The days are getting shorter. The wind is starting to stick cold fingers under your collar. Your favorite writers are talking about this strange being, NaNoWriMo. Making plans. Making outlines. Writing character sketches. Writing blogs, if you can believe it, telling unsuspecting citizens how they can write 50,000 words in thirty days.
I have no writing wisdom to share. I’m here to talk about the dark and gritty underbelly of National Novel Writing Month, and how to survive with some shreds of your sanity intact. You want to know how to really get prepared in the next couple of days?
- Buy new underwear. You can wear the same sweats all month long, but your ideas and your genitals will both stagnate if you wear the same underwear for thirty days in a row. If you really stock up, you won’t have to do laundry until the Thanksgiving turkey is going into the oven. Or later.
- If you have a sweet patootie, have sex now. When you’re getting up early and staying up late to squeeze all those words out of your brain, while convincing yourself you aren’t an absolute worthless hack, you aren’t going to be feeling particularly sexy. Make the beast with two backs now, then maybe you can canoodle again on Thanksgiving, while your underwear is all in the washing machine.
- Warn your family. Don’t be coy about your writing or your schedule. This way, when you start snarling in week two about not having met your quota, they’ll nod and go off to happy hour without you, their eyes wide in awe and admiration, whispering “Writer!” (This is not a free pass to act like more of an asshat than you usually do, by the way. Because when December 1 rolls around, you’re going to need all the support your poor, battered ego can get.)
- Delete all your game apps from Facebook and phone. I would suggest ignoring Facebook for the whole month, but I’m realistic enough to know that nobody is going to do that.
- Get realistic about your menu for the month. Lower your standards. You could go all Betty Crocker and make a month’s worth of freezer meals, and I have walked that path in years past. But it takes cooking skills and time. Stock up on cereal and take-out menus, and tell your children it’s their turn to cook. Realize that pizza is not your enemy. Throw in some fresh fruit, though, because I don’t want to be responsible for anyone coming down with scurvy. Do not try to live on utter crap, like dollar store taco chips and generic chocolate soda.
- Get a flu shot. Then stop by the drugstore and stock up on allergy meds, vitamins, tissues, and Visine. The latter two are helpful for colds, allergies and crying jags when you realize you’ve written yourself into a corner. For the third time. Today.
- Don’t try to change your entire life. This is not the time to tack on a new running program, a 30-day plank challenge, a switch to vegetarianism, marriage counseling and adopting a litter of feral cats that have possibly been contaminated with actual alien DNA. If you try to do it all at once, you will implode. And some other enterprising NaNoWriMo participant will watch and write about it.
- Stock the bevs. Get your favorite caffeine or sparkling water, cider, cocoa, whatever fuels your muse. You might want to save the booze to celebrate at the end of the days when you make your word count. Fueling your muse at 8 a.m. with a couple of shots of tequila is not recommended, especially not if you have a day job. Employers tend to be quite unyielding in their expectations of “fit for duty.”
- Make the call: dawn or dusk. You already know if you’re more productive in the mornings or at night. If the idea of 5 a.m. makes you weep, write late instead of early.
- Don’t be a snob. Stop being a hipster princess and fussing about monsooned coffee, designer fonts that nobody can tell apart and what indie music is just exquisite to listen to while you’re writing your pivotal enigmatic scene involving horn rimmed glasses.You don’t actually need a computer or a snuggly blanket or the perfect light to get words onto the page. Scrawl notes on a napkin at lunch. When the boss takes a smoke break, jot your ideas into a small notebook. Record thoughts on your phone at stop lights. Write whatever you can, wherever you, whenever you can.
That’s how you get 50,000 words in thirty days.