So here we are, two weeks after the end of NaNoWriMo.
The above phrase is always how I think of what life is like after NaNo is over. Even if you don’t make it to 50k, your imagination usually feels like some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland after all the work done. At least mine always does, anyway.
I only made it to 31k words this year. And that’s for the perhaps obvious reason that I went through a pretty big personal loss during the month of November because of the miscarriage. (I’m still working on healing from that but my husband and I are doing much better).
(NOTE: Be sure not to feel any sort of failure or guilt for not reaching 50k. It’s a noble and lofty goal, sure, but some years it just isn’t attainable. That doesn’t make you a failure or any less of a writer. It just means some years are harder than others. HOWEVER, it also means you have more words than you did to start with! Always keep in your mind that, no matter the final word count, that you made good progress!)
Despite the fact that I was short of 50k this year, I’ve completed NaNo many times before. Plus if I manage to get even just above 25k words (usually done in the first week or so), I generally find that afterwards my imagination is just exhausted.
So here’s the thing about that problem: Just like a marathon runner would let his body rest after completing the big race, you may have to as well.
Writing is a strenuous endeavor, just like running a race. The only difference between the two is using the muscles and physical prowess or your brain/creativity and intellectual prowess. What I like to call your Writer Brain is a much like a muscle. You have to keep it limber with plenty of work, but sometimes you also have to let it rest when you’ve overworked it.
I usually find myself taking a month or more of a break after NaNoWriMo before I work on another serious project. I allow myself some time to dabble or explore new ideas, before (attempting) to settle down on a new main project sometime in January.
(Realistically, I keep 3 main projects that I oscillate between, unlike some writers who only have one main project.)
What you shouldn’t do after NaNo is beat yourself up when you can’t immediately get back to your usual writing schedule (however loose or rigid that may be). Needing a little bit of a break is okay.
I do have a few tricks that tend to help get me back on track.
My first tip to regain some creativity is to find yourself a good TV show (a book works as well). Pick something you either love and can rewatch all the time (that stimulates your Writer Brain) OR pick a new show that has a lot of great content to glean.
Just like reading (both books about writing and simply fictional narratives) is a way to refine your craft, you can stimulate your creativity by exposing yourself to others’.
Try allowing yourself to flit between new ideas. Hopefully some of that new material you’re consuming will fill you with some new inspiration.
My trick is that I allow myself to explore new ideas as much as I want during this period after NaNo. If I have one new idea or seven, I’ll not only tolerate them, but write them down and explore them a little until I decide whether or not I can continue with them as a main project just yet.
Oftentimes ideas I come up with during this stage aren’t fully developed until years later when I decide to make them a main project. Other times, I find that I can immediately latch onto a single idea, form it enough to make it a main project, and use it to fuel my course back into my regular writing schedule.
To be honest, I usually don’t resort to this one until the other two have failed.
Like many of us, I tend to run myself ragged during NaNo. Nearly every year I’ve done it (except perhaps the very first) I’ve been juggling several obligations or just things that sapped my energy (work, household chores, school, and this year added pregnancy to that list) before I even got to write every day.
Sometimes, working yourself to the bone means you have to take a break for your body to catch up, not just your mind.
All in all, these tips really are just what I’ve learned from personal experience. To be fair, I find I don’t write in a similar way to many other writers, so these may or may not help you.
The trick is to find what works for you. Take bits from one writer’s advice, some from another’s, and some from just your own experience, and eventually you’ll come up with the best method for stimulating your creativity!
In the meantime, I hope I’ve helped you on the road to more writing!