Sprints and Marathons

And why you stretch before you go reaching for that metaphor.

NaNoWriMo is in its last stretch. By this point, you’ll probably have a pretty decent idea of whether you’ll be able to actually reach your goal or not. You’ll also be starting to get a pretty good idea of whether the New Thing you tried for NaNo (if you’re like me) is working out for you.

It is also very possible that, at this point, you’re nowhere near your goal, whether you decided to go with the official NaNo goal, or your own, unrelated goal.

That’s alright – sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and that’s part of how these things go. Or maybe it means that you need to refine your approach for next time.

Today, I don’t have any useful advice to offer – I’m just going to stretch a metaphor for a while and call it a blog post.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I hear about NaNo is that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

And that’s true – setting an unsustainable schedule early is just going to end in burning out before the end.

But remember: NaNo is also about writing fast. The schedule has been set for you – 1677 words per day, every day. In other words, it’s not just running the marathon, it’s running the marathon in under a certain time.

And that needs to be worked up to. 1677 words might not be objectively very much (university students all over the world churn out that many words in caffeine-fuelled all-nighters every day, with references. And they don’t even get the safety net of a good editing pass later).

Obviously I’m not suggesting you make it through NaNo in a sleep-deprivation and caffeine fuelled haze. That’s just asking for trouble.

But it does mean it’s important to treat NaNo not just as a marathon, but as a marathon made up of a series of little sprints. It’s also the reason why it’s probably not a good idea to just go straight into NaNo without doing much writing for the rest of the year.

I don’t know if this is useful so late into the NaNo month. But maybe it’s something to think about for next year if you’re struggling.

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