Making Camp NaNoWriMo Work When Life Doesn’t

Here’s how Camp NaNoWriMo goes for me: I pick out a writing project that I’m psyched to write, yet I find myself with the mantra “I’ll start it tomorrow” because of work and family commitments and errands until I find myself with the month over and no words written.

Has this happened to you?

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Life doesn’t stop because it’s a Camp NaNoWriMo month. That job still expects me to show up to work. Those non-negotiable commitments don’t get wiped from the calendar. Those companies expect their bills to be paid.

Ah, but how grand life would be if it all just disappeared!

Instead of daydreaming of what can never be, we are left to deal with the reality of two choices: Do I succumb to life’s pressures and not write—or do I make choices so that I can?

First, Pick the Right Writing Project

A lot of writing advice blogs say to write a story that excites you. And that’s partially true. You have to be as invested in writing the story as you want your potential readers to be invested in reading it, so writing a story that keeps your attention is the way to go.

But it shouldn’t be your top deciding factor.

You’re a creative writer. I doubt that you only have one story idea that you’re itching to write. You probably have a dozen you can name in under 30 seconds.

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So write down all your story ideas. Now it’s time to be honest with yourself. Do you have any high expectations for any of these writing project contenders?

Eliminate those from consideration.

Camp NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing your best work—it’s about getting yourself to write again. If you’re too intimidated to write, then you simply will find any reason not to write. And your life already has enough excuses to keep your words from hitting paper.

With the remaining story ideas on the table, decide which writing project you don’t mind materializing in the roughest shape for a first draft.

That’s your story to write.

Camp NaNo comes along twice a year to remind us to make time to write. It’s not about writing that best-selling novel but rather to set up a pattern of making time to write in your life.

I know I sure need that reminder.

Then, Kick Something Out Of Your Life—For Now

You can’t run away from your problems for an entire month. There are just some responsibilities in life you just can’t shake.

That doesn’t mean everything you do every day is crucial, even if it feels like it is in the present. It’s time to find something to cut—just for a month.

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Make a list of activities you do on both a daily and weekly basis. Here’s an example of my schedule:

  • Weekdays: morning run, work, soap operas, read, sleep
  • Weekends: blogging, cooking meals for the week, errands, TV, read, sleep

With the right writing strategy in place, you only need about an hour a day to crank out enough words so that you stay on track with your word count goal. So where can you cut an hour in your day to day so that you can fit in this writing time?

For me, I would adjust my running schedule to make time for writing during the week and replace blogging time with writing my Camp NaNoWriMo project. I may not run as much, but I still get to run. I may not be blogging, but I still get to write. This way, I don’t feel like I’m cutting off something I value completely out of my life for 30 days.

How can you adjust your schedule so that you’re not sacrificing your values? That’s the key to succeeding during Camp NaNo because if you’re not happy with your new schedule, chances are you won’t keep it up (or end the month on a very sour note).

While there are writers during Camp NaNoWriMo that make writing a billion words look easy, it’s okay to be like the rest of us and admit that writing a couple hundred a day is a challenge. As long as you make Camp NaNo work for your life (and not make your life work for Camp NaNo), you’ll enjoy your journey (finally) writing that story idea from start to end.

How do you make Camp NaNoWriMo work when life doesn’t? Share your writing tips in the comments section below.

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