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Strategies for Handling NaNoWriMo and Depression

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Hoo boy. Now here is a lofty goal that has defeated many a writer. 50,000 words in 30 days? That is a LOT! In my last post about writing with depression I talk about starting slow, starting with a sentence a day until you build up to a habit of 1000 words a day. With NaNoWriMo that isn’t possible. You need to hit the ground running with 1667 words a day. So let’s see how we can modify my earlier suggestions into something workable by looking at ‘meal size’, community support, and mental health.

Meal Size

Many Small Meals – 1667 words a day is more than what a lot of professional authors put out, so it is a big ask. That’s a few hours of writing even for fast writers. 1667 words is like a whole Thanksgiving meal. It is a lot of food to shovel into your mouth at once. So if that number sounds intimidating, we need to break out the knife and fork and carve it into smaller, bite sized chunks. If you are already struggling to write, and can’t sit down and slam out 1667 words in a single writer session, break it into bites. 1667 words is 4 smaller sessions of 417 words each. That’s a paragraph or two, depending on your style of writing. You could break that down even further and do a few sentences at a time, 8 sessions of 208 words each. Think small, write often. Do a little, a lot. Before you know it, you’ll have 1667 words.

Binge Eating – Some writers (myself included) find it easier to get the writing done in as small a time period as possible. This is where sprints come in. You write as many words as possible in a defined period of time. Sprint for 10 minutes, 15, 20, and see how many words you can write. There are plenty of places you can find sprints – On the NaNo forums, in writing groups, on Twitter and Instagram. And the best part – You aren’t the only one doing the sprints! You write alongside other people, with some gentle competition. That can help, if that sort of thing motivates you.

Community Support

The best part about NaNoWriMo, in my opinion, is the community support. Strangers cheer you on, you can make new friends at local meet ups, there are those virtual sprints on social media. It’s great! So take advantage of it! Seek out the NaNoWriMo community and join in on the fun.

I personally find it super motivating to not be writing along in the dark. It can make the mountain feel a little less steep when you are part of a group pulling towards the same goal. Here are some places where you can find NaNoWriMo communities.

  1. https://forums.nanowrimo.org/ The OG site, filled with lots of resources and places to brainstorm and chat about your ideas. 
  2. https://forums.nanowrimo.org/c/regions/81/none NaNoWriMo Local regions. These subsections of the forum are organized by area. A lot of the regions have Discord channels and/or local write-ins (where you meet up and all write together). See if your area has a local support group!
  3. https://www.worldsmyths.com/ /https://discord.gg/bSc64bbnkr Shameless self promo here! We have a Discord server focused on speculative fiction (though other genres are welcome!) with dedicated NaNoWriMo channels. The best part? We are active year-round! The excitement and camaraderie doesn’t end as soon as December arrives, like on the NaNo forums. 
  4. https://4thewords.com/ Does gametization get you moving? Then 4theWords might be for you! Write words to defeat monsters and get rewards. Dress your avatar and participate in the huge monthly questline focused on NaNoWriMo. My referral code is ETFCY69776 if you want some rewards!

Mental Health

How do you keep yourself healthy while pursuing a lofty goal? There are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Food and Water → Words need fuel! Regular meals and hydration will go a long way in keeping your head clear.
  2. Exercise → No, you don’t need to go climb a mountain. My counselor recommends three minutes a day where your heart rate is about 90 bpm. That’s less than a song’s worth of activity. Some sit ups, a few flights of stairs, anything that gets you out of your chair and moving. Follow it up with 5 minutes of mindfulness. Focus on your senses for a few moments, what can you feel, smell, hear? Let your mind stay in the present for just a few minutes to center yourself.
  3. Forgiveness → Some days 1667 words might not happen. Forgive yourself and try again tomorrow. Full stop. Forgive yourself. Life happens, and worry is misuse of the imagination. Don’t get bogged down by missing words and focus on the next day. Eyes forward!

As always, these are things that have helped me. You have to find your own path forward, but I hope this post helped!

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