Developing the habit of writing…

Right now, writers from around the world have pledged themselves to either the NaNoWriMo or CampNaNoWriMo challenge.  They’ve signed their lives away, at least for remainder of the month, determined to write 50,000 words within the span of 30 days. (For CampNaNoWriMo, they have elected to work toward something much smaller.) 50,000 words may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t. In many cases, it’s not even a full novel. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was 76,944 words.

So, 50,000 words in 30 days… For some, it can seem like a scary number, but it’s only 1,667 words a day. But this is where things can start to go awry.

There are many who see the prestige of writing 50,000 words in one month and will take it to the insane level of writing 50,000 words in one day. No joke. Within my home region of Christchurch, New Zealand, there are those who do this every year. Granted, they tend to be the university students heading into exams just as NaNo starts — they wanted to get NaNo out of the way so they could focus on their studies. Perfectly valid idea in my mind, however, I believe that people who are fixated on the word count are missing the point behind NaNaWriMo and CampNaNoWriMo entirely.

While the folks at NaNoWriMo have set a word count goal to win the challenge, the true challenge is to create a habit of writing.

The idea behind NaNoWriMo and CampNaNoWriMo is to write a little bit each day. If you have time to write more in one sitting, that’s fantastic. However, just a little bit everyday adds up. Some days, you’ll be on a streak, unable to stop, the fingers flying across the keyboard or the pen across the paper. Other days, you’ll be lucky if you manage a single paragraph. Whether it’s a good or bad writing day doesn’t matter. The fact that you sat down and wrote something is what counts.

For some people, finding the time to actually write is the biggest challenge. Most of us are on the constant go, hardly knowing which way to turn. The best advice that I could give any writer is to carry a notebook and writing implement everywhere you go. If you are one of those that hates notebooks, then carry your phone with a dicta-phone app.  Don’t force yourself into this thought that to write you need to be sitting down at a computer. This couldn’t be any further from the truth.

When I starting writing fiction on a regular basis, there was no way that a computer was going to see my precious mental release. I spent day in and day out programming, staring at print outs and data graphs. I wasn’t going to fight with a computer for something that was meant to be a pleasure. So, I wrote the first draft of my first novel entirely by hand. I wrote while I was on the bus travelling between the university and my house. I wrote while my husband was watching TV. I wrote while I was eating my breakfast or lunch. I wrote in bed at night, just before I fell asleep and dreamed of the next scene in the story. For a full year, I wrote my fictional works in small notebooks, stealing the precious writing time from wherever I could.

Instead of scrolling through the social media feeds on your phone while savoring that cup of coffee, write down a paragraph or two in that notebook that you carry around.

Events like NaNoWriMo and CampNaNoWriMo are meant to force you to think about writing, forcing yourself to find the time to dedicate to it, but what about when it’s over? According to psychologists, it takes anywhere between 21 to 66 days to form a habit. Instead of spending the month focused on word count targets, use this month to develop a habit of writing that you’ll be able to carry on with come next month, and possibly for the rest of your life.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Posted in General Advice, NaNoWriMo, Writing and Editing and tagged , .

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