Last minute scramble

(NaNoWriMo cheerleading post for November 5)

Oh, no.  It’s nearly bedtime, and you didn’t get your 1,667 words written?  Sit down and get to work.  You still have 15 minutes before bedtime.  Why not settle for less than perfection?

It’s not all or nothing.  It’s all or something.

We tend to catastrophize.  Human beings set themselves goals and then, when they don’t quite reach them, they say, “The hell with it,” and give up.  They go on a diet, but eat an entire box of doughnuts.  (When I say “they,” I mean “me, the first time I went on a diet.”)  But as you may have noticed, I have come to believe that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.  So what if you don’t get 1,667 words today?  Write 1,666.  Or 750.  Or 20.  Something is better than nothing, and you’ll be farther ahead tomorrow.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Set a timer and write for twenty minutes.  There’s a timer for “word sprints” like this on the NaNoWriMo site.  You can download a Pomodoro app.  If you can’t think of anything to say, write “I can’t think of anything to say,” over and over.  I told some of my students to do that.  They always eventually thought of something to say, because it’s such a boring exercise you can’t help coming up with ideas.
  2. Or go over to 750 Words, sign up, and type like a maniac until you hit the total.  If terror motivates you, use Write or Die.  And if you get on a roll, it’s okay to keep writing.  Really.  You’ll catch up on your sleep later.
  3. Or get your phone out, open the Notes app or your mini word processor, tap the microphone icon, and start talking into your phone.  Just because you’re not using your fingers, that doesn’t mean it isn’t writing.
  4. If you can’t even do those first three things, when you are still lying in bed in the dark at 2:00 a.m feeling like an impostor, get up.  Turn the light on.  Sit at your computer or pull out your notebook, and write.  I guarantee when you’re done you’ll be able to go back to sleep.

After you write for a bit and before you get into bed, schedule tomorrow’s writing session for a better time on your calendar. Brainstorm some situations when you could steal writing time, like bathroom breaks, train commutes, or standing in line at the grocery store.  Break your sessions into fifteen-minute periods scattered over the day.

Yeah, and you could forgive yourself and go to bed.  Always an option.  If you do, schedule your writing for first thing in the morning.  Set your alarm for twenty minutes early.  I can’t do that, but maybe you can.

But tomorrow?  Try to write more than necessary.  Get ahead of yourself so when (not if) this happens again, it’s not a catastrophe.

Next post:  What next?  Bring in the sub-plot

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