What to Do When You Can't NaNoWriMo... or Write, For That Matter

As Preston would say... Happy Spoopy Day to all of those engaging in Halloween! Someone asked me why I didn't dress up today. My reply was simple: "But I did! I'm dressed as a librarian trapped in a student service staff body." Cue the groans and drum rim-shots here. I'll admit my enthusiasm doesn't match others with regard to this holiday. However, I do enjoy seeing the ocular cacophony of colors passing along the sidewalk. Much like multicolored falling leaves, the story behind each costume choice varies greatly, and I enjoy hearing them all.

Another holiday we do celebrate in this household is that of NaNoWriMo Eve, the night before hopeful yet frenzied panic sets in as days and nights are filled with words -- nothing but words -- until that coveted 50k mark is reached. Last year, I finally achieved that goal, understanding for possibly the first time the hard-fraught thrill and satisfaction of maintaining consistency in my writing until reaching the end of a draft. It got me excited about creativity all over again, and all the possibilities that came with it. This year is a different story (pardon the pun). With my final paper proposals for both grad school classes accepted and underway, most of my time during the month of November will be spent wrapping up those classes. I'll admit... it's difficult watching writer Twitter and even Preston abuzz with the excitement of sitting down to new projects November 1. However, even within those times I'm not writing, I have a few things I do to continue the writing process even when I'm not writing.

  • Reading - I can't stress this one enough. Reading even when I'm not writing has become a necessity for me, both for mental health reasons and also for creativity reasons. Reading helps me know what kind of stories I want to write, as well as gives me ideas on mechanics that might work for my stories. One of my dedicated reading times is during lunch at work. It gives me a needed mental break from the day while providing entertainment. It's a dark day indeed when I forget to put a book in my purse before leaving the apartment.

  • Talking with Other Writers - I'm blessed in my life to have fellow writers surrounding me. Preston is definitely one of those people. I also have my fellow book dragon Deborah, as well as my sister Casey. We may not talk about writing all the time, but when we do, I leave that talk feeling encouraged and excited. I've also found and followed countless others on Twitter under the hashtag #writingcommunity that provide an even larger network of writing encouragement. It just takes opening up and finding your part of the community that makes writing exciting for you.

  • Getting Out of the House (Literally and Figuratively) - In recent years, I've become a notorious homebody, feeling content to come home after a long day/week and do nothing but chill in front of the TV with my usual stories. However, in the last year, I've made a point to get out more, starting by seek out new things that I might find interesting -- a new museum exhibit, restaurant, film, you name it. I even made a new friend, which now in my thirties seemed about as possible as finding a unicorn! Living our lives helps further our own stories, and by developing our own narratives, we better understand how to improve the stories we write.

It may not seem like much, but it's a start when time is scarce for writing. Cultivating these and possibly even taking notes while doing them will provide a good foundation of ideas by the time you find yourself sitting down to your story once more.

Basically, I say this as much for me as I do for you all -- don't give up or lose heart because life hasn't allowed you the joy of writing. As long as the story is within you, you will never not be writing your book in some way, shape, or form. As long as you maintain little cultivations here and there, your story will always be there for you when you're ready.

Happy Halloween, and may your upcoming November adventures treat you well, whatever you decide to do!

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