NaNo Tip #1: Know Thyself

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In the past, I’ve had little success with NaNoWriMo. In large part, I think this was because I had the wrong attitude about it. I didn’t really think through why I was doing NaNo, so I wasn’t thoughtful about how I would do it.

Basically, I treated November like finals week in college–extreme productivity followed by near catatonic idleness, all fueled by terrible food and zero self-care. There was a sort of cool factor to it, I thought, a wanton celebration of Life as Focused Artist Utterly Engrossed in Her Work. The only trouble was, I wasn’t engrossed. I pretty much floundered from Day 1 and usually quit in self-disgust somewhere around Day 14.

Staring at a computer screen, living on ramen noodles, and not showering: apparently not an optimal lifestyle choice for me anymore.

This year, I’ve done a bit more mental prep work for NaNoWriMo. I’ve really pondered what success will look like for me this month. Oh, sure. It would be lovely to hit 50,000 words. But that’s really not my ultimate goal. I’ve got a goal cluster, actually, created from several interrelated hopes. The goals are as follows:

  1. Build a sustainable daily writing habit, which will cause me to…
  2. Finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress, which should help me to…
  3. … Silence some inner doubts about my writing abilities; all part of the plan to…
  4. Reclaim my joy in writing.

Building that sustainable habit is the lynch-pin, and “sustainable” means that it has to fit within the existing structure of my life and personality. Which is why, in these last few days before November, I’ve been reviewing notes from some of my favorite self-help books. Chief among them is Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

Rubin argues quite logically that to change our habits successfully, we must first know ourselves. After extensive study, she’s built a framework of Four Tendencies for how all people respond to both external and internal expectations. And guess what? You can take a free quiz to find out your tendency!

I’m definitely an Obliger. So if I want to build a writing habit into my daily life, I’ve got to do it with my Obliging tendencies in mind.

According to Rubin, “Obligers… work hard not to let other people down, but they often let themselves down. They may find it difficult to form a habit, because often we undertake habits for our own benefit, and Obligers do things more easily for others than for themselves. For Obligers, the key to forming habits is to create external accountability.”

NaNo gives me fabulous external accountability in the form of that November 30th deadline. It also feels like an optimal time to begin. Finally, I’ll be able to monitor myself with word count widgets and daily check-ins. Wow–so many great habit-forming strategies all rolled into this month!

I’ve got a bit more navel-gazing to do before my writing really takes off. Stay tuned for more posts along that score, and be sure to read Rubin’s book… after November, of course!

But in the mean time… what is your Tendency–an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or Rebel? How do you plan to use knowledge of your Tendency to help you achieve your goals during NaNoWriMo? 

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One thought on “NaNo Tip #1: Know Thyself

  1. Pingback: NaNo Tip #3: Feed the Source | Kate Diamond, Author

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