10 Things to Do When You’ve Got a Book to Write or a Looming Deadline

December 1 is coming, which for me means the end of November’s National Novel Writing Month.  Since I signed up for NaNoWriMo, this should therefore mean that my book (or at least a rough draft) is now complete, and I’m ready to take it to the next stages.

Right? Well...NOPE.

While I do have a working title, a solid plan, an outline, and advice from a great session with my writing coach, my book isn’t exactly done. Or close to it.  

It turns out that instead of participating in National Novel Writing Month, I participated in National Do Anything and Everything But Write Month. In case you have visions of participating in a writing month, or completing a project, I thought I’d help you out and offer suggestions on things you could do if you feel the need for a break or two.  *These ideas may have been inspired by personal events.

  1. Decide it’s a great time to clean up your files. Computer, paper, nail... it doesn’t really matter. Just get every file you own in order. For me, this downward spiral started with a request from my husband for our marriage license, which was needed to renew our health insurance. Well, not only did I dig around in files for a good three hours, I also decided to tackle my computer files as well. It was the virtual equivalent to eating just one M&M. Impossible. Files led to emails, which led to photos, and before I knew it I’d updated my software and operating system. I had officially wasted another two plus hours and hadn’t made a whole lot of solid (and necessary) progress. Being so exhausted, I decided to hold off on cleaning the nail files and instead went to get a manicure, thinking how much more I would write if my nails were pretty and red.

  2. Photos need help too. Once you’ve got all those files in order, you’ve officially got the organizing bug. So why not give some love to your photos? You know, the ones you have stuffed away in a drawer or closet. And don’t just look at one album - go all the way back to your baby pictures... or if you don’t have those, get your kids’ pics out. Make yourself a cup of hot tea, turn on some great tunes or maybe the Hallmark Channel, and get really into it. Then, after you’ve laughed and cried for a good 3 or 4 hours, check the word count on your computer. Zero-point-zero I’m guessing.

  3. Phone a friend, or your mom, or both. Now that you’re feeling all sentimental, who can write, right? Call someone to share your nostalgia, or maybe even grab an album and head over to your parents’ house. Or, call your kids away from their video games and make them look through the pics with you. Nobody home or available to talk? No worries, by this time you have another idea - you’re going to do something with those photos. So you start working on a Christmas photo calendar or gift.

  4. Eat. Cook. Order in. Turns out all this nostalgia has got you hungry & it’s now almost dinner time. After all that hard work, you feel the need to order in. But what? Add another 30 minutes to decide on what you want. After you finally place your order, take a look at the kitchen and see it’s a mess. Enter the 30 minute cleanup that takes care of the wait time before your order arrives. No time for writing then. Your food arrives, and you take a well deserved rest in front of the TV while you enjoy your meal.

  5. Whoa, that kitchen cleaning revved up your engine. You have a new resolve to get your whole house sparkling. So why not hit your closet? Get rid of those clothes and shoes that either don’t fit or “don’t bring you joy.” Wait, do your dresser too! That’s right, take all of your clothes out of every single drawer, and put it all on your bed. What a great idea! Wow, you are going to be so organized when you finish this project six hours from now.

  6. One day later, you have several bags of donations for Goodwill. You assess your clean and orderly closet and realize you’re missing a few wardrobe staples. The writer in you says, “Oh, wait until November is over and you can reward yourself with some new clothes.“ The negotiator counters with, “Why not compromise and do just a little online shopping before you get going on your writing today?” This sounds logical, so you sit down, resolving to just hit Amazon and your favorite clothing sites. Three hours later, you step away, having bought this month’s groceries, done half your Christmas shopping, and added about 10 things to your Pinterest boards. While this was both satisfying (after all, you saved a lot of gas money and time going to the store or mall), you now believe you have a burgeoning case of carpal tunnel. So you decide to step away from your computer. Whew, that was a lot of screen time.

  7. Maybe some fresh air will invigorate you and in turn help get the juices flowing. Oh, but wait, where are your running shoes? The basement? Yes. While you’re down there, you think what a great idea it would be to throw a load of wash in - kill two birds with one stone while you’re out, right? By the time you’ve found your shoes, put a load in, and actually got out the door, it’s almost dark. Maybe yoga would be better - class starts in 25 minutes. So, you scratch the run and go back inside to get your yoga gear. Driving there you think how good the 90 minute class will be for your body, mind, and spirit. Not to mention concentration- after a good yoga class, it’ll be so easy to sit down for hours and write.

  8. 45 Minutes into class, you realize you’re starving again. But, the good vibes of the studio and the healthy people surrounding you make you want to choose something super healthy for dinner. No take out. Accordingly, you decide to stop at Whole Foods on your way home. While you’re supposed to be thinking of nothing in downward dog, you’re dreaming up things you can later cook. By the time class is over and you finally get to the store, you’re starving and realize that cooking isn’t going to happen. So, you pick some quick semi-healthy stuff at the hot bar. But, while standing in line you feel guilty about the fact you really never cook and grab a cooking magazine to do better in the future. Since you don’t want to waste the money spent on the magazine, you devote an hour paging through it and drumming up meal ideas. This of course inspires you to look more into healthy eating and cooking, so you go online (so you can then start writing) and look at cooking sites for 45 more minutes.

  9. Pretty soon it’s time for bed. With all of this healthy food info, and the great yoga class under your belt, you just know tomorrow’s writing is going to be great. So, you set your alarm for early - perhaps 4:30 am will be your prime time to write.

  10. Wow, you do get up at 4:30! Great job. Just as you’re sitting down to write, you see that your friend, who lives in Spain... is online as she just commented on your Instagram post. A short What’s App message wouldn’t hurt, would it? Just to say hi and let her know about your exciting writing project. One hour later, it’s time to get ready for work, and while you’ve got 250 words written, they were all on your phone, in Spanish, to your friend. Happy to have communicated with your friend, you’re not completely disappointed in your lack of progress. Plus, you’ve got all night to write, right?

Welcome to NaNoWriMo.  In case you forgot to sign up this year, at least you have an idea of how it might go.  The good news is, just expressing an interest in it, is one step closer to actually finishing a book.  Plus I did write a blog post.  There’s something.  And, December is another month.  Maybe NaDeNoWriMo is the new NaNoWriMo.  We’ll see.  Just to be safe, I’ll just stop writing now and go get the rest of my house in order so I won’t have any excuses next month.