Scheduling, Buddies, and Creativity as Keys to Writing

I admit that I’ve fallen off the boat with NaNoWriMo writing. At the beginning of November, I promised myself that I’d write the requisite 1,600 words per day, every day, until the end of the month. It seemed like a simple goal until I sat down to do it. The words were coming out, but I was getting disenchanted with the flatness of my words and characters. So I slowly stopped writing regularly, finding it easier to focus on other tasks (such as blogging!).

I’m disappointed, though, because in the time that I spent cranking out a certain daily word count, I was starting to have a narrative-style voice emerge in my head. I began to think that perhaps there were other reasons behind my sudden cessation of writing – a few ideas that I share here for other people attempting NaNoWriMo this month.

First, and most importantly, I wasn’t scheduling writing in. I haven’t scheduled anything really concrete in the past couple of months because I’ve had such a deceptively open schedule. But in Gretchen Rubin’s upcoming book entitled “Before and After“, she outlines the importance of undertaking strategic scheduling to achieve happiness and peace in your work habits. Gretchen published on her blog the example of a PhD student who forces herself to get up early in the morning to work on her doctoral thesis – thus scheduling regular computer work between the hours of 6am to 9am (see the full story here).

I also tend to have a habit of doing things that only feel really productive or to which I’m held publicly accountable. This holds true for a lot of people, which is why exercise psychologists often recommend that you form a partnership with a workout buddy to stay motivated and attend the gym (Choksy, 2004). And once you’ve done something regularly for a while, you tend to stick with it as a long-term habit; though research has shown that the amount of time required to form a habit varies person to person (Gardner, June 2012).

Lastly, I have surprised myself this month by finding fictional writing less pleasant than I recall from childhood. As a youth, I wrote stories simply bursting with fables and stories of magic, putting little to no effort into the endeavour. Creativity is thought to be fully present in even very young children by researchers (Vygosky, 2004). Now I have to reach past a veneer of analytical thought when I’m trying to write. I’m also hesitant to try and reclaim any form of unrestrained creativity, in case I lose some of my cool-headed, adult rationality in the process.

I believe that anyone who is struggling to push ahead on NaNoWriMo will draw a lot of strength from scheduling in regular writing times and sticking doggedly to that commitment. A writing buddy holding you accountable for each stage in the process may also help, as may indulging in creative thought outside the bounds of rationality. Good luck to all!

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