NaNo Tip #2: Practice Active Hope


(Book info here)

For this bit of NaNo advice, I’m delving into Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being. Beth Cabrera’s book is yet another title I’d recommend reading after November ends. It’s got tons of practical tips and it reads very quickly… but not so quickly that you should pick it up before you hit your 50,000 word count!

Dr. Cabrera is an authority on positive psychology. In this book, she puts her expertise (plus tons of meticulous research) to work analyzing (a) why the culture of anxiety thrives and how we can say no to it, (b) how we can uncover our individual purpose, and (c) how to access that purpose in practical ways that dramatically enhance our quality of life.

Chapter Five of her book is titled “Be Hopeful.” She advises readers to visualize their ideal future and set specific goals that will move them in their desired direction. Hopefully, you have already figured out why you’re doing NaNoWriMo… and how this challenge fits in to your grander plans for that ideal future. (If you haven’t already thought this out, it’s probably worth spending a few minutes pondering your motivation.)

In addition to goal-setting, Cabrera recommends that you:

  • Use if-then planning to help you take action.
  • Identify several alternative strategies for achieving your goals.
  • Keep a victory log where you record all of your successes.
  • Consider the effort it took your role models to achieve success.

For example, in preparing for NaNo I’ve pondered what usually keeps me from writing and/or finishing my work. Here’s what I know about myself and my situation: I’m most productive in the morning, I’ve currently got a case of creative ADHD, and I infinitely prefer starting to finishing a project. I’ve also got an early-rising toddler who no longer naps; a toddler, mind you, who lives for any chance moment that he might get to play on my computer. Busting out the laptop in front of him really isn’t an option.

Next step: I used this self-reflection to drive some if-then planning and brainstorming of alternate strategies. Sure, someday I’d like to be a skilled romance novelist. But I don’t think my current situation lends itself well to linear plotting. So… alternate strategy: I’ve selected a NaNo project comprised of loosely related vignettes. Lots of brief pieces, so I’ll constantly be starting something new. Plus, the compilation-style work should transfer well across platforms. I can have one vignette going via Google Docs on my phone, another on my laptop, and yet another in my journal. Theoretically, I can be working in Little Brother’s vicinity, with or without internet.

The goal is to get as much done in the morning as possible, then log in a couple 10-20 minute writing sprints throughout the day, and finish off my word count after the kiddos are in bed.

Okay, good stuff. I’m planning for success here! But what if something fails to go according to plan? If? Ha. I have children. This plan will derail on Day One, guaranteed. Cue the if-then planning:

  • IF I get behind on my word count, THEN I have several options:
    • I can catch up on my Tuesday evening work nights
    • I can catch up on weekends while Mr. M is home with the kids
    • I can ask a friend or family member to come babysit for awhile
    • I can write at the YMCA while Little Bro’s in the play center.
    • I can access free childcare at the grocery store for up to 60 minutes a day…
    • I can just adjust my word count expectations.
  • IF my day is completely shot and I’m too exhausted to attempt my word count, THEN I have to at least write one sentence to keep the forward momentum going.
  • IF we have a family celebration (Thanksgiving, I’m looking at you), THEN I need to finish my daily word count before said celebration commences.
  • IF my house feels so messy and cluttered that I can’t concentrate on my writing or parenting, THEN I will set a timer for 30 minutes and do a “speed clean.”
  • IF my children start to get all whiny and needy, THEN I need to give them some focused attention before getting back to my manuscript! IF I can write every day, THEN it doesn’t matter whether or not I reach the 50,000 mark.

I will definitely do some “victory log” posts throughout November, because I’m sure I’ll have successes to celebrate as well as struggles to surmount. (Holy alliteration run amok, Batman!) As for the efforts of my role models… hmmm… perhaps I’ll be doing some biographical case studies in December and January!

For now, I’d love to trade tips. How are you setting yourself up for success this November? I’m hoping to hear some of your if/then planning! 



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