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April 15, 2024

GGGL: NaNo Survival -- Family harmony how-to

By Writer Gypsy

So, you've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. Yay! But your family and friends might not think so. What can you do? You can't just disappear for a month, as nice as that may sound. A month of no housework, no day job, no school and no interruptions. Sorry. Not part of the package.

Instead, take the time to explain what NaNo is to your family and friends. And explain that you would like them to support you in this endeavor. What you will need from them is at least a couple of hours at the computer each night without being disturbed. Of course they'll make themselves scarce for you. Right. That's gonna happen. And this article will win a Pulitzer. I don't think so.

However, you can explain to them what you are doing. Offer something to them in return for some quiet time at the computer (unless you own an electronic tool that allows you to escape from the desk, then you just need quiet time). You can offer to spend x amount of time with your family/friends/roommate in exchange for y amount of writing time. You can bribe them with money, candy or whatever else you may have at your disposal which will garner their cooperation. Their cooperation is important. Without it, the whole month can seem like an uphill climb carrying a 100 pound pack.

Spouses or significant others can be your greatest asset during NaNo, or your worst liability. The key to winning their support is to show that doing this won't radically change your family life. You aren't going to quit your job or neglect the kids. Housework, on the other hand, might not get its usual amount of loving attention. Before you approach your significant other about doing NaNo, take the time to figure out when you will write, how you will make time for family and friends and what exactly you expect from him or her. This could be as simple as asking your spouse to take the kids out to the park for a couple of hours a few evenings a week or as much as asking them to take over all of the cooking for the month. Just let them know it is temporary and come December 1, you will resume your normal life once more.

Kids, on the other hand, aren't as simple to deal with. If you have teens, you can often just explain NaNo to them (or get them to participate with you), and they will leave you alone. Many teens don't venture into parental territory voluntarily, anyway. They will be thrilled that mom or dad's attention is focused elsewhere.

Pre-teens might be less easy. They still expect to be the center of your world, at their demand. A new video game or a trip to the movie rental place can free up a lot of time for you to peck away on your novel. So can access to Cartoon Network or a collection of favorite videos.

The most difficult age to handle is toddlers. Not that toddlers are difficult, but they are still largely dependent on you. In the weeks before NaNo start giving them some self-sufficiency. No, don't expect them to do everything for themselves, but you can put snacks in an easy to reach place for them. You can pre-make drinks for them and teach them where to look for their sippy cups in the fridge. This alleviates the "I want a drink" or "I'm hungry" interruptions during your writing time. If you have a significant other or an older child, you can offer them something in exchange for babysitting time. Older kids might enjoy earning some spending money. Significant others might agree if you will return the favor for them down the road.

I have not touched on infants. Infants are special. You cannot abdicate your responsibility to them. But you can ask for help from family and friends. Can a grandparent or other relative take care of the baby for a couple of hours a few days a week? If this is not an option, use nap times wisely. And stay up after you put baby to bed. Of course, this goes against conventional wisdom that says to sleep when the baby sleeps. But, NaNo defies conventional wisdom, too.

But I don't have children or a spouse, you are thinking. All I have is a roommate. Or parents. Never fear. I haven't forgotten you. If you have a roommate, try to arrange your schedules so you aren't always home at the same time. Instant quiet. No? Then try the aforementioned bribery or exchanges. Offer to help your roomie with a paper if he or she will give you an hour a day of quiet all month. Or offer to take over laundry or cooking or dishes. Whatever works.

Parents are the trickiest of the bunch. I know, I am one. One key to gaining their cooperation is to show that you can handle it. Do well in school. Put homework first. Clean your room. Don't just tell them what you will do in order to earn your computer time, show them. Before you even approach the computer time subject. Then you can remind them how you have begun taking responsibility and that you would like to do NaNo, but will not shirk your responsibility. And don't. The worst thing you can do is tell a parent you will do something and then not do it. Or vice versa.

Whatever your situation, even living alone, you will need a way to secure your quiet time to NaNo. While it might be fun to do an all-night writing marathon once or twice during November, you know as well as I do that none of us can survive the whole month that way. So grab a few of these tactics, plan carefully and succeed this November.

Article © Writer Gypsy. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-10-16
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