Keith MacKenzie 26 letters. A million and more words. No limit to stories.

Keep your NaNoWriMo in NaNoWriMotion

As a writer, I strive for – and dread – these moments.

The moments where I must create something new out of thin air. I’m one of those writers who will go long, dry spells without writing much at all, and then suddenly, furiously, in a moment of self-torture, I will chain myself to my desk and challenge myself to write 50,000 words in one month.

And hence, NaNoWriMo, one of the greatest inventions since the ink-filled pen. Fifty thousand words in a month. Harder than it seems, and easier than it seems.

Right now, there are five days left in the month and I am now at 36,000 words in my latest masterpiece-to-be. Somehow, I must scrawl another 13,000 words in the last five days.

And yes, to those of you who wondered why I haven’t written much here this month since the launch of my blog, this is my excuse. I’ve actually been writing.

The question I’ve been asked many times is just how I do it. I’ll give you five quick tips on how to keep your NaNoWriMo in NaNoWriMotion:

1) Ritual – Set a routine and stick to it. Write at the same time every day, immediately after breakfast, or after your workout. Even when you hate it, and even when you don’t want to do it. You must do it, no matter what. No excuses. Take the phone off the hook. Say goodbye to your family and friends and excuse yourself from the table. And disappear into your office or your favourite writing hole. Only then, will the words flow. Which brings us to…

2) DIscipline – no one said writing was easy or a fun hobby. It’s a struggle at times. There are times when you really don’t feel up to it, or you don’t feel inspired. Well, too fucking bad. Get your pen on the paper and write anyway. Even if it’s garbage. The top marathon runners got to where they are because they got up at 6 in the morning and started running, regardless of the weather. If they panted like dogs in the first 5k, too bad. They kept going. They didn’t shut the alarm off and sleep in. And nor should you. Be hard on yourself. You can relax, once the work is done. Which brings us to…

3) Reward – give yourself a reward when you’ve accomplished a writing goal. When you’re finished writing a story and you’re happy with it after the multiple stages of editing, go have a glass of scotch. A big one. And when you’ve finished your 50,000 words at the end of November, go have a bottle of scotch. Not the 750ml bottle, either. I’m talking about the 1.14-litre bottle that you can only find in the duty free. And what if you don’t finish? That brings us to…

4) Punishment – you must punish yourself for failing. Like I said earlier, you have to be hard on yourself. If you didn’t get to 50,000 words, you’ve failed. You are a failure. You suck. You should have and could have done better than that. My friend Stephen O’Keefe is doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, and he’s driven by the fear of punishment. He’s written a postdated cheque to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and given it to his sister to deposit if he doesn’t get to 50,000 words on time. Now that’s what I call punishment. And that’s what I call motivation. Which brings us to….

5)  Motivation – sitting around waiting to be motivated isn’t going to get you motivated. You are in control of your own motivation. Get off your ass, sit at the desk, and start writing. After all, if you signed up to do NaNoWriMo, that’s a sign that you’re motivated to take on a new challenge. Milk it for what it’s worth. You’ll feel amazing once you’re done.

My brain is currently racked with hundreds of different scenarios for my work-in-progress, and I find myself horribly agitated at this point in time. But no matter. I still have to go to my desk (motivation and discipline), and I have to do it tomorrow (ritual) because I know I’ll feel like shit if I don’t get to 50,000 by Nov. 30 (punishment) and I’ll be able to sample an extra-loaded glass of rum and eggnog (reward) if I’m successful.

I don’t know about you, but these five strategies have worked for me. Now, no excuses. Get pen to paper. Get fingers to keyboard. Get your NaNoWriMo into NaNoWriMotion.


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Four books in the fire. Dozens of short stories fluttering about. Mission: To get the word out.

One Response to “Keep your NaNoWriMo in NaNoWriMotion”

  • good stuff good son…see you on mon…