Like adopting a healthy lifestyle, adopting a healthy attitude towards NaNoWriMo is integral to your ongoing success. For many, NaNowriMo represents a pressure cooker environment of little sleep, bad food choices and too much caffeine. The results of this type of lifestyle, even for a week, is not conducive for free flowing creativity or low stress.
To keep the creative juices flowing, with both stress and energy at an acceptable level with minimal sleep, a western diet and its thought processes are not going to fuel the lifestyle required to juggle normal life and the pressures of NaNoWriMo and continue to the finish line without something breaking down.
As someone who has battled eating disorders, depression, weight issues and health challenges, I know only too well the power of attitude, focus and proper nutrition to support the body. For those who are seeking balance or a healthier way of surviving NaNoWriMo, perhaps some of these tips will assist. Its never too soon to start these good habits either, so don’t wait till the 1st of November to test them out.
Your attitude will make or break you before you type the first word on Nov 1. Be clear with your goals and the reasons you are participating in NaNoWriMo.
Every day we make dozens of small decisions which ultimately spell out the difference between success in our goals, or failure. As soon as you get up or home from work, did you spend twenty minutes on the couch watching telly or goofing around on Facebook or spend that twenty minutes on a super charged word hit; typing as quickly as you can without editing? Small changes can add up to huge results.
There are some great programs available specifically for NaNoWriMo to push and challenge writers with procrastination issues; from timers with loud alarms which sound when you stop typing, to the cruel one that eats your words if you stop typing. Do a Google search or check out the official NaNoWriMo site and forums for suggestions.
Like training for a sporting competition, or reshaping your body, its how you spend 98% of your the time rather than being obsessed with the trip-ups which are realistically going to happen. It does not serve you, nor is it healthy to focus on the 2% of your time you spend on negativity, binge eating or procrastinating. What will normally happen is that you will beat yourself up and then give up… all for 2%.
Remember that consistency is important in achieving your goal. Just as when you are reshaping your body, if you only make healthy choices when you feel like it, then you won’t see much progress on the scales or in the mirror. Make the right choice even when it’s hard and you are tired. In most cases, you will find an extra burst of energy once you start to write and that by pushing through that resistance, you strengthen your resolve and it will be easier next time to fire up your laptop and punch out a few paragraphs.
Treat yourself with gifts or treats after you cross small milestones. This will motivate you to continue. Don’t wait for the 50K mark to pop the cork of a champagne bottle or a new fountain pen. After years of teaching people from preschool to adults, there aren’t many students who are immune to bribery in the way of a sticker chart and treats! Work out beforehand what your treats are. They don’t need to be sugary or junk foods either – though to be honest, that works too. Treats may include a walk in the sunshine with no shoes on, a delicious hot bath filled with aromatherapy oils, a foot massage – its up to you how extravagant or simple you make them. For the sake of simplicity, make a chart or a pick list and when you achieve a goal – go straight over and choose something… and DO IT!
The NaNoWriMo word count can be likened to the bathroom scales used to measure one’s weight. Just like those on their initial weeks of weight loss, many writers become obsessed with the numbers. Similarly, there are going to be days where those scales tip favourably and others when no matter what effort you put in, they remain stable.
Yes, NaNoWriMo is about setting those targets, hitting the daily word count and putting yourself under pressure to perform. However, make your plans to write realistically fit around your life, not the other way around. 30 undisturbed days to write would be nice, but unless you hang out in the mountains alone, its unlikely to happen. Sometimes circumstances change suddenly – a new job, a family crisis, moving house – and your planned routine doesn’t work. The trick is to be flexible and know when it’s time to tweak your methods.
Focus on what is important to you with your NaNoWriMo project. Is it really to dish out 50K of hasty words, or 30K of thoughtful, considered ones? Is it to start your journey as a novelist or give you material for an anthology? Perhaps NaNoWriMo is really about proving to your family you are serious about your writing. There may be other ways to achieve these goals rather than focusing solely on the word count.
No doubt we all “know” what to do and eat; however especially during NaNoWriMo, we don’t. This is when the body takes over and forces you to stop when you get cramps, fevers, sore throats and sniffles; resulting in more stress as your word count drops as you are too sick to concentrate or write.
Get your 5 vegetables and 3 fruit servings a day over and done with at breakfast. Explore green smoothies and juicing to boost your nutrition and vitamin intake. (see below for more information on these) It will supercharge your metabolism and allow you to cheat a little on the sleep.
Cheat on Sleep
Don’t kid yourself. No-one gets enough sleep during NaNoWriMo. An important fact you may not know about good quality sleep is achieved when you are in the Delta Phase. For most people who sleep 8 – 10 hours they only actually ‘get’ to Delta for around 30 – 45 minutes. The trick, therefore, is to get yourself to delta as quickly as you can and stay there for as long as you can. Learn some deep relaxation techniques to assist you in getting to this state – or look into the Pzizz. I’ve had an earphone unit for years and when really sleep deprived, they work a wonder as they bring your brain waves into a delta state within moments. There is a software based program which can be used for a 10 min power nap while you sit at your desk in front of your pc. The iPhone has a fantastic App (big smiles!!) for it. Choose a method which will support you and try it. Your body will love you for it.
Sufficient pure water
Not sweetened fizzy drinks or caffeinated drinks – pure, unadulterated water. If you are sitting inside, you will need about 8 glasses. Keep a water bottle by your laptop and every time you pause to think, it’s a signal you are getting dehydrated – so take a sip.
If you are seriously needing a fizzy drink, try sparkling water; or go and buy a ‘soda stream’ ( a kitchen utensil that carbonates water).
Coffee drinkers? (I am the worst offender here). For every cup of coffee or caffeinated drink you imbibe – you *ought* to flush it away and out of your system with two glasses of water. The positive thing about this is that often the best thoughts and ideas are hatched while..errmmm… sitting…
Forget the 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. The way the toxic farming industry is going, our produce lacks proper nutrition. Source either organic produce, or quality plant based supplements to support the stress NaNoWriMo will put on your body… and make sure you either eat them or take them!
A great ‘cheats’ snack is raw nuts.. Sorry – not the flavoured, salty or smoked ones. Walnuts and Almonds are especially fabulous for focus and prolonged concentration.
My secret weapon is Green Smoothies.
Since discovering them early last year, they have become a staple part of my day. Supercharged and full of pure, raw energy, they are the perfect breakfast for sleep deprived, nutritionally deficient NaNoWriMo participants, and particularly good afterward to wean those off all the caffeine and sugar many use to keep themselves going.
A good Green Smoothie is 60% fresh fruit blended with a high power processor with 40% green leafy vegetables and a little pure water. I’d suggest you start with a higher percentage of fruit until you get used to the ‘greeness’ . Also start with very bland greens such as baby spinach before you move on to silverbeet and kale.
If you are looking to get through NaNoWriMo without the assistance of junk foods and sugar, then seriously look at having a green smoothie a day. When your cells get what they need, and your brain, and emotions, and that desire for junk falls away one step at a time, you will find yourself buzzing with a new found energy – and perfect focus to write. For a step by step video and info on these click here
Again, these are the things I adopt on an ongoing basis to support my lifestyle, and may not suit everyone. However, I have a deep knowledge that without them, my emotional, physical and psychological health would be of a poorer state. No matter what you do, keep your NaNoWriMo in a healthy state until the end. You owe it to your body (and your family), not to mention to the work in progress you are spending all this time and energy to create.
Staying healthy during NaNoWriMo is critical to success. Achieving it seems difficult, but you’ve put out a lot of great tips here for how to navigate the month and retain at least some healthy habits. Thanks!
Its a hard time on EVERYONE.. but so worth it.. and as you know.. if you don’t have your health.. you got nothing!!
What a wonderful motivation tool this post is. I’m in two minds about NaNoWriMo – I’ve never done it before – but maybe I’l buy a smoothie maker and get cracking.
Great ideas. I must say, I do absolutely none of them. I’m going to have to recommit to a healthy life style.
Annie, you are a Personal Trainer for NaNoWriMo – and for anyone! Great health suggestions here – thank you.