As we near the end of National Novel Writing Month, there seems to be an increased amount of anxiety about completing before the deadline. Regardless of whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or not, getting deadlines finished before the year end has never felt more frantic as we approach Christmas and what’s supposed to be relaxing time off! Whether you’re creative writing, essay editing, or just plain panicking, here are some tips to get writing done this month:
1) Block out time and get to it
One of the biggest blockades to getting writing done is one’s own internal monologue of “I don’t have time to do it!” For sure, life is busy and bustling and with Christmas on the horizon it can feel like it’s all go go go! But, time is on your side and it’s in your hands. If you don’t have time for writing, or at least you feel like you don’t have time to do what you want to do, simply make time. Look at the way you spend your evenings, or your break times, and think about how you could use that time more to your advantage, instead of watching reruns of Friends or scrolling through your phone. Block out the time intentionally, and stick to it!
2) Try the Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro Technique is one of the most popular strategies used in the workplace, in education, and by busy people in real life. The principle is simple, for every 25 minutes of work you do, you give yourself a short break of, say, 5-10 minutes. In this time you can refresh yourself, get moving, or just relax for a second or two. It’s proven to help people knuckle down and work harder in the time they’ve got ready for their next break, rather than having endless reels of time ahead of them in which they feel they can procrastinate and not structure their day. Something similar to this is having a diary that breaks down your day into 30 minute intervals so you can really structure in everything you have to do by time; rather than having an unending to do list and “no time” to do it in! Also, for everything you do get done, you can spend your breaks rewarding yourself for being productive!
3) Technicnology in another room
You might be channeling self restraint and not be scrolling through videos of cute bunnies all the time, but your phone will ping while you’re working, and you know you’ll look at it if it’s next to you. So, put it on airplane mode and in a drawer, or even put it in the next room. Nothing terrible will happen if you just shut off the outside world for an hour or two and just stay present in what you’re doing.
4) Don’t censor yourself
Stephen King’s key piece of writing advice is that the first draft is just about you understanding your work. This means just getting it all out on the page without over censoring and critiquing
what you’re writing. You’ve got endless drafts to consider sentence structure, character development, word choice, the timeline of the story, everything! Just get your ideas out in front of you, and worry about putting it all together later. Perfection won’t come from a first draft, but great ideas will if you let them flow!
5) Create a space that inspires
Whether it’s a curation of art and good luck charms on an old rickety desk you’ve always had, your dining room table, or a coffee shop window seat; find somewhere you can be, and write, and enjoy yourself. Working in the chaos of your messy bedroom, or in the middle of a bustling busy kitchen is never going to get the work done – you have to find the space and the environment that allows you to fully focus. For some people that’s a silent library, for others it’s a noisy co-working space, or a hangout with loud music. Find a place that works for you and puts you in the right frame of mind to work. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has famously stated she writes from her bed and only crawls out for food. However, a lot of people find that if you work from your bedroom you find it difficult to switch off from work in there as it becomes less of a sanctuary for sleep and relaxation, and more the place that you work in. Some people find having a clear work/write-life balance is key, and other people prefer otherwise. Whatever works for you!
6) Refresh yourself
Keep chilled water handy, some energising snacks (whatever that means to you)! If you’re not fuelling your brain, you’re not fuelling your work or your writing. If you’re feeling good, choose snacks that you know will definitely power you; like bananas, carrot sticks, and a non sugary drink; but sweet treats are also perfectly acceptable in the guise of rewards for hard work!
7) Get outside
Used to spending your lunch breaks scrolling on Twitter reheating the tea you forgot this morning? No more! Use your breaks to your advantage by taking a 10 minute walk. Sitting down for long periods of time is really bad for our bodies, and getting a break with some fresh air is not only great for your health, but it also gives you distance and perspective from your writing or your work, and in that time, you’re more likely to have a lightbulb moment than if you’re staring at a Word document for 4 hours. Also, the cold air is much better for you than a sugary snack that will just make you feel more lethargic later on!
8) Make time to read in the evenings
Anyone else call themselves a bookworm, yet struggle to actually make the time to read? Why not try going to bed one hour earlier than you usually would, and properly dedicating that time to reading. It’ll spark inspiration, stimulate you creatively, and also give you a bit of escapism from your day. Writers do always say, if you want to be a great writer, you need to be a great reader!
9) Get some rest
You can’t do your best when you’re sleep deprived and obsessing over your work. Give yourself permission to take a break, have some distance from your project, and definitely get your eight hours of sleep each night. You’ll thank yourself in the long run!
10) Remember that you create the deadline and its flexible
At the end of the day, it’s no fun writing if you’re forcing it and making yourself super stressed. NaNoWrioMo can be a wonderful time to hold yourself to account and knuckle down on your novel idea, or get that essay done. But if it’s too much, you need to remember that the deadline is yours and you need to check in with yourself if the energy and time isn’t there, and don’t torture yourself for not being able to write. Give yourself the kindness you would give someone else who was having a bit of writer’s block, and have a break, and come back to it when you feel nourished and refreshed – and then you’ll do your best work!