My first NaNoWriMo wasn’t a very healthy one. I was cooped up in a windowless room in Florida, not staying active, not eating that great, and not really doing much with my life at the time. I was in a funk in my personal and spiritual life, feeling a bit aimless and discontent after multiple plans fell through. I usually directed shows during the season, as well, but this year, I didn’t have one. I didn’t complete my first NaNoNovel.
During my second year, though, I was in a much better space. I had just spent a while in Australia, touring a few one-woman shows, and I was in the middle of training for a big adventure to come: my 1,200-mile trek from Key West to the Canadian border.
That NaNo, I learned a valuable lesson for my life as a writer: stay active, especially when you’re busy.
Since that year, I’ve been committed to staying active all November long each year. I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks here for fellow NaNo-ers who might need a little help in their own journey.
Okay, I know this feels counterintuitive since you’re trying to free up as much time and space to write as possible, but setting specific goals for your fitness will help keep you moving throughout the month of butt-in-chair known as NaNoWriMo.
This year, because I’m extra busy with now grad school along with working full-time, marriage, and NaNoWriMo, I’m planning to combine a bit of writing and walking time on my treadmill. I won’t be able to write as fast as I go, since the treadmill naturally slows me down, but I plan to spend my usual 25 minutes of morning cardio using the treadmill so I can write while I walk.
If you can write on your phone or tablet while you talk on a treadmill, closed track, or another safe place, I highly recommend you do so. You’ll find time for writing and movement at the same time.
Choose some commitment that will help you both during NaNoWriMo and after. Some examples from my plan this year that may inspire your own motivation might include:
It’s always tempting to eat junk food during NaNoWriMo. The sugar rush, the junk food high… whatever you want to call it, the crap sold at convenience stores provides you with some momentary boosts but the reality is, there’s a crash afterward that won’t help your body or your mind.
If you’re looking for clarity in your writing, energy to power through writing sessions (and those workout sessions!), you need healthy food all November long. And because you’ll be busy all November long, I highly recommend planning ahead so you don’t wind up having to plan during your writing rush.
Create a simple meal plan that includes not only meals but snacks and beverages. If you have to have sugar and cream in your coffee or tea, go for it, but remember to include those ingredients in the number of calories you’re eating each day. You don’t want to go overboard, especially with all the extra sitting down as you write.
Also, try some healthy swap-outs for the junk food cravings.
One of the things I am a huge proponent of is squeezing in movement throughout your day. This especially applies during crazy months like NaNoWriMo when most of us would spend even more time on our tushies as we write.
I use a timer like the Pomodoro timer for my work sessions. Work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute movement break (reps, pacing, folding laundry, sweeping the kitchen, whatever), and then repeat. The Pomodoro timer will give you a 15-minute break every so often, as well, to help break up the monotony.
Taking these breaks also helps your concentration. Our minds do better with short breaks completely separated from tasks we’re working on. So, these breaks are a win all-around.
Finally, a healthy pattern that may well be extremely helpful for you as you spend the month writing is this.