7 Life Habits That Can Help Your Writing

Let’s dig into what has become my favorite part of the NaNoWriMo prep process: getting my life in order.

I wish I could get my act together this well the rest of the year, but there’s something about the deadline of NaNoWriMo (and the deadline of getting ready for NaNoWriMo) that makes me want to take control of my life in a way to remove stress and really take care of myself.
You may choose to skip, adjust, or add to any of these components, but here are a few of the ways I’ve done “life prep” in the days and weeks leading up to November 1st.

1. Take care of your health

Here in the U.S. we’re still in the first wave of COVID-19 and now we’re in cold and flu season. While I’ve successfully crossed the finish line while (and after) battling an illness, it’s so much better when you’re in good health. (And now I’m imagining Mr. Darcy asking if I, my parents, and my medley of sisters are in good health.)

To give myself the best odds of being fit as a fiddle (or, at least fit enough to sit down at my computer) I make sure to re-stock my vitamin supply in November (loaded with Vitamin C) and I get a flu shot at least a week before November 1 (because I’m a wuss and usually get a swollen arm for a few days after the fact).

I also pay better attention to how much water I’m drinking. I eat my fruits and veggies. I cut back on my booze and caffeine (though not entirely–I’m only human). I get adequate rest. I’ll even build in time for walking or Pilates (though not as much as I should).

And, folks, please wear your masks to protect yourself and others.

2. Adjust your sleep cycle accordingly

Are you planning on becoming a 5 a.m. writer during NaNoWriMo? Are you thinking you might be a night owl? If your sleep pattern doesn’t already match up with one of these, I’m sorry to say, but it’s going to be rough that first week of November. (Rough enough to maybe even throw in the towel.)

That doesn’t mean you can’t become an early morning or late night writer. But I suggest sleep-training yourself a little in the week or two before. Want to get up early? Start going to bed earlier. Planning to stay up late? Do the opposite. It took taking a trip to France for me to figure out that I feel so much better when I let my body adjust BEFORE I undertake a big physical and mental change rather than after.

There’s some extra good news for those of you hoping to get in some words first thing in the morning. If you live in a place that observes Daylight’s Savings, you’ll get an hour back each morning beginning the first Sunday of the month (which is actually the third day of NaNoWriMo). So you don’t have to sleep train yourself as much as you might otherwise have to any other time of the year.

3. Do a basic meal plan for the month

If you’re a longtime (or even semi-short-time) follower of my social media, then you already now: meal planning is my jam. I take a little bit of time once a week to think about what I’d like to eat. I pick out the recipes. Make a grocery list. Hit the store, and devote a couple of hours on Sunday to meal prepping.

Now, it’s worth noting, I don’t live and die by my plan. I leave a little room for changes depending on what I’m craving, but I rely on that plan as a starting point.

So for November, I think a little longer term. I make a list of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I’ll need and the best way to make it happen. I also note any days that I’ll likely eat out for lunch or dinner. Again, I always leave room for flexibility, but it’s one less thing to worry about.

4. Fill your freezer/cupboard with meals

Using that meal plan I put together, I try to fill my freezer and cupboard with the foods I’ll eat throughout the month. Luckily, it’s soup season in Nebraska, which makes my meal prep pretty easy. I actually already have seven different types of soup stowed away in my freezer in individual portion sizes, which will give my extra variety.

And the weekend before NaNoWriMo (so coming up here soon) I’m going to make a few casseroles to put in my freezer. As I just said, I’m a Midwest girl. When someone is sick or having a baby, the first thing we do is show up with a casserole for the freezer. I’ve heard writing a book can be like having a baby (emotionally and mentally, I’d guess) and some people might think I’m sick for trying to take on 50,000 words of writing on top of my day job and other projects. So, really, it’s totally on brand to put some casseroles in my freezer.

Though I try to be somewhat healthy with my prepped meals, I’ll also stock up on a few of my favorite convenience foods. Like, when my beloved boxed macaroni and cheese went on sale, I absolutely bought five boxes to stow away in my cupboard.

Now, I’ll note this might be easier for me to do because I’m a single woman who shares her life with cats. But if you can put a few dishes in your freezer for those days when making lunch or dinner AND writing feels like too much, you’ll be so glad you did.

5. Stock up on healthy snacks

Full disclosure: There will come a time in November when I’ll forget all about making healthy decisions and want nothing but Pringles, cinnamon gummy bears, and salted caramel chocolates. But before that day comes, I’m going to do my best to eat foods that won’t rot my teeth and mind.

I’ve made protein powder brownies and cookies. I’ve made kale chips. And so on.

Whatever your healthy crave is, make sure you have it on hand. You’ll need to keep yourself fueled while you write.

6. Plan ways to treat yo self

Whether or not you work some pampering into your plan as goals and rewards sort of deal, I highly recommend that you find a way to treat yourself throughout the month. For me, that means giving myself a facial once or twice a month. And making time to go see the movie at the top of my wish list or to binge the TV show I love above all else.

Make time for whatever refills your cup and leaves you feeling good and energized. It’s hard to create when your soul is empty or even running on fumes.

7. Tackle your “other” to-do lists

I don’t know why it happens, but for some reason, there will come a time in November when I’ll decide my hall closet is out of control and it should be reorganized. Maybe you have a junk drawer (or room). Or you have that end table that needs to be refinished. And one day, when you’re struggling to hit your word count, and the story has lost a little of that love and feeling, you’re going to think, “Today is the day I finally paint my kitchen.”

Resist the urge. Better, still, try your best to tie-up any of those little projects that will nag at you before November 1st.

Okay, those are probably extreme examples, but I still try to give my house a semi-decent clean in the week before November. I’ll also make sure I have Thanksgiving planned out. Or my car oil changed (unless you actually do better writing at the car shop, then write on, my mobile writing friend).

Basically, think about what might become a distraction for you at some point and find a way to remove it from the list.