I’m back from an intense month of novel writing.
How did I do on the distraction front?
- I only logged in to Facebook three times, and each time was for a specific purpose, such as updating my notification settings to stop getting text messages from Facebook about photos my friends were posting. They were trying hard to lure me back in after I was off the site for a few weeks, but I resisted. It actually wasn’t that hard to stay off Facebook…until the last few days. Then I started fiending. I’m so embarrassed to admit that.
- I was on Twitter about every four days, scrolling aimlessly. This is more than usual, so clearly I was using it as a substitute for Facebook. However, with Twitter, I tend to scroll through my feed for 5-10 minutes, get bored, and shut it down. With Facebook, I can waste hours clicking on links, looking at groups, looking at friends’ profiles, etc. Twitter is a good substitute, for sure.
- I scrolled through my blog reading list about once a week. I started writing this post on November 25. But as soon as I started writing it, I wanted to (and did) start working on other posts as well. And I started working on a short story. I basically didn’t touch my novel the whole last week of November. But it felt great to be writing something different.
- I deleted one of my dating profiles and mostly used the other dating apps only to respond to people who messaged me. I wasted my own time actively scrolling through profiles once a week, so briefly each time. I went out on four dates.
- I cancelled my Netflix account. This wasn’t in the plan, but I realized that I hadn’t used it in almost two months, so why bother keeping it? It has often been a distraction in the past. The temptation to binge can be strong.
So, I think I did alright. But I also learned that there are many, many other websites you can procrastinate with and many non-internet activities you can procrastinate with. I fell down several You Tube “recommended” hours-long video rabbit holes, read five books, and spent countless hours on working on my Mandarin, for example. Swearing off social media isn’t the answer. Pure self-discipline is. But I think it’s healthy to have a variety of activities. Spending all your free time on your novel is intense.
I also learned about the finite quality of time. I opted to stay home for Thanksgiving this year instead of repeating last year’s trip to Kansas City, because 18+ hours of drive time would have seriously cut into my writing time. Fortunately, I have friends who are native to Boulder and whose lovely parents are willing to take in holiday orphans, so I still got a fantastic turkey meal.
Still, there simply wasn’t time to do everything I wanted to in a week. I had to cut back my workouts from six times a week to four and shorten my weekend hikes by an hour or two. My ability to dedicate time to writing was limited by my novel workshop, which required critiquing 45-60 pages for the other participants every week, and for which I spent a considerable amount of time revising drafts to have something well-polished to submit for critique. It was also limited by NaNoWriMo events and other writing groups I belong to. While the purpose of these events was to get together to write, there is also a fair amount of discussing projects and simple socializing involved, which is important to keep up morale but takes time away from actual writing. Oh yeah, and I have a full time job that I just got another promotion at this month (I’m now the Tech Pubs Team Lead and have a lot more responsibility) and two freelance projects at the moment. Happily, one of those projects finished mid-November, but I’m freaking exhausted.
Given all that, how did I do on the word count front? Did I win NaNoWriMo? No, I did not win. I think that should be obvious. Winning is writing 50,000 words. I finished the month with 23,178 words. But that’s three times the number of words I wrote for this project in October, so I am thrilled with both my effort and my accomplishment. With the work I had done previously, that puts the word count at 34,010, and all the remaining scenes that aren’t even in draft one are sketched out and have lots of notes.
And just because the month is done, doesn’t mean I’m done. My goal is to have my whole first draft completed by the end of December. I’m also signed up for the next iteration of my novel workshop, which starts on January 10. By the end of those eight weeks, I plan to have all scenes in either second draft (if they haven’t been workshopped) or third draft (if they have been workshopped). I’ve had amazing feedback from my critique partners and facilitator, I’m motivated and excited about this project, and I’m not going to lose this momentum.