It’s that time of year again, when all of your writer friends start asking about your daily word count and offering up encouraging motivational quotes. Basically, everyone is writing but you. Well, and me.

If you’re as determined as I am to not write (like that’s a necessary part of being a writer–whatever), here are some ideas to place in your procrastination bank.

4 things to do instead of #NaNo and #writing Click To Tweet

Play a game

I, for example, sometimes play life simulation games. You know, like that Kim Kardashian superstar-for–no-reason-at-all game. I’m the one in the glasses (to show that there’s more to me than my amazing pouty lips and stunning eyes). You’ll notice I’m on the A-list and I’m on level 18. We’re talking serious mindless procrastination potential here.


77.1 million fans, baby. Just like real life. Except not at all.

Hit up the Netflix Queue

You should know I’m a sucker for a good story. And sometimes a good story is the perfect distraction from your good story. You can sit back and think about how you’ll never be able to write dialogue that good or tie up a plotline so neatly. Seriously, undermining yourself can wile away hours of writing time. I personally have completed 3 full seasons of Sons of Anarchy in the last week. Take that, NaNoers.

My bucket list is more or less my netflix queue

Sadly, this is true.

Paint your nails

Or, if no one really cares how your nails look because, what the hell? You’re a writer. You probably haven’t worn clothes that weren’t pajamas for like a week, so just look up pictures of adorable manicures and add them to your pinterest wall. I’m partial to the notebook nails, being a writer and all.

Lined Notebook Nails


Write a blog post

Hey, this is useful, right? Develop your voice. Practice organization. Figure out how to use the quote tag. At least it’s not what everyone else is doing. Wait… yes, it is.

This is how a quote tag looks.

You know what? You should probably just go write something. What was your word count today?



At the begininng of Nano, I wrote a post about getting “it”–what Nano is about.

It’s about writing.  Just writing for the love of it and with the abandon we deserve, the abandon to write badly, but to have written.

And I still believe that.  I still believe getting into that habit of writing daily, of thinking about your story as often as you can–even when you aren’t writing, storing up those ideas like a squirrel in winter–is crucial to becoming a good writer.  And I believe in not editing yourself, constantly.  It’s sort of a relief to just write.  So, good did come of NaNo, for me.

On the other hand, at the end, I posted a link to a Dear John letter, written to NaNo.  This letter tells NaNo that just writing–without planning, or plotting, or developing your characters–makes one a “crap writer.”  And I agree with that, too.

That’s part of what slowed me down, because if I didn’t take notes, I couldn’t make any worthwhile progress.  I could do 1000 words in thirty minutes (after who knows how much time making notes–none if which counts in NaNo), if I had notes.  Otherwise, I was writing just to be putting down words, and I’d rather not waste my writing time and, later, my editing time with this exercise in futility.

So, basically, NaNo has it’s upside and it’s downside.  Pretty much like everything else.  You have to find your own process while making good writing habits.

Today is the last day to get in those 50k words.  As you can see by my word count meter (on the left) I’m not going to make it.  It’s not that I haven’t worked every day; it’s that 1700 words a day doesn’t work in my process.  I have to take notes, then write.  Sometimes I need to brainstorm.  Sometimes it’s a trickle, sometimes it’s a torrential downpour.

This blog post by Maggie Stiefvater is a Dear John letter to NaNo.  This is exactly how I feel:

You are not a bad concept. You’re a bad concept for me, NaNo. This is why: you make me write crap, NaNo. You make me make bad novel decisions. You take away my ability to brainstorm between chapters. You make me rush through characterization. You make me pack filler in that will only get ripped out later, having taught me nothing about my novel. You make me into a bad writer.

However, to everyone who completed NaNo, to everyone who participated–I applaud you.  You wrote and that’s damn fine.

It amazes me how supportive nanoers are to one another.  When I tried this a few years ago, I felt so alone and couldn’t see my way through it.  But interacting on twitter, though it can be distracting, has shown me how supportive other writers and NaNo participants are.  I’ve received more than one reply to my tweets of frustration or success.  If you’re NaNoing, definitely follow the #nanowrimo hash tag there.

This is the first year I’ve participated in NaNo.  I’ve thought about it a couple of times.  Once I started but dropped out early, citing the reasoning that it just didn’t work with my “process.”  But, I think I get it now.

It’s sort of like when I actually became a writer instead of a person who wants to write.  At first, I wrote because it would be cool / financially gainful / fun (ha!) to write a book.  But then, it wasn’t all that fun–at least some of the time–and odds are not in anyone’s favor to actually sell a book or for it to be particularly financially gainful.  It is still cool.  That’s right.  I’m a writer, y’all.

And NaNo, I thought it was about winning.  About writing those fifty thousand words.  But it’s not.  It’s about writing.  Just writing for the love of it and with the abandon we deserve, the abandon to write badly, but to have written.

I probably won’t win.  I have three kids and a full time job and a husband who works a bajillion hours so a lot of the household responsibilities fall on me, after my 40.  That’s my life, and I like it, but it may mean I don’t get to 50k words in 30 days.  But I’ll write every day.  And I will write without analyzing what I’ve written for perfection and fretting over the way I don’t do description so much in a first draft or my characters seem to really be saying “really” a lot.  I will write for whatever small amount of time I can pull away and actually accomplish writing–I can thank Dr. Wicked for that. (Write Or Die.)  And I will revel in the fun of writing, the creation, the characters speaking to me, the excitement of watching my story unfold without once thinking, “I’m such a bad writer.”*

So NaNo is like what they teach us when we’re kids.  It’s not whether you win or lose (although you rock out loud if you win, go you!), it’s how we play the game.

*I’m not actually a “bad” writer.  My inner editor just likes saying so.   A lot.  You know how that is.

Image by ~leftnwrite08

Turns out, this whole “just write” strategy is actually very difficult for me.  I can’t seem to stop looking up the page and thinking, “Dude, this is crap,” which I always do and sometimes it’s not.

But, for me, that’s the whole point.  To learn to let go and let what I know, both learned and intuitively, about craft and my muse do what they do.

So, yesterday–a slow start.  Today?  It’s anybody’s ballgame, baby.

Also: Very awesome article about the costs of rewriting those sentences.