Dealing With Pre-NaNoWriMo Anxiety: 5 things to do instead of freaking out


We are only fourteen days away from National Novel Writing Month, and the internet is becoming abuzz with the yearly questions: Will I or Won’t I? I don’t Know What to Write! I Never Get Past 30 Thousand Words!

So much worry.

And as an old martial arts teacher once liked to say: Worry is just energy with nothing better to do.

So today’s post is dedicated to ways to handle that extra energy – that anticipation buzzing about, getting ready for a very exciting and exhausting time. I will touch more on all of these points in posts yet to come, but here is a quick and dirty list of how to calm the storm in your mind and prepare for a successful NaNoWriMo.

1. Worry About Your Story Last

It’s perfectly normal, okay, and even a good idea to go into NaNo with no idea of what to write.

Come November, even the most meticulous planners – their outlines shining and new – will not know what to write at least once per day (probably more); everyone will be lost. Spending the rest of October worrying about whether or not you know your plot, whether to write this or that, will only exhaust you, leaving you already spent when November 1st rolls around and the starting gun fires.

What you need is to let your mind rest and refuel. Imagination, creating stories, needs fertile soil and room to roam free.

So chill out and feed your subconscious instead. Let your imagination play in the background. Go read some books, listen to music that inspires you, revisit old childhood fascination. Get inspired, and trust that when November comes, a story will surface.

2. Spend Your Energy Preparing Your Space

Think of NaNoWriMo like a strange vacation. You’ll be here: cooking, working, going to school, but your mind and free time are spent in the realms of word counts and imaginary people. You’ll be gone – spending time writing instead of doing the little things in life – for a month.

You’re about to embark on a journey of 50,000 words.

And before we leave on a journey, we prepare. We pack, we sort, we make sure the little things are in order.

Take time to tidy your place instead of worrying about NaNoWriMo. Let thoughts about how writing may or may not go run in the background while you fix that broken thing that bothers you, catch up on work or homework, have dinner or watch a game with the friends you probably won’t have time to see next month.

Make a den to write in; supply it with snacks – healthy and otherwise – and liquor and caffeine. Buy some incense, do all your laundry and put it away, invest in a pair of noise canceling headphones.

You will be a writer immersed in the world of your novel. Creating mental and physical peace will making the creation process all that much smoother.

3. Automate and Delegate As Much As Possible

Spend time getting all your bills in order, with reminders about when to make payments, or (even better) automated withdrawals set up. Nothing disrupts your creative flow like a $35 late fee – trust me on this one.

If your budget (or living/family situation) allows, arrange to have time-sinks done for you. Hire a cleaning lady, pay that kid up the road to take care of your yard, barter, bribe, and bargain with roommates or family to trade a month of dishes/bathroom cleaning/grocery shopping so you can spent more time at your keyboard.

Stock up on easy-to-fix food like crock pot meals, ramen and frozen vegetables, whatever food fuels you when you write. Write extra blog posts and schedule them out in advance.

Even just one or two things will make a lot of difference over the course of the month. Sometimes the difference between caught up and behind is the same as the time it takes to mow the lawn or cook dinner.

4. Check Your Technology

Of all the worst derailments a writer on deadline can suffer, technology breakdown is the worst.

Make sure your laptop, iPad, or whatever you use to write is in good working order. Update files, back things up, and make sure  when you need it, your tech is here to help you.

And for the love of all that is holy, have a backup system. My second NaNoWriMo, i lost my entire novel 2 days before the end of the month, and my backup only kept 15,000 words. I recommend Dropbox, but anything will do – cloud, google drive, whatever. Just make sure you have a backup you can and will use.

And while it isn’t technology, your eyes are important. NaNoWriMo is a great reason to go get an eye exam. You’ll be spending plenty of hours staring at type on a screen, and even a slight vision change or undiagnosed dry eye can make it exhausting – you might as well find out now instead of when you have chronic headaches halfway through that you need glasses. 

5. Rest

Now that everything else is ready, make sure you get plenty of rest. Rest like it’s your job; really get into it, because you won’t be able to very soon. Lounge on the sofa and binge watch Netflix, read the books waiting on your pile, catch up with people or with sleep. Enjoy all the time you have to do nothing, knowing that it is all in preparation for a marathon of epic proportions.

Rest today, for next month you will be writing.

And if you want to, now you can start to think about what to write.

*If you want to show you appreciation for my work here and elsewhere, please consider donating a small token to the Office of Letters and Light under my fundraising page to help me get into The Night of Writing Dangerously. When you donate any amount – even just $1.00, I will send you a password for my Sponsor Content page for the year – get exclusives to excerpts from my novel, secret writing stashes, and other goodies. Keep writing! -Michelle

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