Week 1 of NaNo has ended and everyone is busy counting up how many words they’ve written. Some have over 10K, others have none.

I have a love-hate relationship with NaNo. I love the discipline and camaraderie, but I also hate the pressure. Since I write every day, I often wonder why I put myself through the stress. Then, I remember how lonely I get and crave the check-ins and gossip with other authors also participating in NaNo. See? I’m conflicted. But one thing I am not conflicted about is guilt or self-sabotage. If I don’t win NaNo, I will not beat myself up or feel badly. It’s just a number (50K) within a 30 day period which is hard for most full-time writers to achieve. Maybe it’s because I’ve been writing for a long time, or maybe it’s my age, but I go into NaNo with the attitude of “what gets done, gets done”. That’s the wonderful thing about being a professional, full-time writer. You have a realistic understanding of both the creative process and the publishing industry.

With that said, I am admitting that I didn’t write any words written on my NaNo project this week. I did write–I edited my current book that is coming out in a few months and I wrote blogs and articles. I also ran two large social media events that landed me in both Email Jail and Facebook Jail. Then there was my son’s medical emergency which required massive amounts of moving parts, as well as a trip out of the country that has been rescheduled three times. And those rescheduling meant that we had to keep getting tested for Covid so we’d have our results within a certain window of time. But that’s okay. The words will come and the books will be written as I live my life with all of its ups and downs.

But that doesn’t mean that NaNo isn’t worth the time and effort. One thing I have learned with all of my deadlines is that when writing massive numbers of words over a short period of time, you need to take care of yourself. You need both some fun and some self-care. And, no, they’re not the same thing. So here’s a quick list of some things you can do for yourself as you write all the words:

Take baths. There’s something so inviting and relaxing about a hot bath, especially when the weather gets colder. If you need some ideas on how to add herbal remedies to your bath, check out The Romance Herbalist. There are a number of inexpensive bath salt recipes that will elevate your experience in the tub.

Drink tea. Stock up and drink your favorite tea. Black, herbal, green–it doesn’t matter. Just have it on hand to help soothe your throat and keep your fingers warm as you type.

Rest your eyes. It’s so important to give yourself time away from the screen. Eye strain is real and it can be debilitating. Go take a walk or a nap or meet your friends at the pub. Just get away from the screen and give your eyes a break.

Get outside. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get some fresh air and vitamin D. And walk in silence while your let your subconscious work on your novel. It always amazes me when I come up with the perfect solution to a plot problem while I’m walking through the woods.

Spend time with non-writing people. It doesn’t matter if you go out to dinner, grab a coffee, or go see a movie. Spending time with others who don’t write helps you get out of your own head and eases your mind. You’ll be shocked at how often non-writer friends can solve plot problems over a pitcher of margaritas!

Scent yourself. If you can handle scents, light a favorite candle or choose a wonderful hand cream or add scented salts to your bath. Scents are powerful things and certain ones, like lavender and lemongrass, can help both your conscious and subconscious mind rest and relax.

While some of the above ideas cost some money (I’m looking at you, margaritas!), most of them don’t. These ideas are separate from rewards because they’re not about motivation. They’re about keeping yourself sane and healthy while you work so you end the month feeling as great–or better–than when you started. Good luck to you all and I hope the words continue to flow!

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