(Did you miss Week 1’s Prep? Check it out here!)
We have all heard some variation on the saying “It only takes 21 days to build a habit.” With that logic, if you participate every day in NaNoWriMo, you should have a strong habit formed for writing every day. However, after researching for this article, I realized that the old saying is not entirely correct. Habits are complex things when you look beyond the surface, influenced by a lot of outside factors. So what can you do to make writing every day a habit for you? And how do you make sure that you are forming good habits during NaNoWriMo?
It would be really easy to simply burn yourself out over the month of November by going on caffeine fueled writing binges at all hours of the night, which can be fun and exciting for a few weeks, but who can live like that? If your goal is to hopefully build a habit of daily writing, you need to think about the circumstances that surround your writing.
I have read lots of personal accounts on the NaNoWriMo Forums about how they love the challenge, but then on December first they don’t want to look at another page, and they stop writing. How can we avoid this burnout and distaste for something that we are supposed to enjoy doing?
Creating a healthy, sustainable environment is key. It’s not realistic to think that you will be able to write thousands of words a day if you have changed everything about your life in order to do so. The secret is to integrate writing into your life by attaching it to other habits you already have.
I never used to be a morning person, but then my husband and I decided to adopt a puppy. Now, without fail I get up at 7:30am, take out the dog, feed and water her, and then start my kettle for tea. I do this every day unless something big is happening, or I’m really sick. I do these things because I have to- if I didn’t walk my dog and feed her, there would be dire consequences, so I am forced to be a morning person with habits that I am not likely to break. Then according to what I have already said, to make writing a habit, I just have to add that to the chain of events; instead of logging on to Facebook and my e-mail, I will tell myself that I will write for at least half an hour while I drink my tea. Linking my writing to another habitual action will increase my chances for success.
Perhaps you always sit down and read for a little while after school or work. Or maybe you like to watch an hour of TV in the evenings. Attach your writing time to these events if you are not a morning person. With time you will find yourself looking forward to that little bit of time you have carved out for writing each day.
Lots of people also talk about reward systems for when they achieve their daily word count goal. There is nothing wrong with this- it’s amazing how motivating tiny rewards can be when your enthusiasm is sagging. Remember however, if you are hoping to build a habit, that your rewards should be sustainable. So if you are going to buy yourself something expensive as a reward for hitting your word count for the week that may not be the best motivator after the thrill of November wears off. Smaller things like a bit of chocolate, or watching a show on Netflix or Hulu might be something more sustainable throughout the year.
What habits do you wish to build during NaNoWriMo? Is writing every day your goal? Have some interesting ideas on other good habits? Let me know in the comments, and we can continue the discussion!