It’s that time of the year again! I know some of you are going for your 50K words and participating in National Novel Writing Month this November, and I salute you! Since I’m on deadline, I’m going to have to bow out this year, but I wanted to make sure you had a few tricks up your sleeve to make sure you could hit your daily word counts and keep up your flow. Below are a few ways you can bring mindfulness–and maybe even a little meditation–into your process each day. And then: watch those words fly out of your fingers!
Mindful Tech: Make it a point to be mindful about how you use tech this month. You want to hit your daily word count – 50K words in one month is no slouch. You can’t do that if you’re on your phone all the time. So make a rule for yourself:
No phone in your writing space (And turn your phone on silent)
Disable all notifications on your phone for the month (see Mindful Social Media)
Disable your wireless while writing – if you need to look up something on the Internet, keep a pad of paper nearby and add it to the list–check it after your writing session
Create a vacation responder on your email: I’M WRITING THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. SEE YOU IN DECEMBER. This will take the pressure off of responding to people right away. You want to reduce stress and mental clutter as much as possible this month.
Do not check your email, texts, alerts, or messages at all while in a writing session.
Mindful Social Media: Social media is clutter you don’t need in your head. In order to get expansive and allow those dots for your story to connect as fast you need them to in order to reach your goal, you can’t be scrolling through Twitter, Insta, and Facebook. Here are some suggestions (and if you need lots of help with this, go to my Inspiration Portal and work through my Mindful Social Media For Writers worksheet):
Turn off all notifications for social media on your phone for the next month
Create rules for yourself in terms of the accountability groups you are part of for NaNo. A big, fun part of the process is the community and that’s great–but make sure that you don’t get so caught up in your NaNo group chats that you don’t make enough time for writing and dreaming and thinking.
See if you can got on a social media hiatus. I know, I know. Maybe you want to post updates about your progress, okay, fine. But you want to create the best possible conditions to allow this monumental effort to succeed. Being on social media is not an ideal creative container. I learned this the hard way and recently made some big decisions for myself regarding social media that have made me MUCH more creative and grounded.
Mindful Politics: With the election right in Week 2 of NaNo, this could really throw some people off. Give yourself permission to not be overwhelmed by the political situation. Now, if you’re working the phones or polls that day, then get up early and get your writing in first thing, if you’re planning on writing that day, otherwise it won’t get done.
Don’t let the outcome of these elections keep you from telling your story. Stories matter. YOUR story matters. These are hard times and we need you more than ever.
Stay off social media.
Turn off your TV
Go vote, get your writing done, and THEN watch the returns, if that’s even your thing. Don’t spend all day following the ups and downs.
Mindful Snacking: Another way to sneak some mindfulness into your busy NaNo schedule is to take a couple minutes to mindfully eat your snack or meal. So, instead of eating while writing, give yourself at least five minutes to do nothing but experience your food. Let’s say you’re going for your favorite writing snack: a nice big piece of dark chocolate.
Be totally focused on the chocolate as you open it. Note the packaging, and the color and texture of the chocolate. Think about where it came from, the people that had to work to make this deliciousness for you. When you pick it up, note its weight and texture, and then take a nice long sniff. When you finally eat it, go slowly and really savor the experience: the taste, the feel, all the gradations within that one piece of chocolate. If thoughts arise that are not related to the chocolate, just gently note them and go back to your snack.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time you write about a character eating something, your description will be richer for having done this particular mindfulness practice. It’s also a really nice break.
Mindful Emotions: The month is going to bring on a slew of emotions for you and your characters. Here are some strategies for dealing with the ups and downs of NaNo mindfully.
Here’s a post I wrote for last year’s NaNo on when your inner critic comes to call or you just feel overwhelmed and like maybe it’s not going to happen. Don’t give up! We have strategies for this.
Here’s a post on starting again if you’re really behind or stuck, and knowing that it’s not over until the fat lady sings. (And even then…you’re still alive. You still have a book on you. It’s not OVER).
This is a great mindfulness technique--the Sacred Pause–that you can use whenever you feel blocked, overwhelmed, or just like you need a breather. Quick and dirty, it works every time.
It might seem counter-intuitive to take time away from writing to meditate, but I promise you that even giving yourself five minutes to close your eyes and do a short meditation before you begin writing will get you focused and into your story much quicker. But a great way to bring some meditation into this time is also walking meditation and breath work–see below.
Sit at your desk and, before you begin working, set your timer for five minutes (the Insight Timer has great gongs). Follow your breath. If thoughts come, just let them pass by like leaves in a fast-flowing river. You can read my short and sweet post on finding white space (as in, the literary term) through meditation for LA Review of Books here.
Same as above, but this time, just focus on the ambient sounds. Everything is welcome, even that blaring horn. It’s all part of the meditation. Mindfulness is about allowing whatever is present to just be there. Same with writing.
Set a timer and do five minutes of walking meditation between writing your chapters or scenes to refocus. Walk slowly, in a straight path, about twenty paces. Stop. Turn. Walk back. Your object of meditation is your feet on the ground. See below for more on walking meditation.
If you’ve got twenty minutes, you can check out any of my meditations for writers on the free Insight Timer app. Just click below or go to the specific links I’ve provided.
RAIN Meditation (great when your inner critic is being mean)
Mindfulness Meditation (sit and breathe with me for 20 minutes: focus and flow)
Lovingkindness Meditation (when you need some gentleness)
Here’s a post I wrote on how to get started with walking meditation. It’s great to do between writing sessions as a break to clear your head and re-energize for the next bout. You can do it inside or outside.
There are tons of benefits of walking for creatives–and the science to back it up! Even just going outside for a walk, while not walking meditation, will really get those creative juices flowing. If it worked for Thoreau and Hemingway (and me!) and every writer I know, it’ll work for you. Bonus: fresh air!
I love this breathing exercise, which meditation teacher Ralph de la Rosa introduced me to in one of his newsletters. You can find his recording here, but it basically works like this:
4: Breathe in through your nose for a count of four. A nice, big inhale, filling your belly.
8: Hold your breath for 8.
12: Exhale through nose or mouth for a count of 12. If you run out of breath, just keep breathing, but also keep up the count. Then continue the sequence again.
( Inhale for 4. Hold for 8. Exhale for 12.)
You go seamlessly through the sequence as long as you wish. I suggest going through it for 5 or 10 rounds. You could also set a timer for three minutes a so. It’s another great thing to do before you begin writing, or as a transition between chapters, scenes, etc. Or any time you just need to clear your head.
I hope this is of benefit to you, my fearless writers! Best of luck as you write your hearts out this month. I’m rooting for you!
Breathe. Write. Repeat.
As usual, you can sign up for my newsletter, the Lotus and the Pen, to get your free 7-Day Meditation Starter Kit for Writers.
The newsletter = special downloads of guided meditations and worksheets, discounts on my courses, creativity and mindfulness hacks, and access to my Inspiration Portal.