The Word Counter, NaNoWriMo, and You

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To finish NaNoWriMo you are going to need rock-solid habits, lest you give up due to a lack of motivation. That’s because habits don’t deplete, but excitement, discipline, and will-power do. NaNoWriMo isn’t a sprint you can finish by feeling joy alone. It’s a marathon. It will require more than talking yourself through the finishing line. You’ll feel joy, but you’ll encounter despair, too.

It helps to objectify the endeavor. You’ve got 25 days left in November. Write 2000 words each day and you’ll reach the finishing line.

It also helps to plan in advance, or, even better yet, create a daily routine. Show up every day in front of your computer and write. That’s what successful writers do: they schedule time to write, show up, and do their work.

Earlier this year, Sascha told us about why counting words is useful: you measure the output to see how fast you can write, because writing a lot in a short amount of time is more important than nailing things with style on the first hit. Writing practice comes through writing, and so you’ll get more practice if you focus on writing a lot. Measuring your output is giving you feedback on your productivity and encourages hitting a daily goal. As a shameless self-promotion, the Word Counter I developed will do exactly this.

That’s why everybody on the internet is putting word count or project progress badges into their forum signatures: to show the world they’ve committed to the challenge and to generate both peer pressure and satisfaction through showing off. All of that is useful to re-fuel the fast-depleting motivational tanks.

Motivation like this is a limited and fast-depleting resource, though. Also, it leaks all the time, because a bad mood can ruin all the other effects just like that.

You can replace external motivation with something more solid, though: habits.

In the past, I already mentioned that being a writer means you need healthy habits. Today, I published a post about installing healthy habits for NaNoWriMo on Zettelkasten.de.

But November is already upon us, so what can we do to fix the energy leak?

You can’t transform your identity in just a few days. You depend on the transformational energy of installing healthy habits, though, if you want to write every day of November.

The point of having rock-solid habits is that they magically bring about their actions. You don’t have to deliberate every morning to brush your teeth. Unfortunately, you can’t form a new writing habit and make it rock-solid right now to depend on it for the rest of the month.

You can, however, focus solely on forming the habit you’d need to write with ease. Thereby, you’ll practice showing up to the writing appointment with yourself and work on hitting the goal.

In other words: the practice to install the habit you’d need is all you need to keep going for the rest of the month.

Excuse me citing myself. Today, I published a post about installing the writing habit for the sake of finishing NaNoWriMo. Pick an hour or two to write every day until November 30th and stick to the schedule. This will be your exercise plan:

  • Write 2000 words each day until the end of the month. Writing means pouring words into the document.
  • Editing is optional and can always (!) be done later. You have to move fast now.
  • Getting stuck is optional, too. Don’t think yourself into a writer’s block. There is no such thing as long as you keep yourself in a healthy state and manage to take care of everything that worries you. To achieve that, you’ll need to …
  • … Take note of ideas and put down everything that’s on your mind to free your mind from the task to remember boring stuff.
  • Inspiration does not guarantee quality. Routine and practice do. So write even when you’re not inspired. Write about that you’re not inspired if you have to to get started. Routine writers write 3.5 times as much as spontaneous or inspired writers, which in turn write only negligibly more than people not writing at all.

Routine and scheduled practice yields better results than the “write when motivated” approach, because peer-pressure, excitement, and joy will only get you so far.

To get you started, these are the steps I suggest you take:

  1. Read the full post about NaNoWriMo habits.
  2. Pick a time each day to yank out 2000 words. It’s only 25 days left, so cutting on any other activities is feasible when needed. Tell friends and family so they understand what you’re up to.
  3. Avoid binge writing at all costs. Write as much as you need to, but not much more, or you may regret it the next day: writing itself might become a chore you’ll hate if you over-exploit your energy. Especially avoid to write all day long. Do regular breaks and treat yourself with something nice when you hit the target.
  4. Pardon the self-promotion: if you are a Mac user, try out my Word Counter for Mac for free to observe and measure your productivity. It’s a steal at 50% off at the moment.

Share with me how it works for you in the comments!

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