I wrote this post originally in November 2013 (wow, that's a century ago) for The Write Practice. People loved it (one writer even tried to emulate it on his own blog). And so, as with any popular blog one writes, it deserves another go.
November, as nearly all writers know, is NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. It's a writers' hackathon, essentially. You're supposed to produce 50K words from start to finish in 30 days.
Let's ponder this a moment. That's FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS. In one month. I suppose you could buy one of those word-generation machines and crank it out. Or take leave from your job; your ever-loving, ever-supportive boss will naturally understand. Or avoid your social life, food, laundry, sleep, and other unnecessary luxuries.
But because you CAN'T go without sleep for 30 days, and because your boss is probably not as lovable as you'd like, you need to be smart and extremely efficient in order to be this prolific. Even if you don't write another word till next November.
We've already talked about sacred time, and doing high-focus one-hour writing sprints. We have not yet dipped into the writer's sauce.
Yes, sauce. As in, simmering, bubbling, head-spinning aromatic made-from-scratch-by-your-Italian-mama sauce. If you're a writer, you need to steep your mind, body and soul in story material on a daily basis—and especially this month. Here's my secret recipe:
1 pair of eyes, peeled and wide open
1 pair of ears, finely tuned and focused
1 fresh mind, unbiased (recommend to supplement with "heart" or "psyche")
1 bottomless bucket of memory spices (should contain perceptions, perspectives, and an acute dash of perspicacity)
4 metric tons of full-bodied attention
2.5 square yards of 360-degree situational awareness
– Preheat your mind to the highest level of awareness you're capable of. Lather the inner walls of your psyche with the particular question, plot point, or other specifics of your WIP in preparation for the day's harvest. If specifics or a WIP are not available, you may use a general openness to inspiration.
– As you head out the door in the morning, drink in the world around you through your eyes, ears, mind (heart, too, if available).
– Maintain acute situational awareness at all times, no matter where you are—stuck in traffic or a family reunion, a restaurant or a bar with friends, shopping for groceries or cooking, or just... by yourself, anywhere.
– Notice EVERYTHING. (Tip: try not to stare at people for too long, as the ingredients may sour. Animals and other non human forms of life, as well as inanimate objects of any type, may be gazed at indefinitely as they have a longer stare-life.)
– Each afternoon or evening, as you return home, let the oceans of stimuli from your day sift through your soul, ideally through the colander of your subconscious. Take care not to over-strain or over-analyze, as these nascent threads of storylines tear easily. Put aside to marinate a few hours.
– Take a complete break. This may be done by making dinner, catching up with a loved one or your family about their day, or running a few miles (other forms of physical exercise qualify.)
– After dinner or once you are able to take a little sacred time, knead the day's experiences into a malleable dough. Fold in that bucketful of memories and perceptions. Be sure it's neither too thin nor too dense. It must be the right consistency for you to work with it.
– Shape the dough into words, letting each raw word slide through your preheated psyche. With your laptop, pen & paper, or other similar tool, record each word and let slow-cook overnight. In the morning, before you start your day and gather the next batch of inspiration, check in on the previous night's batch in case you need to tweak anything.
– Whenever you're ready, garnish with proper proofing and serve at any temperature.
SERVING: Serves millions.
What unforgettable experiences are you going to season your writer's sauce with?