A funny thing happened yesterday. I opened up my laptop at 3:30, intending to hammer out a few thousand words with all of the glorious free time I had, and pulled up my Nanowrimo word document. I stared at it for about fifteen minutes, slightly disgusted at what I saw there, and eventually clicked away to explore new and interesting parts of the internet. I’ll really buckle down at 4:00. Okay, 4:30. Oh, messy desk? I’ll straighten up and start at 5:00.
I got so distracted by other things—by friends, food, and things I’ve been meaning to do—that it was midnight by the time I returned to my laptop. Finally, in a last-ditch effort to write something, I pulled up Written? Kitten! and began struggling through. It was perhaps my worst wordcount:time ratio ever. I wrote maybe 500 words from midnight to 2:00. But at least I was writing. And once I was in it, it was hard to stop. I stayed up until 4:00 writing the most random things.
I think college has severely stunted my Nano abilities this year. I realize I’ve complained about this before, but most of my Nano is comprised of schoolwork. I haven’t had the privilege of working on one novel day by day, so I haven’t felt truly connected to it. I feel disjointed when I finally have time to work on it, and when I read what I’ve already written I run into a continuous stream of self-criticism and doubt.
The thing that’s hardest to remember in a case of writer’s block like this is that you just have to write. No matter what comes out of your head onto the page, crappy words are better than no words. Even if you know deep down that you’ll have to delete every word in revision, that’s fine. Just how physical therapy is essential in recovering from a physical injury, writing is essential for curing writer’s block.
Distractions are the main issue in this day and age, I think. Here are some of my fool-proof tools for beating online distractions and providing incentive to write:
5. Leave the house
I wrote about this last week, but I stand by my opinion that coffee shops really are the best places to get work done. Sure, there’s internet there, too, but who wants to face judgment for surfing Facebook in a coffee place? Or do you really want to risk scrolling through your Tumblr in public?
4. Write or Die
If you haven’t experienced Write or Die yet, be prepared for the best writing incentive of your life. Write or Die is a web-based program (or $10 desktop version, which I highly recommend) that uses threats and consequence as incentive. You set your timer for how long you would like to write, then the level of difficulty and the method of consequence. Depending on the level of difficulty you set, if you stop writing for a certain amount of time, you will be punished. Options for punishment are annoying pop-ups, loud, obnoxious noises, and, my personal favorite, the kamikaze. In kamikaze mode, stop writing for a certain amount of time and the program will start deleting your words. It’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. It forces you to continually write, no matter what.
A slightly more positive version of Write or Die is Written? Kitten!, a website that uses positive reinforcement as a way to get you to write. I personally love this site for long stretches of writing. Here, for every 100 words you write, you are rewarded with a new picture of a kitten being adorable. It’s a pretty wonderful reward, and you get to write side by side with cuteness. Plus, this way you can announce your wordcount by saying, “I wrote 10.47 kittens today!”
These programs are both focused on eliminating extraneous details from your computer. Both immerse you entirely in the program, filling up your entire screen, so it is impossible to click into any other program or web browser. ZenWriter is visually stunning—your writing is superimposed over an image, and it simultaneously plays calming music—while Q10 takes a more minimal approach with typewriter font and a black background. My favorite thing about both programs, though, is a feature that plays typewriter noises when you type.
This program is a lifesaver not only for writing, but for schoolwork. It’s a free extension on Google Chrome, and I’ve heard of equivalents for other browsers. The idea behind this one is that you set up a list of websites that you want to block and then set a timer, and for that period of time Chrome blocks those websites from use. There’s no way to stop the timer or stop the program, so you are forced to stay away from those distracting sites. Simple, effective.
For more info on Nanowrimo, click here.
To track my progress, visit my author page.
Current wordcount: 16,690 / 50,000