I’ve recently been reading John Birmingham’s excellent (and very sweary) book ‘How to be a Writer’ and am really enjoying his practical, no nonsense advice.
Mostly though I have been intrigued by the very dedicated way he works. He manages to fit so much writing in his day thanks to the use of the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management technique that works to keep you focused by separating your work time into thirty minutes lots. Essentially you work for 25 minutes and then rest for 5 minutes. You do this for 4 times and then you take a 15-20 min break. He does this all day long, everyday, with the exception of his lunch break.
I gave it a try over the past few days (while the kids are at school / daycare) and I have to say that I have gotten a lot done! It’s amazing how easy it is to stay focused for 25 minutes when you know you have a 5 minute break coming up. I found I was able to work steadily on my novel without the distraction of social media, or getting up to go and do some housework, with the timer on my phone keeping me in check. I think it’s also useful because you work in short bursts of time so you don’t have time to get bored. 25 minutes goes very fast when you get into the groove of it!
This is definitely a technique I will continue to use and will keep in the back of my mind for the next NaNoWriMo (yes, I’m already thinking of that!)
Do you use a time management technique to keep you on track too? I’d love to hear about it!
I spent years convincing myself that I was simply too busy to write when the truth was that I just didn’t know how to make it work.
NaNoWriMo taught me a lot of things. It didn’t just prove to me that I could write 50 000 words in a month, it also showed me that I can fit a daily writing practice into my already busy life. Who knew?
Here’s here I did it (and am continuing to do it now that Nano is over):
- Specify a goal and a deadline
- Nano made this easy because the goal and the deadline was already decided for me. Once Nano was finished though I found myself a little lost. So I created a new goal (1000 words a day, complete the first draft of my manuscript) and a deadline (Jan 31st). It’s realistic and it keeps me focused.
- Be flexible (and sometimes creative)
- While I would love to spend my day writing in a quiet room, it’s just not possible with small children around. I write when Mr 2 sleeps, when they watch tv in the afternoons, when they are colouring in or drawing at my feet. Some days I don’t write at all, and that’s okay too because sometimes other things are just more important.
- Have the right tools
- Scrivener has been a blessing for me because I can sync my computer and ipad and write on the go. I had a few weekend trips during November so it was essential that I could write on the plane or in the car at a moment’s notice and it’s handy to have the option to write while out and about, just for something different. Carrying a notebook around is also a good idea for catching any ideas or quiet moments during the day.
- Find your people
- My local Nano group and Twitter have become a great source of knowledge and comfort. I discovered the #500in30 idea thanks to the talented and wonderful Alison Tait on Twitter and use it almost daily now. For those who don’t know about this it’s where you set yourself a timer and then write 500 words in 30 minutes. It stops me from overthinking things and allows me to just get words on paper. I usually always get more than 500 words whenever I do it and by the time 30 minutes is up I’m usually so involved in the writing that I keep going. The #amwriting hashtag on Twitter will also deliver some like-minded people. I’ve certainly found it helpful to know that I’m not alone!
- Have fun!
- I don’t take writing or myself too seriously. It sucks the fun out of it and I need writing to be about passion and not become a chore. So sometimes I don’t write, or I write a lot. Sometimes I’ve just gotta jump on the trampoline with the kids and forget about it all for a while.
I’m sure I’ll learn many more things along the way but for now I hope those tips might help out someone else struggling to fit writing into their day. It’s possible with a little determination and organisation (just like everything I guess), even with a couple of energetic young boys in the house.
I did it. I wrote 50 000 words in 30 words. I am a NaNoWriMo winner!
Even more important than the winning though is the fact that I now have 50 000 words of my story complete. It’s only 45 000 words more than I have ever written on one thing before and actual proof my ability to squeeze some serious writing time into my days. Granted, I did have to get creative at times, I still managed to get some words on paper every day except 1 (I’ll blog about my tips for fitting writing into your day when you also have small children soon!)
My story is not finished but I feel like it is going somewhere. I feel like it is going to work. I have confidence now in my ability to get it done instead of just thinking about it, and dreaming about it.
December is a bit of an insane month with Christmas celebrations and the end of the school year but I’m still hoping to get some words done. Definitely not 50 000 but I’m okay with that, so long as I can keep the ball slowly rolling.
I know I can do it now and that’s the main thing.
I can hardly believe that November is already half-way over.
The great news is that I have been successfully writing each day over the past fifteen days. I’ve also been reaching the target word count almost each day (which is 1667 for those that don’t know). I’ve now made it over halfway in terms of my overall word goal too, with over 25 000 words written in total.
I’m still amazed at how much I have written. This is absolutely the most words I have ever written on one thing and I’m feeling a great sense of accomplishment each day as I chip away at my goal and at this story. It’s also making me realise that it is possible to fit a daily writing practice into my day without too much effort or stress.
I have indeed needed to write in the gaps on many days so far but I am doing it. I am writing in cafes, libraries, on the back deck, in the playroom, on holidays and in bed. I am writing while the kids run around me. I am writing quietly by myself too whenever I can and I am getting it done.
So while I may not be writing here, know that I am writing. I am using up every precious minute of my day.
Murakami pretty much always says it best.
Today is NaNoWriMo Eve (and also Halloween, which seems strangely appropriate). I am ready to go, eagerly awaiting getting started on this crazy adventure. I’m optimistic about reaching the word count and about finding time in my day to write. I have an outline of my story and an idea in my head about where I think things will go. I am packed and ready to go. I guess all journeys begin like this.
I’m certain that there will be difficult days ahead. Days where I won’t be able to fit any writing in or where the writing feels forced and lacking. I’m sure there will be moments of self-doubt and tiredness and I’ll want to throw the whole thing in.
But today there is only anticipation and I love the feeling of it. I love looking forward and knowing that at the end of this journey I will be different to the person who sat here writing this today.
What’s not to love about adventure?
Once I’ve made up my mind to do something I am pretty determined to do it. So why come at this writing thing in a gradual way when I can spend the entire month of November fully immersing myself in it?
I heard about NaNoWriMo through the So you want to be a writer? podcast. I had never heard of it before and it sounded like a crazy/interesting idea – to write 50 000 words in a month. I am always up for a challenge so I looked it up and found that Brisbane has a very supportive Nano community that rally together during November for support and guidance. My mind was made up.
With less than a week to go until November rolls around I have been busy outlining my novel and working on my characters before the hard work begins. I have updated my Bullet Journal with a word count table (and some other ideas from Boho Berry) and started playing around with Scrivener, which is where I will be doing my writing.
I am filled with plenty of excitement and only a tiny bit of reservation about the month ahead. One way or another I am going to get some words down, even if those words don’t quite add up to 50 000.
(Image: courtesy of National Novel Writing Month)