NaNoWriMo: How Not to Stop Writing

So, you’re working through NaNoWriMo. How’s it going? No, really, how’s it truly going? Be honest. Stuck? Is the flow being knocked off balance because you are incessantly editing? You’re worried everything you’ve been writing is garbage so you go back and check it, “fix” it, and edit, edit, edit.

If you’ve read my blog before you know I have a love-hate relationship with NaNo. I get the idea; I even applaud it. But really, do we need a special month? Why can’t we just get to it anytime, anywhere? Write, people. Just write. And learning to HOLD OFF ON THE EDITING—in the month of November or any month—is key to shredding your anxiety.
If you’re so concerned with your work that you are continually going over it, page-by-page, sentence-by-sentence, while you are writing, then you are wasting valuable time and effort. Stop self-editing, pulling yourself back into the prose you wrote the day before, tweaking and twisting the story…before you create it. Create first.
Here are five tips to help keep you writing and not editing.

1.  Write while listening to music. Make a playlistof songs that fit the theme of your work and time it out roughly to the amount of time you have dedicated to write. Play it loud, through speakers or in your ear buds. Let music be your guide. Write with its rhythm, think of it as a workout, and don’t stop typing until the last chord.

Some music to consider: Miles Davis, Kind of Blue; The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World; Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks.

2. So you don’t stop to look something up or do research, write in a placeholder. This was a suggestion I’ve seen in several books and web articles, including the BREVITY’S Nonfiction Blog, and I’ve been doing it in my work for years. Instead of wrecking the flow of your writing to search for information about which way the Chicago River runs, just type: LOOK UP CHICAGO RIVER INFO. This reminds you to do it later and and not while you’re writing. 

3. Consider a hard deadline and a stop sign. Don’t write until you have depleted the well. Leave a little. Write for an hour, or two. Set a timer. (Use that music!) But when the time is up, stop. Even in mid-sentence. This helps when you come back the next time. You can get going right away.

4. Turn off your Internet connection. It takes away the temptation to check your email, Twitter, or roam the web.

5. This is the time to only look forward. Do not look back. You are writing something meaningful, interesting, compelling, beautiful. But to get there, remind yourself that you have to let the flowers grow first before you prune. No pruning now. Let the garden grow, weeds and all. Then, and only then, when it is in full bloom, start the work of trimming, clipping, shaping, and fertilizing. Weeds may choke real flowers if you let them invade the garden, but the weeds in writing will only help you to see the beautiful blooms.

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie Finding Forrester when Sean Connery’s character—a recluse writer who befriends a young city boy who dreams of being a writer—teaches the young man a lesson about the craft of writing. He sits him down and demands that he get on with it. You have work to do. Go write.

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