Kelly Maher


Self-care during Nano and other fast-drafting sessions

Fast-drafting is a challenge. Nanowrimo is essentially one of many versions of fast-drafting. This last calendar year has cemented for me that my process is very much aligned with the principles of fast-drafting. I vomit out words at a copious pace, and then I go back and heavily edit them later. I mentioned in my last post that previous attempts at Nanowrimo had left me burnt out. This is always a concern with fast-drafting if it’s not a process you’re used to. Increasing your pace at any time leaves you open to burn out.

You must listen to your body and your mind when fast-drafting or working to increase your pace. A couple of times this week, I ignored my alarm and slept in later than I planned on. I needed sleep as I’d been staying up until midnight (if I was lucky) with my alarm going off at 6 am. For some, this amount of sleep would be more than sufficient. It isn’t for me, and I’m not a morning person in the first place. The first time it happened, I got up in time to squeeze in a half hour of writing time before I needed to head into work. This is about half the time I normally spend writing in the morning. I’d already decided that I was going out with friends for a working dinner of writing, so I figured I’d be able to make up the remainder of my daily goal then. That didn’t happen, but the words I had written that morning had kept me ahead of not only my personally scheduled pace, but also the official Nanowrimo pace. I chose not to stress.

Then on Friday, I was exhausted. In addition to just being tired–and cozy warm in a nest of blankets with a chilly morning temperature, I was having a flare up of the dry patches around one of my eyes. This fall-to-winter transition has caused incipient psoriatic patches around my eyes to erupt as never before. My left eye is being hit particularly bad. Luckily, my issues with psoriasis are relatively light compared to others with it. Suffice it to say, before I go into a long discourse on psoriasis (I just deleted a bunch of sentences), my body’s yelling at me to rest. Friday, I listened to it and slept in a little longer. I compromised and went into work earlier than normal so I could leave earlier than normal. I came home, and despite not generally liking to draft new projects in the evenings, I got my words in.

The key to successfully fast-drafting is setting up a schedule. A schedule that includes downtime for you which can be shifted around as needed. One of the main reasons I get up early to write is so I can have my evenings free to read, watch TV/movies, or do chores around the house (ugh). When needed, like on Friday, I can put those more fun activities (not the cleaning) aside in favor of making up the work. I try not to do this often, but every once in a while is fine.

For this weekend and next, to get ahead of the Nano pace and finish the first draft of my novel (at least my project word count) prior to Thanksgiving, I scheduled myself to write 5000 each Saturday and Sunday. I know I can accomplish that in a three-hour period. On the days where 5000 words is my goal, I shoot for blocking out 9 am to 12 pm to do it. Yesterday, I started a little after nine, but that was fine. I was able to get the words done and then head out to my other scheduled activities without being too late. Even better, I hit the halfway point of my project word count for my novel. This morning, I could not crawl out of bed once again. However, I also had not scheduled myself for any hard-ish commitments like I had for yesterday. I started an hour later than I did yesterday, but once again, I completed my goal.

Ultimately, be kind to yourself. Figuring out the right pace for you is finding the one that will allow you to work consistently and produce the amount of work needed to meet your goals.

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