NaNoWriMo Diaries #2: Balancing Life with Writing + Daily Goal Progress

Welcome to the start of the second week of NaNoWriMo! Today, I wanted to chat about how the first seven days fared for me, and the challenges of trying to balance writing with my personal life. For folx who are new here to this segment and to this blog, today’s post is a part of a short Sunday series that I am holding on The Djinn Reader called The NaNoWriMo Diaries, where I shall be discussing my experiences—the good, the bad, and the in-between—with my first-time participating in this national novel writing event.

Aesthetic for my WIP

When I first sat down to begin work on my adult South Asian-Polynesian fantasy novel, I felt rather intimidated. The more that I contemplated the prospect of trying to complete a full-sized novel within the span of thirty days, the worse that my anxiety became. I confided in a friend about my woes and they were kind enough to gift me with a copy of Scrivener (a professional novel writing computer programme) to help motivate me and encourage me to not give up or feel overwhelmed before I even had the chance to write my first words. I became wholly emotional, but that spot of support was all that I needed to conquer those initial fears.

Since I work as full-time blogger and beta reader, and have been on recovery from a heart-related surgery for these past few weeks, my ability to devote large chunks of time to writing seemed nigh impossible. On day one, I had a plan to write before I did anything else, between the hours of three and six am (I am a nocturnal human). My total word count for that day was about twenty-two hundred. I was stunned yet excited to be able to accomplish so much on the first day.

The second day and the rest of the week, mostly, became less productive as the world went into mass discomfort with the start of the American elections. The stress of waiting to see who would be elected President of the United States, and the tension from virtually everyone on every online space, was practically palpable. It created a vortex of restlessness and an inability to focus on much of anything, including my self-care activity of daily blogging. My main source of reprieve came from either video games or binge-watching comfort films.

Even so, I did manage to put in small portions of writing time aside so that I could chip away at my story word-by-word, and now that the first week has ended, I am glad that I put in that extra effort as I feel less overwhelmed about being a few hundred words behind schedule.

My overall mood while writing has been comfortable. While I did struggle with putting the plot pieces together on a couple of specific chapters, I also reminded myself that I was working on a first draft and it was okay to not have a polished work of perfection by the end. The point of writing a first draft is to get all of the ideas and main points down on to the paper so that a skeleton of a story can be established. The second and third drafts are for adding flesh to the tale via severe editing, adding things, cutting things—all of the beautiful elements of being an author who is also their own editor. I put this reminder on a sticky note that I then stuck next to my computer so that way if I ever started to feel like I was inadequate or crafting a mess of a book, I could glance to it and remind myself to take a breath, calm down, and go slowly.

Thursday night, or day five of NaNoWriMo, I sat down and wrote out a schedule for myself that incorporates everything that I need to/like to do in the span of a single day. I am someone who has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and is on the Autism spectrum, and, thus, require some semblance of rigidity in order to function contentedly. Friday morning, I put my plan into motion, and it did wonders for me! I ended up clocking out my total word count for that day at approximately four thousand! The last time that I had written so many words for a creative project was in June of last year (2019). So, having a cemented routine that clearly dedicates a few hours to writing and nothing else definitely helped me with formulating a beautifully functioning balance between my personal life, work life, and authoring life.

While I have been struggling with meeting that daily goal, as I mentioned above, I feel that it is justifiable given the chaotic nature of this past week. Going into the second week, I hope to stay more diligent and devoted to working through any emotional and mental obstacles that may arise, as I feel if I ever get professionally published, this will be necessary skill to have, especially where strict deadlines are concerned. This does not mean that I shall sacrifice my psychological well-being. More than anything else, I will need to ensure that self-care is a part of my daily routine so that when I do have extremely exhausting or tough writing sessions, I can recover without burning myself out.

My goals for week two are more like pieces of advice to myself: take it one word at a time when things starts to feel rough, and do not be afraid of writing an alternate chapter to experiment with the flow of the overarching narrative! Also, do not delete anything until the revision process!

How has writing been for you lately? Have you discovered any neat tricks or tips to help keep you motivated and inspired? How do you deal with anxiety while writing?