NaNoWriMo is upon us!
I must admit that I am more excited than freaked out. Last year I came across the NaNo website by accident. I just followed an online course through Oxford’s continuing education programme and my creative juices were flowing! I was pumped all the way up to mid-October. But come November I was swamped with work, involved with this very intriguing guy and my will to write vanished into thin air.
But this year, I am wiser and infinite more realistic. Realistic, because I accept that in order for me to be a serious writer I have to learn new habits. Like any other journey in life you need certain skills, knowledge, discipline and a great dose of inspiration to be kept motivated. Knowledge you can acquire (I acquire mine mostly through Wikipedia), skills you can develop and perfect and discipline is a habit you can learn. I am wiser, because I googled and found out a couple of tricks to make a new habit stick.
1. Make it a daily– apparently consistency is key. You might have missed the memo (since I haven’t posted for a while), but I am currently seconded to a client of my law firm’s and I went from having an average 55 hour workweek to approx. a 38 hour workweek. I suddenly have all this spare time, I don’t know what to do with it. At first, the only way I could think of passing the time was sleeping off years of sleep deprivation. But now that I am well rested and energized, I thought I might start writing every evening.
2. Start simple & be imperfect– like anything in life, whether it’s learning to walk for the first time, drafting a contract or kicking a bad habit, baby steps is the way to go. And never expect to get it right the first time. So, I bought myself a black moleskin note book (‘cuz I still believe in remaining stylish whenever possible) and a smooth medium tip ballpoint and just started jotting down whatever popped up in my head. I have these characters and story in my head for years now, so I thought why not start with writing it all down?
3. Form a trigger & stay consistent– I never bought that notion that as human beings we are somehow more sophisticated than our fellow earth dwellers just because we can think. We need a pattern to live by and something to push us to do it, otherwise it will be chaos. When I used to have trouble falling asleep due to all the work stress, someone advised me to think of a ritual for bedtime. Teach your body that it now needs to unwind and get ready for bed. So I did. At first it didn’t work, but I sticked to it and guess what? It worked! Since I am definitely NOT a morning person, I thought it was best to write each evening after I had dinner, watched all my fave tv shows and finished bbm-ing, fb-ing and skyping. That way I feel like I haven’t turned my life upside down (keepin’ it simple as per trick numero 2) and I can stay consistent. Inspired by NaNoWriMo’s word count validation procedure for geeks who write on paper and not on the laptop, I start by counting the words of the pages I wrote the evening before. I re-read some passages and suddenly the words come streaming out.
4. Commit for thirty days– any serial dieter or person struggling with addiction (I would imagine- I diet, but I don’t have a substance abuse issue..yes, lawyers must be able to down large quantities of alcohol. Think of it as a job requirement, not an addiction) would agree that taking that first step is huge, but sticking to it is even huger. They say that it takes -on average- three weeks to make a lifestyle change. My experience with the Cambridge diet (yes, it wasn’t one of my finest moments, but I did look amazing afterwards!) is that the first three days was hell. But with the support from my coach, family and friends I managed to stick to it and after a couple of weeks I developed something not unlike an eating disorder. Suddenly my body could go on for days without real food and I didn’t even feel all that hungry. NaNoWriMo is the best opportunity to try to stick it out- you can buddy someone at random, I plan on joining the weekly write-ins here in Amsterdam and I told everyone I would be doing it and gave them permission to make me feel horribly guilty if I didn’t stick it out.
5. Do it for yourself– yet the most important trick to make a lifestyle change is to do it for yourself. “Shoulds” and “oughts” are great ways to guilt you into living a certain way, but it never lasts. At some point, everyone breaks. But if the will comes from within, that’s unshakable. I want to become a writer, because it’s in me and I can not remember a time in my life I didn’t write. But more than anything, I want to write because it makes me feel good.
So yes, I am taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge and I am doing it for myself. I realize that my word count of 1300 words a day won’t cut it-not by a long shot. But the true prize of the NaNoWriMo competition isn’t to be a winner really (although no one like being a loser right?), it’s about making that lifestyle change. And that, my friends, I am committed to achieve.