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NaNo Strategy: Creating in Abundance but Avoiding Burnout

Last post harping on NaNoWriMo, I promise!

This year heading into NaNo I wasn’t even sure if I was going to participate. Last year I went all in for round one and I succeeded. I stumbled out of November with a half baked manuscript, 50,000 words, burnout, and severe word overdose. I wrecked my sleep schedule, wrote in the car on the way to and home from events, limited social engagements and only spent time with my husband or family for meals. I knew this year, with professional exams wrapping up and running a clinic day to day with a full patient load, that NaNo couldn’t be my top priority, and if it isn’t your top priority you’re probably not going to “win” NaNo.

But this year I have a strategy. I am rebelling in a small way while adhering to rules of convention. I am starting a new novel, not one word of it written, but I am not ONLY counting words for the novel. I am counting my blog posts for Creating Confidently and BioPed. I am counting my Instagram and facebook (We are on Facebook now - go give our page a follow!) for Creating Confidently. I am counting all digital words written in the month of November. Yes, I want to complete this next novel, but I still have a novel in the editing process. I have a full time career and exams coming up - and that has to be my top priority.

How am I coping with the knowledge that I, a competitive and intense human, will not win NaNoWriMo and still participate? Check the blog quote of the month! I am entering this season of NaNo with a humble mind and ambitious heart. I want to win, I want to track my progress, I want to see how much I really write, but I know that my priorities are different. I know that NaNo can't control my life. I know that for my sanity, for me to function day to day I can’t deny myself sleep for the word count. I can’t hit 1600 words everyday. But I am not limiting myself. I am bound and determined to write daily. I can create in abundance without running myself ragged.

Boundaries are in place.

Rituals that ground me are habit.

Support surrounds me.

My top tricks to Creating in Abundance without Burnout:

  1. Humble Mind, Ambitious Heart - I am fully embracing this mantra. When I chose it for the month of November I had already firmly decided against participating in NaNo. I wanted to explore the idea that creatives were put down for having drive and ambition when it comes to their creations, how they can hurt themselves with their own ambition, but when tempered with humility, when balanced with growth and the willingness to make mistakes and learn, ambition is a beautiful thing. Coming to NaNo humbly admitting I am doing it my way, I am changing the rules and probably going to miss the win, but I am driven to try. Approaching with humility in earnest is hard, but it mitigates the pressure of having to be competitive and gives grace to the process and the challenge. Showing up daily to write is enough of a win for me.

  2. Rebelling - as previously mentioned I am counting more than just my novel words. I am counting posts of all kinds, any digital words are being included, because as a writer, it’s not only the words of the manuscript that matter. All words are paving the way for improvement and growth. Limiting myself to only account for the novel writing discounts the blog post work I do everyday; not to mention the time devoted to those words are being taken from the manuscript. The stress of placing all your eggs in one basket is detrimental to success and health- broadening your horizons to include journal entries, free writing and manuscript notes is counting you holistically as a writer.

  3. Time Boundaries - I am not sitting with a timer doing word sprints or allocating specific hours of the day for NaNo. Instead I am choosing to allot time to connecting with friends, relaxation and rest. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of word counts and timed write-in sessions, but if this doesn't serve your work, if it increases stress and makes you lose sleep, it is not a healthy boundary to uphold. Upholding time for connection, support, discussion, life - that is what feeds creativity. Squeezing the well dry each and every day is going to make the next day and the next more difficult to complete and increase frustration. Re-claim your time for family and yourself while keeping the fire of creativity and NaNo well stoked.

  4. Grounding Rituals - I have been doing really well with my grounding rituals lately. No, I don't have a meditation guide or cauldron sitting in my office. But, I do a regular skincare routine each night with a candle for relaxing and a calm playlist to soothe any lingering anxieties about the day. This takes about half an hour each night, which helps to reinforce my time boundaries because yes, I do have a bedtime window. I also have a morning ritual of calisthenic exercise (eight to be exact) and although some days I do these at night, starting or ending the day with movement settles me back into my body and its needs. Honouring my physical self when I’m doing so much brain work is grounding in the reminder that I am more than just my writing and that needs to be acknowledged.

  5. Meeting your Needs - I find it incredibly helpful to take stock every day and see what my needs are. Are they being met? Am I avoiding meeting those needs? From exhaustion to hunger, enjoyment and movement, we all have fundamental needs we need to meet. NaNo can be all consuming, and in that pressure cooker situation it is so easy to forgo our basic need to fulfil our desire for the word count. I find that stepping back before I sit down to write to see if there are any unmet needs that I can satisfy; being tired is often not one I satisfy before Iwrite, but if I am falling asleep on the couch I will take myself to bed instead of sitting down to get the words out. On the other hand, if hunger is gnawing at me I make a snack or consciously take my time at dinner before sitting down to write to make sure I am fueled for brain activity. Making sure your needs are met makes for a happier, healthier you and therefore an easier, more enjoyable work flow when you do sit down to NaNo.

That’s a wrap on my NaNoWriMo strategy for 2022. Do you have any practices or strategies going into NaNo this year or during any writing deadline or creative challenge?

Share in the comments or DM us on Instagram or on our Facebook page!

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