Do You Need a Writing Diet?



With NaNoWriMo only a few weeks away, it seems like a good time to manage our writing diets. No, I'm not talking about writing less, but cutting out the things we're doing too much of instead of writing.

Often, when we’ve put on a few pounds, we’ll stop and take a good look at what we’re eating, and that can begin with a food diary. All is takes is a few days of religiously writing down everything we put in our mouths to know we’re overdoing it with our carbs, or eating portions that are far too large. Once we know where we’re going wrong, it can be quite easy to make some healthy changes and get back on track. I challenge you to do the same with your writing habits!


We hear it all the time…we should be writing every single day. I bet most of us turn on our computers, open up our writing programs, and maybe even work on a scene or two. You might sit down at 9am, and get up from your desk at noon, but how much of that “writing” time was actually spent writing? Were you surfing the web? Writing blog posts? Commenting on websites? Checking Facebook, Twitter and email? All of these things are important, too, but are they contributing to your current work in progress?

And what about those other distractions? How many times have you stopped to answer the phone? Have the kids been in and out of your writing space, asking questions and just generally interrupting? Does your spouse need something? Don’t forget that show you’ve been meaning to watch on Netflix! There are so many daily distractions, you might not even realize you aren’t being productive.


NaNoWriMo requires stamina, and that means you need to be conditioned to write. Don’t expect to sit down on November 1st and race through the 1,666 words without any effort. Sure, it might be easy the first few days, but what happens when the kids get sick and have to stay home for a few days? Or your washing machine breaks down and you need to wait for the repairman to show up sometime between the hours of 8am and 5pm? What happens if you simply don’t feel like writing one day? It’s fine to take a break, but you need to know how to deal with the unexpected interruptions of day to day life, especially during NaNo when you’re on a tight schedule.  If you plan now and know your weaknesses, you’ll be better able to deal with the problems as they arise during November. (And hey, this will carry over into your life long after November.)


Are you being honest about your writing diet?  Do you even know how much time you spend writing vs. doing other things? You still have almost two weeks before NaNo. This is a great time to track what you’re doing each day. And once you can look back on your daily writing habits, it will be easier to come up with solutions to being more productive when you do sit down to write. Who knows? You might even find more time for yourself in all of this!

First, download this simple spreadsheet to use for the next two weeks. Each day, be honest about the things that interrupted your writing time. If you spent 20 minutes on Facebook and tweeted 30 times during the two hours you spent “writing”, show it on your spreadsheet. At the end of the two weeks, I think you’ll have a pretty good idea what consistently keeps you from being productive. You’ll have isolated your writing bad habits, and now you can work to fix them.

Then, use this simple form to figure out a solution to your bad writing habits. Were the kids sitting in the same room while you tried to revise that chapter?  Your solution might be as simple as moving to a quiet room and shutting the door, or something a little more drastic, like hiring a babysitter for a few hours so you can get your work done. Be creative. Find ways to improve your writing sessions that won’t cost money. Have a writer friend? Offer to take her kids for an hour, and ask her to do the same for you on a different day.


By the time NaNoWriMo rolls around, you should be working more productively. Once you form solutions to your productivity problems, you'll be able to use these when you'll need them most.

How is YOUR writing diet shaping up?