counts so that social time can be spent free from feeling being torn (a.k.a mental anguish).
Or you can tell friends/family in advance that for 4 weeks you’ll be devoting any free time to your writing. Thank them for supporting you by putting invites on hold for drinks, outings, hikes, whatever… See them in October or book them in December! There should be mad respect for you.
Tell anyone living with you – whether a partner, roommate, children or whatever – the same.
Not everyone gets it, and most people react to change, even if they support you. Help them (and yourself) by dealing with this early and working out any compromises needed. After all, you’re not just changing your schedule, it changes theirs with you. Remind them that it’s only for a few weeks, but weeks that will make all the difference to you. You may even want to make a November calendar showing your NaNo time highlighted to put on the fridge or the door to where you’re writing, so there is zero confusion.
If you have a writing space with a door that will close, a sign on the door helps too. Or, sit with your back to the room and face a wall or corner to be your own “door.” If you must write where others are, putting headphones on – big, visible ones if you have them – will clue them in, even if you don’t play music through them. Better yet, join the live write ins, where people DO get down to work. Seeing that you’re engaged with others in a “meeting” on Zoom may be the ticket to less interruptions from others.
If you have an unsupportive family, co workers or friends, then you should guard your dreams. Just say no, you’re booked if pushed to do something in your sacred writing slot. Stay committed to yourself. You can also get out somewhere to write. During Covid, when going to libraries or coffee shop was not available, I know folks who drove somewhere safe to park (the outskirts of their local shopping center), and wrote in their car! That can be nice with a thermos of tea and a lap board in the back seat or passenger side. Or find a park with a picnic table or a secluded spot in the sun with your own folding chair and warm clothes (even a blanket across your lap). You can do it!
Now that you’ve created precious time for your dreams, vow to guard it with yourself! Social media, Google and your phone are the biggest threats. Turn off the internet while you write. This is not a time for Facebook, IG or a research rabbit hole. Silence the phone and turn it face down. If it vibrates and you’re still tempted… hide it under a pillow or leave it in another room. Then, if you need a break or a moment’s distraction, do what every writer in time before the last 20 years has done: get up and stretch. Look outside. Open a window. Put on a song, take a sip of something, pace and talk through your project out loud.. No matter what you do, return to the page. All of them are far more productive FOR your muse.
Get the best of November by planning now. You have something special that only you can get on the page, no matter how many words it is. It’s the best gift you can give to yourself… and others!
If you’re struggling or succeeding with any aspect of this, we’re always here! Let us know in the comments.
By Rochelle Joseph