Every November, I feel a quiver in my bones. Up in my parents' attic, my college degree is huddling for warmth and having PTSD flashbacks of peer reviews and 60-page short story collections. It's National Novel Writing Month, and take it from this Creative Writing major, it's a doozy every year.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for those of us that enjoy acronyms you don't actually ever say out loud, is about pulling writers out of our collective funk and getting us writing. I can't count how many years I've told myself I would start writing a book and failed to, but this year is different. I'm not gonna write a book, but I am going to enjoy writing more by not pressuring myself to complete something cohesive. And, I'm going to purchase some things that will make it easier on myself for my lack of commitment.
The first thing I'm doing, and something I recommend starting with if you have the same feeling as me, is finding books to occupy my time. Whether that's fiction from your favorite author (I plan on re-reading my favorite collection of short stories: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson), non-fiction about what's going on in the world (here are a couple books to start with), or even books about being a better writer.
The first one on my list of books to read that will help me with writing is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. This was recommended to me while I was in college by a peer, but I never got around to reading it. Now's finally my chance. Here are a couple other books that talk about writing that don't feel like a how-to:
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- 642 Things to Write About by San Francisco Writers' Grotto
- Several Short Sentences About Writing by Vetlyn Klinkenborg
- You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins
My next favorite thing to do is look at new notebooks, even though I have probably close to a dozen in my apartment, with not a lick of ink in them. A new, blank notebook is like porn to me. While I will always appreciate what Moleskin has done for getting pen to paper, there will always be something so satisfying to me (probably from the amount I used them in college) about using yellow legal pads. I have visions of sitting on my twin XL bed surrounded by pieces of short stories on yellow sheets of paper, crumpled from being shoved into a tote bag and worn soft like an old leather jacket.
The next step up from that, though, is investing in a smart notebook. Whether it's the newest iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, a Google tablet and Pixelbook pen, or something a little closer to home like Moleskin's Paper Tablet and Pen+ smart pen or the Livescribe Echo Smartpen, there's something to be said about technologies penchant for reverting back to pen and paper, even if it's digital.
I could go on and on about what writing things down does for your productivity, but a lot of that is based on personal bias. I know plenty of writers who believe in only ever writing things down on paper with ink, but I also know plenty who have moved through the waves of technological advances with ease, and prefer to adapt their style to use what's available.
As someone who has at least eight notes in her Notes app consisting of inspired writings of various length, finding the time and energy to actually sit down and write on paper is tough. The final recommendation I can make to anyone using that as an excuse (Not me, obviously. I would never make excuses not to write.) is to get one of two things. Either opt for a fancy recorder you can stash in your bag and use to transcribe later like a 1950's private investigator, or invest in something like Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
We are all our worst editors and if you present yourself with something that allow you to just speak uninhibited to be edited later, you won't get stuck trying to word something cleverly or find the right metaphor. You can do that later, after you get what you're trying to say out of your brain and onto something tangible, without worrying about whether it's actually good or not. Dictation software is the key to getting over that hurdle, because it allows you to freely spew your stream of consciousness. You can edit it later. Take your finger off of the delete button and slowly back away.
November is a tough time for a lot of people who once had dreams to write a novel (and even tough for those in the middle of trying to finish writing a novel), but there are a bunch of things you can do for yourself to make every month NaNoWriMo.
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