Whelp, it’s November 1st. Y’know what that means? It’s NaNoWriMo season!
As an ADHD person, NaNoWriMo can be terrifying. Me? Committing to a writing project for a month? And working on it every day???
But if you want to do NaNo, you should! And you can! You just might need a few extra things put into place to help you… especially in the “writing every day” department.
A hugely helpful resource for me was Cory Doctorow’s essay “Writing in the Age of Distraction”, which I read for the first time in high school. Ten actual things you can do, instead of vague “find your mojo” bullshit! I noticed immediate positive changes as soon as I followed some of these strategies, participating in (and winning!) my first NaNoWriMo that year — and I’ve been writing just about every day in the six years since.
Here are the things that seem to work for me, from experimentation with the strategies in the essay:
1. Actually make time to write, because it’s important.
I know that sounds… obvious, but listen — if I want to get any writing done, I have to block out a specific time period in my day for it, and decide that it’s something important. It has to be up there in my priorities next to “feed the dogs”. For me, that means I have a scheduled writing time every day, where I set a timer and do nothing but write until it goes off. If I don’t do that, my brain decides that it can wait until later… and we all know what “later” means to an ADHD brain.
2. Use “rigidity” to your advantage.
One of the things that Doctorow warns against in the essay is ceremoniousness in the writing process, and I’m inclined to agree — only being able to write under very certain conditions just isn’t helpful. But for me, adherence to routines is very important; it’s part of how I manage my disabilities. My comfortable middle ground seems to be keeping my routine portable — my writing notebook and pen live in my bag, which stays on my person. These, plus a playlist of Good Stimming Noise, enable me to write with a comfortable degree of consistency, wherever I happen to be.
3. Use research as a reward.
Research might actually be my favorite part of the writing process — especially when my story overlaps with my special interests. Since even opening a web browser while I’m writing is a very dangerous idea, I mark anything I need to verify and jot down any questions that pop up in my head while I’m writing. Then, once everything I need to do is done, I can go back and research stuff as much as my hyper-obsessive heart likes.
4. Find your tools.
I’ll admit that I was originally skeptical of Doctorow’s suggestion to “kill your word processor”, but holy shit, it’s the best thing I ever did for my writing process. I didn’t realize how much fiddling I was doing with options that literally didn’t matter until they weren’t there.
It can take a while to find something that works for you — there’s a lot of options out there. I’m a WordGrinder person. It runs in a terminal, does only very basic formatting, has a vague 1980s feel… heck yeah. But FocusWriter is probably a better option for the people who aren’t like me in those respects.
A personal note: I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year — I’m busy getting ready to go to school in a few weeks, and I’m in the middle of a project right now anyway. But I’ll be writing along with everybody, and I’m always up to be somebody’s writing buddy! Good luck to everybody who’s participating; I’m rooting for you!