What to do if you Lose NaNoWriMo
This month has been a rough one for us! And I started it with such big plans!
This month was not only going to be the month that I do NaNo and vlog every day on boniface my YouTube channel and I FINISH the book that I want to get signed next year.
THEN. The universe threw me a curveball.
I’ve been working on another side project, because you know... I have so much free time. And it’s a GAMING CHANNEL!
I’m going to be covering Harry Potter: Wizards Unite; Niantics new AR game.
And they dropped a trailer.
And the hype train began.
Now, if you want to know more about that, just click HERE to watch that video.
But then, we got another curveball.
My husbands car was stolen out of our driveway at home. 2,300 dollars of tools GONE.
Crazy enough, this blog is barely paying for itself and my husband works 45 hours a week as an electrician. So that was a BLOW. We were down to one car and had to replace tools with money we didn’t have. MAJOR STRESS.
Now, as I write this, we JUST today got my husbands car back. No tools, but we have insurance and that process is rolling. So we will be okay. But I’m behind. Irrecoverably behind.
And now, my profile on NaNoWriMo.com won’t have that little purple square for 2018. And that’s often how I measure my year for success.
Now, that’s a lot of excuses. And a lot of reasons to not sit down and write. But it happened anyway.
And we’ve all been there.
So what do you do when you are there?
Here are the steps you take when you loose at NaNoWriMo
STEP 1: Take a beat.
Okay. It’s been a crazy month. You’ve tried and tried and either life got in the way or you let life get in the way so you didn’t write all your words.
You still wrote a TON of words! And you should be proud of that! I wrote 20k this year! That’s great!
So now you BREATHE.
Take a night to finally binge that series you didn’t while you write. Drink a glass of wine or two. And...
STEP 2: Find Your Trigger
Look back at your month and your writers bullet journal and try to see what tripped you up. Find out what triggered that procrastination.
This is a topic that Kristin Martin brought up on her YouTube channel and I've been mulling it over for a few weeks now. Check out her channel if you haven't already because she has some great tips for writing and productivity!
This step can be a GAME CHANGER. Not just for NaNoWriMo, but for writing habits and life in general!
When you figure out what stops you from writing, or doing the dishes, or laundry, or paying bills; it opens up a whole new world of self exploration and productivity.
Maybe you get sucked into an email, Instagram, or YouTube hole?
Lots of computers and phones allow you to schedule downtime from certain apps during certain times of the day. Once you’ve decided what your writing time is: schedule a time to BLOCK those apps from pinging you, bugging you, or even being OPENED. That way, you can buckle down and get work done.
Maybe you’re writing too late in the day and your brain is too roasted to be creative?
I recently read a study on a thing called “decision fatigue”. Basically, we make a LOT of decisions during the day and the later it gets, the less likely we are to want to choose and we sink into those comfortable procrastination habits. Like email, or Instagram, or YouTube.
Instead, you make the time in the MORNING when your brain is fresh from sleeping to be creative.
Now, you’re saying to yourself:
Zoe... I’m NOT a morning person. I don’t function until the second cup of coffee.
Okay. So drink your coffee, sit your ass down and write.
But I work.
Get up earlier.
Then write on your lunch break.
Listen. We all make excuses on why we don’t want to do the thing we know we are supposed to do. And you can sit here and make up every excuse you want.
I’ve heard every single one from my own lips.
And I’ve made a few up myself!
There’s going to come a time when you are staring down the barrel of your own insecurities and make a choice:
How bad do I want it?
I’ve been facing THAT loaded weapon for a while now and I made my choice.
So, if you put it off until the end of the day, but then decide you're too tired when it comes down to it, your strategy isn't working.
Maybe you’ve put your manuscript somewhere difficult in hopes of keeping it safe?
Lots of people put their manuscripts on a thumb drive or a hard drive in an effort to keep them from a horrible data corruption.
There isn't anything wrong with this, but if it's your only copy and you don't keep a copy on your computer.
You are adding another step to your writing process and that could be your big hang up.
This was the trigger that Krisin from Kristin Martin found was her trigger for procrastination. She changed it up and found herself more productive!
There is nothing wrong with backing up your data with the fervour of someone who still thinks Y2K is gonna be a thing. But maybe don't have your backup as your primary source? Defeats the purpose.
Maybe you’re not prioritizing enough self-care time and you can’t be creative because you need to take care of you?
For a lot of people, productive time IS self-care time. But when it comes down to an event like NaNo, the pressure can be too much and make it no longer be a stress release time.
When that happens, you HAVE to figure out a thing that works better for you.
Taking a bath (not for me)
Reading a book (YAAAAS)
Going to get a mani/pedi
Do a mani/pedi at home.
A walk ALONE.
Maybe you’re letting housework be your excuse for not doing the work?
I know that laundry has been sitting for three weeks. But you're going to waste your motivation looking for orphaned socks?
I know that its getting hard to find clean spoons, but you're going to spend naptime doing that instead of WRITING?!
I know that spot of the floor is always sticky when you walk over it, but it's been that way since you moved in and you want to bust out the simple green NOW? NO. Sit down and write your damn book.
I'm a stay at home mom so I know the pressure that comes with that to always have a perfect home.
But I'm not the only adult living in this house. And my husband is very supportive, especially during NaNo.
So during November, my husband does more than one load of dishes a week. He picks up his damn socks. And even folds laundry for me. Without me telling him.
I know! But its only during November. *sigh*
Especially if you're like me and you HATE during housework and often claim to be allergic to it, using it as an excuse to write is WEAK.
That random stain on the tile didn't matter last month, why RIGHT NOW? Oh, because you would rather delint the dryer exhaust and scrub the underside of the kitchen table than write 1600 words.
All of these excuses are just you getting in the way of your own dreams because you're afraid that if you pursue them, they won't come true.
We all have this fear. This fear that if we try, we will find out we aren't good enough. That other people will see that we aren't William Shakespeare.
So we make up excuses to not do it.
Isn't that so silly of us?
STEP 3: Journal
Oh yeah, big surprise. The journaling blog wants you to journal while you take on your procrastination problem.
When you take the time to write something down, it becomes more real. It solidifies it into your mind.
When you make big changes, writing it down can be just as effective as saying all of it to yourself in a mirror.
I also listened to a podcast where someone said they write down all their feelings and doubts but also why they are powering through and making the decision anyway. That was the Internet Creators Guild podcast.
You hold on to this letter to your future self, explaining things and why you are making the decision that you are. And it's supposed to put future you at ease with your decision.
Hank Green in the podcast I mentioned above, talks about how it’s a way to forgive yourself if things don’t go completely to plan. It’s a buffer against your own self-loathing.
So, whip out that journal and talk about how you feel, why you’re making this decisions, all the doubts that come with it, all the potential success that comes with it, and tell your future self that you did your best with what you had and you tried.
And later, when you read that letter, maybe be a little kinder with yourself than usual.
STEP 4: Make a Plan
Okay, you’ve done all the processing stuff and figured out WHY you do things. Now it’s time to actually STOP doing the thing.
When you make plans like this, you have to use the SMART method, which I’ve talked about HERE and HERE and it’s pretty much the same process.
Basically, you just need to make goals that make SENSE and make a plan that you can actually execute. You HAVE to make sure that you give yourself EVERY tool that you need to get things done.
There’s a trick among bloggers that I’ve been trying to master for some time, and it just hasn’t worked out for me. It’s called batching; you take tasks one day at a time and you do like tasks all on one day. You film everything on one day, edit all on one day, do social media all on one day, and write blog posts all on another.
I kept trying and trying to get this technique down and it just wasn’t working. I kept trying and trying and couldn’t stick with it.
This week, something clicked. I guess I finally got the flow right? One day was setting me up for success for the next and the next and the next, instead of jumping one day to another and half completing things.
It also helps that I’ve FINALLY figured out when I work best and what my triggers are!
I’m REALLY good at falling down YouTube holes. Like… REALLY good. I’ll get sucked in for the whole day and NOTHING will get done.
I’ve really cranked down on my consumption of content, especially before I create in the morning, making it easier to get rolling.
So, I don’t watch until after I’ve sat down and started to work on my own content. If I get into a groove, I can turn on a YouTube video to listen to in the background.
So I avoid my procrastination trigger by waking up earlier (or trying to, still working on that) and not turning on YouTube or Podcasts or Netflix until I’ve STARTED writing or editing or taking pictures for instagram.
ALSO, I use Calendar Blocking, which I might do a post on in a couple of months, after I’ve tweaked my own system to work for me.
But BASICALLY, I take the tasks that I know need to get done, and I treat it like it’s an appointment. Like someone is going to call me and be on a call with me talking about my blog post that I have to write or the video I need to film.
Seriously. And it WORKS.
Rather than looking at my to-do list and going “I’ve got time later.” My whole day is laid out, including naps, meal times, breaks, and when I should be working. So, I get up, do all my prep for the day, including making coffee, get the boys up and ready and then at 8:30 SHARP my butt is in my chair and I’m WORKING on the thing I need to work on.
Now, full transparency: I’ve been doing this for a week only. But it’s feeling mush better than the other batching strategies already!
That’s cool how do I apply all this to NaNo?
SO, when November rolls around, you need to look at your day and set an appointment to sit down and get that writing down. If you’ve been doing this for a while, then you know about how much time it’s going to take you to write 1600 words.
So, you work all day. 8-5. And you have a 30 minute commute and it takes you an hour (I know it’s a lot, but I’m lumping in breakfast and coffee in there) to get ready for work. Normally you get up at 6:30.
You know that it will take you approximately 2 hours to write your words for the day.
You could get up at 4:30 in the morning all November but are you REALLY going to do that?
No. No you’re not.
So get up at 5:30. More reasonable. Get your ass up, get ready for work and then write until you have to get into the car. For an hour before work.
Because you’ve started your day out with creating something, that primes your brain for the day and it kind of wants to continue working on that thing. It sets your tone for the day.
If I start my day zoning out on YouTube or instagram, then that is ALL I’m going to do all day long.
And this is NOT a realization that I’ve had for a long time. This is a realization about myself from THIS WEEK.
But I’ve FINALLY hacked my own brain and it’s taken me 26 years to do that! I feel like I’ve cracked the secret to Life, the Universe, and Everything!
So, make a good plan, figure out your day, and then treat that writing time like it’s an appointment.
STEP 5: Forgive yourself. And then keep doing it.
You didn’t meet your own expectations for NaNo. And yes, it’s a challenge set up by someone else. But it’s still a thing that you made yourself do! No one made you do it, so it’s just that easier to beat yourself up about it.
Once you have a plan in place and you’ve done some SERIOUS self reflection, then you can get into the process of forgivng yourself.
I realize that it sounds pretty Woo-woo, but forgiving myself has been a thing that I’ve been working on.
If I am carrying bitterness in my heart toward myself, now am I supposed to get over what everyone else has done to me and move on with my life to focus on ME again.
Regret just takes up too much mental ram. And I don’t got time for that SHIT anymore!!!
So, you tried. And that’s what matters. Now you have a plan so you don’t fail next year.
And, if you’ve used this as an opportunity to learn about yourself, then you didn’t fail at all.
Thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with me today and I really hope this article helps!
AND thank you to everyone on my Instagram and here on the blog who hung out while we dealt with earthquake recovery. And COUNTLESS aftershocks! We are just fine, just trying to recover mentally.
The Ginger Wordsmith