write. play. repeat.

from joy to joy to joy

Day 7 – Set the Soundtrack

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

I don’t know about you, but I need to be in the right “mood” to write certain types of things. By now, you probably have a good feel for the type of mood your novel needs, so why not have some fun with it?

Make a couple of mixes on iTunes or select some CDs that fit the storyline and feel of your novel.   You can use these mixes to help get you in the right headspace for your story and drop you right into the plot where you left off. You might even create mixes for scenes with particular characters to help get you there.   Does your hero rock out to heavy metal?  Do the lovers need some jazz standards to dance to? Or is an eerie, instrumental piece best for your supernatural thriller?

Selecting some music to write by can help you sit down for a session even when you “don’t feel like it”.   Set the mood to make your work more effortless.

Day 6 – Spruce Up Your Space

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

Happy Saturday!  Hopefully, today has provided you with some extra time to catch up if you’re behind, and maybe get a little ahead of the target word count in preparation for a busy week.

The weekend is a great chance to take a look at your at-home writing space and see what you can do to make it easier for you to work.  Do you have a better lamp you could stick over there?  Do you need a more comfortable chair?   No need to go out to the office furniture store and buy all new stuff – you probably have something around the house that will do just fine.

Before your next writing session, take 15 minutes (no more!*) to spruce up the part of the house you’ll be writing in.   Lay out your notes in an organized way and get rid of any stray bits of paper that don’t pertain to the day’s work.

As I write this post, my home office is littered with boxes that need to go out to the recycling bin and stray items that need to “find a home.”  I’m planning on tackling that right after I hit “publish” because I absolutely can’t stand working in a really messy place.    It’s messy enough inside my head – I don’t need the environment to match it!


* I know lots of creative folks who get a sudden, uncontrollable urge to clean everything whenever they’re about to work.  This is called procrastination.  Limit yourself to 15 minutes and use a timer if you must.

Day 5 – Shut Out Distractions

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

If you’re using a computer to work on your novel, as I imagine most of you are,  I’m sure you’ve been distracted during writing sessions by the siren call of Google Reader, Twitter, news feeds, or Facebook by now.   I’m guilty of checking Facebook six hundred times in a row just so I don’t have to get back to what I’m supposed to be doing — it’s a perfect timesink.  Luckily, there are remedies for people like me.

During your writing time, make a commitment to not browse the web or check email.  Turn off any program that gives you pop-up notifications so you won’t be tempted to take a look.   You can even use something like LeechBlock (a Firefox Add-on) to block certain sites for a set period of time.

Another great tool is a simple writing environment that’s designed to be used in fullscreen. I use Ommwriter but WriteRoom is another good one.   There’s also DarkRoom for Windows users. These programs can block out any other distracting windows and leave you with just your words.

Turn off the phone, shut down the wi-fi, and put on your headphones.  It’s time to work!

Day 4 – Use the Buddy System

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

Believe it or not, some folks have an easier time keeping up with a writing schedule during the week because their schedule is fairly structured.  Juggling weekly work and responsibilities requires that writing time be scheduled and kept up with if you want to meet your word count goals.  While the idea of having a whole bunch of extra free time on the weekend may lead you to believe it’s easier to catch up then, many people find that the lack of structure breeds procrastination.

As you approach the weekend, you may want to consider finding a friend or fellow participant to be your accountability buddy.

See if you can find someone to check in with each day this month (or maybe just on the weekends, if that’s when you need it most).  Set up a time to call or email each other just to say, “Hey, have you written today?”  or “I’m planning to write from 3pm – 5:30pm and then break for dinner.  I will call you when I’m done.” If your “buddy” is local, you could schedule meet-ups and go pound out some pages at a local coffee shop together.

Sometimes, just knowing you have someone expecting you to give them a progress report can help you meet your daily goals.  You’ll also have someone you can vent to or lean on when your energy is flagging.

If you’re looking for an Accountability Buddy, feel free to use the comments section here to find someone!

Day 3 – Resist the Urge

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

Right about now, you may be starting to feel it.  It starts as a tickle at the back of your mind, then perhaps a twitch in your left eye.  You get up for a cup of tea and find that the feeling isn’t going away.   I wonder if that’s the exact name I gave the coffee shop in the first chapter?  Does Ralph limp on his left side or his right?

Your hand moves to the mouse to click back a few pages, just to be sure…  Don’t do it!

This is not the time to edit things you wrote two days ago.  Actually, the time to edit won’t even be on December 1st.  Going back to “fix” everything you just did will only keep you on a writing hamster wheel — putting in a lot of effort, but not getting anywhere.   Today, try to resist the urge to repair and check up on details or plot lines you established at the start of the week.

If your story is going completely off the rails, you can gently nudge it back on course or choose to follow one of the wacky tangents that have come up without going backwards and retrofitting.   If you end up in a different place than you started, you can always edit the start of your novel to fit the new plot… later.  Much, much later.

At this point, trying to correct as you go along is just another form of procrastination.  Let the desire for perfection go and keep plugging away at the task ahead.  Onward!

Day 2 – Establish your habits

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

Congratulations on beginning this project!  You’ve taken a step that, whether driven by a plan or by sudden impulse, is often the hardest for people.  You’ve started and managed to churn out a few (or a lot) of words onto the screen.

I want to encourage you very early on to establish habits and a routine for your NaNoWriMo efforts.  Decide today to schedule your writing sessions in advance.A project like this requires daily writing for most people, and if you have obligations other than writing you absolutely need to decide ahead of time when you will be able to work.

If you can’t pick a specific time, that’s ok.  Something like, “Every evening after dinner” or “Right when I wake up, after walking the dog” is ok if you know you will be able to stick to it.

As you’re getting started, you may not need the extra motivation to sit down and write – the excitement and newness of the project drives you to it with little effort.   However, when week 3 rolls around, you may find that your days have filled up with a lot of activity and you’re struggling to work in time at the desk.   Prevent that now by using tools to help you plan (Google Calendar and TeuxDeux are two of my best friends) and setting a routine you can stick with.

Wishing you good work and happy writing!

In Solidarity


I’m not a novelist, and don’t really have any current plans to be one.  Songs and poems are my preferred (very short) forms. I am, however, someone who loves writing and writers and I admire the spirit of everyone who chooses to spend November slaving over a keyboard.  As such, I always get a little bit of NaNoWriMo fever when November rolls around and want to do something along with my friends and loved ones who are working so hard to churn out 50,000 words over the course of 30 days.

My big brother was a state champion runner in high school.  My favorite job was being his personal cheerleader, hurrying to certain points along the race route to shout and yell for him to get to the finish line.  I’m not sure how much I helped, but my brother told me he could always hear me encouraging him.

In that spirit, I’m going to be spending the next 30 days working along with you and cheering from the sidelines.  I’ll be posting every day this month, and I hope that some of the posts will offer encouragement, humor, and a little bit of inspiration to keep you going until December.

At the start of this crazy, difficult, amazing challenge, I wish you nothing more than to set aside perfectionism and write, write, write.  This is an opportunity to let go of your critical voices and internal editors for awhile, send them on an island getaway, and just get some material onto the page.    Set aside any judgment for now – the goal is quantity, not quality this go ’round.

Ready, Set, Go!

Spring in the Fall

You may have noticed it’s been…eerily silent around here.

That’s because I’m this month’s Guest Blogger over at Spring!

We’re talking about Creativity for the whole month of October, so I’ve been posting once a week with my thoughts and some insight into my personal creative life.   If you’d like to check out my posts, you can find them here:

Oh Hush, You Are Too

5 Ways to Get Creatively Blocked

Routine Redux

And if you found me through the Spring blog, welcome!

Rebooting, the Results

Many of you were asking me how my week long “reboot” experiment went.  In short, it was wonderful.   Hard and a bit scary at times?  Definitely.   Worth it?  Absolutely. This coincided with the first week of The Shed Project, which was perfect timing. I regretted not being able to dive right into the forums and post, but it was more beneficial to me to be starting the project during a week where I was mostly detached from technology. I was writing a lot during that week, so I’m going to share a little breakdown for you with bits of my stream-of-consciousness writing from each day.

When I got to work on the first day, my very first step was to go into my Google Reader and click “Mark All As Read.” It was such a simple thing, but I actually found my heart rate speeding up and my hand shaking a little bit! Why was this such a big deal? Instead of running away from my emotions about it, I wanted to really dwell in them and observe what was happening. Since my moratorium was on reading and not on writing, I immediately grabbed my journal and started writing it down:

I can’t believe that actually made me feel nervous. What do I think is going to happen if I miss out on some blog posts? Will the world stop turning if I’m not observing it? Will I be out of the loop, no longer one of the “cool internet kids” ? Why do I care? I don’t think I consciously realized before how important it has become for me to feel like I know what’s going on everywhere. Now it’s just me and my immediate surroundings. News from beyond my little circle will be delayed in getting to me. I wonder how it will feel to be back in “analog” … where important things reach me by word of mouth.

Day 1 felt shaky all around, and sort of like I was wandering in a haze. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. When I found myself accidentally reading a blog entry someone linked, I had to close out the browser quickly (and it WAS accidentally — I did it out of habit, without even thinking.) That made me step back and consider how often I am taking in information unconsciously, just reading whatever is in front of me, clicking whatever friends share, mindlessly absorbing it all. No wonder, as my friend John said in the comments, my “inputs were clogging up the outputs” !

That night I cooked a pretty good dinner, ate face to face with my partner-in-crime, and started working on a project around the house a little bit. It was so quiet. And nice, actually. I went to bed early, leaving the stack of books on my nightstand untouched.

More after the jump!


Friday Poetry: Song for Autumn

photo by Xavier Fargas

Song for Autumn

Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
 the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you enjoy your weekend, and that some hints of Fall have started appearing where you live.