Four Tips about Writing and Everything Else

It’s the middle of November; how are your resolutions or yearly goals progressing?

I am incredible. My NaNo word count is a work in progress.

I am incredible. My NaNo word count is a work in progress.

This is the heart of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the month where every writer and would-be writer suddenly finds the time to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Accomplishing this feat results in nothing more than bragging rights and the messy first draft of the novel you’ve been meaning to write. How do we make time now when we didn’t have one spare moment in the past 11 months?

The holiday season kicks off, too. If you’re a crafter, the stress of making Christmas cards is here because only 37 days remain until Christmas. To you chefs, the Thanksgiving meal is 8 days away. Other celebrations and holidays are a few weeks from now. What happened to your New Year’s Resolutions?

Oh, right. Those.

Why do you let everything and everyone else get in the way of your plans? How can you change that?

Schedule writing time, and I mean put it in your calendar. Would you miss a doctor or dentist appointment? What about your child’s football championship? Are you planning to miss your child’s trumpet solo at the musical recital? Writing time–or anything else–is a meeting with yourself. It is important, so block that time off in your calendar.

Set a timer for every activity you do, then switch to something new when the alarm sounds. I’ve heard that tip before, and I blew it off as corny…until I tried it. In increments of 23 minutes, I can wash a load of laundry, take a short walk or exercise, empty the dishwasher, catch up on one social media outlet, reply to some emails, or write a few dozen words.

Set deadlines. If you have a project due at work, do you blow it off and say, “I’ll get to it when I can.” There are unpleasant consequences for doing that. If you’re moving, you have boxes packed and mail forwarded by your departure date. I bet you don’t ignore such timeframes, so set a goal for yourself and stick to it. No excuses.

Reward yourself for completed tasks. If you have something good waiting for you at the end of a journey, you’re more likely to finish. Rewards don’t have to be big and expensive. Buy yourself something goofy from the dollar store. Get yourself a bouquet of flowers, one piece of Godiva chocolate, your favorite craft beer, or a coloring book. Tuck individual rewards you’ve listed in sealed envelopes, and choose one at each milestone you set. Surprises are extra-fun. Whatever you choose, be kind to yourself. If this is the first time you scheduled time for yourself and you didn’t accomplish everything, still reward your effort.

Small, simple changes: that’s how resolutions become accomplishments. “Losing weight” can only be accomplished by first “eating more veggies” followed by “climbing stairs at work for exercise.” That’s why NaNoWriMo is successful: 50,000 words at 1667 words per day. You can make small changes now, even if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season. Take time and test yourself by doing something you love. Write. There’s always enough blank space on the calendar to fit that in, even if it’s only five minutes.

Living by example, come back next month to see how this writer has handled life, the universe and everything else.

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