Procrastination and Nanowrimo Don’t Mix

by syaffolee

Yesterday, I gave a talk about Nanowrimo to a writing group at a local community college.  Although I qualified my statements with the fact that every writer has their own way of doing things, one of the points I emphasized is to not procrastinate.  Especially in Nanowrimo, your goal is to write 50,000 words in a month.  If you leave everything until the last minute, the results are going to be disastrous.

So it was with interest that I read this article on procrastination.  Research showed that procrastination happens because people favor doing good and easy stuff in the short term–even though intellectually they know that if they do the unpleasant stuff now, they would be rewarded even better in the future.  To beat procrastination, you need to somehow trick yourself into doing what is rationally best for you rather than what you feel is best.

I personally don’t have much of a problem procrastinating on Nanowrimo.  It may be because I don’t have a television or a habit for playing computer games.  At the moment, I don’t even have internet access at home.  So no silly and pointless YouTube videos for me–unless I happen to have ten minutes free in lab.  But honestly, I don’t think it’s the lack of distractions that force me to write–it’s the fact that I don’t have to be forced to write.  Writing is my compulsive hobby.  It’s what I do in my free time anyway.

For other people, writing may not be so easy.  Instead, it’s torturous work.  They want to get that novel by the end of the month, but the very action of putting words onto paper is not a happy prospect for them.  All I can advise, in that case, is to write as much as you comfortably can each day.  And it’s important that one does this regularly.  If you skip a day, things are going to go that much faster down the toilet.  If you have dreams of being a full-time writer (or even a serious part-time writer), you have to think of this as training.  It’s impossible to be a writer if you don’t write.

* * *

I’ve been brooding lately on the position of the Moscow, Idaho municipal liaison for Nanowrimo.  It will be inevitable that I won’t be ML for the region some time in the future and I am kind of worried that the Moscow group will fall into neglect once I’m gone.  The worries stem from the fact that over the past couple of years, I’ve exerted a not negligible amount of effort to expand Nanowrimo participation in the region.  And unlike other regions, I haven’t had much luck with co-MLs*.  They tended to ditch Nanowrimo after the first week in favor of Real Life Stuff.

When I first stepped into the position of ML, I pretty much had to start from scratch.  The previous ML had given me little, if any, useful guidance.  The previous ML had specifically stated that she was rarely online–which to me seemed completely counterintuitive.  Nanowrimo is the phenomenon it is because of the internet.  Of course, there were offline things like how to convince a bunch of independent writers to meet at one place without tearing your hair out in frustration–but that was mostly out of anyone’s hands. Then there was figuring out how to write encouraging e-mails without sounding completely crazy.  This actually did not turn out to be too hard.  I had already started mentoring newbie Nanowrimo participants online a couple years before.

And there was the practical stuff.  Like where to hold write-ins.  Which locations had space?  Outlets for laptops?  Which places were generally friendly towards writers?  And this year, on top of all that, I had to figure out how to coordinate a book drive.  And somehow, the whole thing has exploded across state lines, encompassing two university towns.  So where am I able to leave boxes?  How can I coordinate pick-up and delivery?  How are we supposed to store and sort the books?  I’ve never done anything remotely like it before.  I mean, yeah, when I was in grade school, I was forced to do fundraising stuff, but I just mostly sold stuff to my parents.

Dammit Jim, I’m a microbiology student, not some non-profit organizer grand poobah.

So yeah, it can get hectic.  But in some ways, it can be rewarding, too.  On an intellectual front, you’re helping people write the novel they’ve wished they’d written but before had just put it off for some reason or other.  On a social front, you’re offering opportunities for writers to get together.  And because there are always a disproportionate number of younger people signing up, it’s something to let them know that they aren’t alone in their writing obsessions and geekery.

Anyways, back to the ML position.  I’m thinking about writing a guide specifically tailored toward the Moscow ML so that the person after me doesn’t have to start from scratch.  The guide will have things like lists of places suitable for write-ins.  A list of places not suitable for write-ins (with the reasons why).  The time table for when I start organizing things (particularly when I start advertising for Nanowrimo, when I place reservations for meeting locations, and when I start posting particular pieces of information on the forums).  Copies of previous regional e-mails for pep talk ideas.  And my philosophy for MLing in general.

If any other MLs (or potential MLs) happen to be reading this, feel free to chime in with additional suggestions and/or criticisms.

*All MLs have their own style at organizing their regions.  Although I feel that I’m fairly open to suggestions, it could very well be that my former co-MLs were put off by my management style.  I have plans for things and I generally expect people to show up at the very least.  They don’t even have to do anything else if they don’t want to.  But even showing up, it seems, can simply be too much for some.