Writing is full of distractions, both internal and external. Here’s some ways to get through it.
Welcome to Part Three of the Writing Tips NaNoWriMo 2017 Countdown, where I talk about the dark side of NaNoWriMo (I mean, we’re two days away from Halloween, so I might as well get spooky for a minute). So, welcome to:
Part Three: 5 Ways To Focus During @NaNoWriMo
And the rest of the series
Part Six: Get Writing Prompts By TFR Volume 1 For Only 99 Cents!
Not to alarm you, but writing is difficult and words are hard. The other day, I was inspired to write this piece when I saw something retweeted into my Twitter timeline. It’s linked here, is a picture called of a PowerPoint slide titled: Why You Think You Don’t Have Time To Write.
And the reasons are:
– You’re letting other people tell you what you should do with your time.
– You’re not treating your writing seriously and so no one else does, either.
– You need a dedicated writing space.
– You’re doing what’s urgent rather than what’s necessary.
– You don’t let other people solve their own problems.
– You think you’ll have more time later to write.
– You’re spending time doing things you don’t care about.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either turned to or away from writing, depending on what needed to be done and how easily the words are flowing. Now, what works for me may not work for you, but I still encourage you to read on for five ways to focus during your NaNoWriMo session, especially if you’re fully committing yourself and want to make a concerted effort to make it to 50,000 words by the end of November. Some of these tips will harken to the points I mentioned from that tweet, while others will reflect advice I’ve already posted in the Writing Tips posts, but there’s no reason to not repeat myself for extra emphasis.
Commit To Your Writing Time
In the first point of Part Two, I wrote about committing to completing your NaNoWriMo project, and part of committing to the project as a whole is committing to your time to actually sit down and write. It doesn’t matter if you pull out your planner (either hard copy or on your smart phone) and schedule out 30 to 60 blocks of time where all you’re going to do is write, or if you know that in the morning you’re going to write a bit before class or work, or you’re dedicating the next month’s lunch hours to the NaNo cause, just commit to taking the time to reach whatever daily milestone you’ve chose.
And part of committing is taking your writing time seriously. In the tweet I mentioned, the second point stated, ‘You’re not treating your writing seriously and so no one else does, either.’, and that’s extremely important. If you’re going to commit to your writing time, then you must commit to it and make it clear to everyone around you that you’re committing to it. If you’re not the type of person who likes to talk about the specifics of your writing project, then just tell your friends and family that you’re working on a new project and you’ve set goals you’ve committed to reaching, and you need your space to accomplish that. If you take it seriously, then so will they.
Don’t Get Distracted By That New Shiny
Sometimes, it feels like every time I sneeze (which is both often and weird), I come up with a new plot idea. But if you’re committing yourself to your NaNoWriMo project, you can’t let yourself get distracted by starting to write another story. If you do, you’ll never finish either your NaNoWriMo project or that new plot bunny or any of the other plot bunnies you come up with. What I recommend is either taking some space in a notebook or a note on your phone and name it something like, Potential Future Story Plots. Take some time to jot down as many notes as you need (but not like, an entire outline), and then go back to work. Whatever it is, it’s probably a cool idea, but it’ll keep. There’s nothing saying that you MUST write every thing you think of at the same time. I know that there are stories that I come up with that I may not be ready to write right now.
Earlier this year, author V.E. Schwab, who you should TOTALLY follow on Twitter because she’s brilliant and hilarious and realistic about writing, posted a video on her YouTube Channel on Shiny New Ideas, which I highly recommend you watch.
For the specifics of #GroundhogOne, which is my project for this year’s NaNoWriMo (more on what it’s about in my announcement post), those of you who have signed up for the #MondayMotivation Newsletter (sign up for it here), know that #GroundhogOne is one of two stories, and it’s not the first I thought of. The first I thought of was actually something that I’m nicknaming #OneVendetta, which is something along the lines of the movies Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (with a little bit of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but only the good part, I swear) and V for Vendetta. But when I was thinking about HOW to write #OneVendetta, I realized that I need to introduce the cast first, and that can’t be done in one book. Thus, after a little bit more pondering, #GroundhogOne was born. When I work on writing projects that are within a larger series, I tend to have this habit where I think don’t restrict myself to writing scenes for just one book, but when it comes to NaNoWriMo, I do my best to restrict myself to the project I’m working on. Now, that’s not going to stop me from writing notes toward the plot of #OneVendetta as I work on #GroundhogOne and flesh out the universe that #OneVendetta exists in, and it’s impossible for me to stop myself from coming up with snippets of dialogue to work off of (Prompt Library, anyone?), but my focus is going to be on getting #GroundhogOne off the ground and that alone. Especially because I know that I won’t be able to do justice to #OneVendetta until #GroundhogOne is set.
And Speaking Of Distractions, Get Off Twitter
In my very first Writing Tips post, I wrote about 6 Ways To Transition Out Of Writer’s Block, and the second tip was to get off Twitter. So, do that. And minimize your time on other websites that distract you (like how in Part Two, I mentioned how I went cold turkey on Tumblr and never turned back).
Because it’s SO easy to be distracted. Does anyone remember when the news about the Handbook for Mortals mess? I was glued.to.twitter for HOURS. I mean, part of it was because I was feeding updates to my friend, who is a YA librarian, and therefore NEEDED TO KNOW, but also, like, holy crap it was insane how it all went down. For those of you who don’t know what I mean, check out this comprehensive rundown from one of the websites that broke the news.
But like I said, I spent HOURS following that, and had I been trying to do that during NaNoWriMo, I would probably not reach that day’s writing goal.
You know what your weaknesses are, so know what websites you need to minimize your time in so you can take those writing sessions seriously.
Find A Writing Space
I wrote most of my first novel in a study room in my dorm during my freshman year of college. I wrote the #WhoIsTalyaNightingale novel in a bunch of places, including at work (when I had time to spare, promise), a hotel in Illinois, and my apartment. I’m not a fan of coffee shops, because I can’t help but people watch, but I do remember knocking out some of that story at a Starbucks next to the Galen Center on the campus of USC.
Find a space that works for you. It can be in your bedroom at home, in wherever you want in your apartment if you live alone (or if your roommate doesn’t mind your weird habit of writing on the toilet), an office, a library, a study room, or a cafe. If it works, it works. If you need background noise, make sure it’s productive (and no, that’s not hours and hours of reruns of Property Brothers on HGTV). For more on my thoughts on PRODUCTIVE background noise, check out 6 Sources of Productive Background Noise, which includes one of my favorite online background noise generators, Noisli.
And Something To Remember
The time to write is NOW.
You’re never going to find the ‘perfect’ time to write, and you’re never going to be in ‘perfect’ writing conditions, and you’re never going to be ‘perfectly’ inspired. But you must write anyway. If you don’t try, the words aren’t going to come at all. It doesn’t matter if they’re good, they just have to be there so you can start.
If you need to turn off your phone and disconnect your wireless router to get things done, then turn off your phone and disconnect your wireless router. Download one of those apps that limits your access to certain corners of the Internet for however long your writing session is.
Just do what you need to do, and write.