Today, I’m thinking about NaNoWriMo.
Chiefly, I’m thinking about the burnout that can occur if you batter your keyboard too long and too often.
Maybe you’ve sat down, cracked open a can of your favourite drink and a fresh Word Document on November 1; then you gulped down that drink like it was giving you inspiration and banged out 7,000 words in one marathon four-hour sitting.
Yes? And then the next day you hammered out 3,000… and so on Day 4, you had a grand total of 17,227 validated in your NaNo account thankyouverymuch.
By this time, maybe you’re beginning to feel like burning out a bit. If, like me, you arise at an unholy hour, commute to work, put in eight hours and commute home again… that, I think, is the beginning of the burnout. (Or school. I haven’t been a school student in a while, but I remember similar enough hours to work)
This is where I felt the crash begin to hit. I’d been on my computer at home doing NaNo, then I’d go to sleep before racing off to work. I wasn’t taking a break.
My advice to you, then, if you are losing inspiration and ideas probably does fly against what others might tell you. At least, if they are saying “keep on keeping on”, then it does.
I suggest a break.
Take the night off. Come home from work/school/other time commitment here, and keep the computer asleep. Back up your in-progress if you really want to, but don’t open it. Leave it as it is. Bake cupcakes, or play solitaire. Do whatever you might do to blow off steam.
Don’t simply push on through the block – I’ve always treated these blocks as my brain saying “Take a goddamn break.”
NaNoWriMo isn’t going anywhere. I think forcing yourself to carry on writing is how you get to hate it – maybe your character begins to annoy the everloving hell out of you. Maybe your plot feels dry, or slow, or insipid, I don’t know how doubt might manifest.
Story time: I recall my 2013 effort. To this day, it remains a sad little 20,000 draft. If memory serves, I blitzed those 20,000 words in just a few days. I didn’t take time out, I tried too hard to work too fast, and I found myself staring at a screen with a little blinky cursor. Eventually, I think I just gave up the writing ghost that year because I just didn’t want to do it. It had become a chore, involving me sitting there trying to push past a block I had no idea how to resolve.
November goes for 30 days, and if you take time off for one night, then you can come back the next day with a fresh mind. Maybe you’ll find some clever new solution, or a great plot twist that was hidden away. I know I came up with at least two twists and a motive when I wasn’t even trying.
Do a #1k30min, if you want to really hammer that word count down. Follow the sprinters on Twitter and chuck a whole pile of random nonsense stuff in to keep writing.
Just allow yourself to take the time off.