How to Adjust to Life After NaNoWriMo

Another year, another NaNoWriMo. Well over a hundred thousand writers participate. If you’re one of them, you’re probably familiar with the rush of accomplishment and pride and mania that accompanies you through the month. And you’re likely equally familiar with the post-NaNoWriMo slump. You may feel exhausted, not quite ready to return to everyday life, out of touch with how it feels not to be galloping towards your daily word goal with the force of a global community cheering you on.

While I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo myself, I have dedicated weeks at a time to intensive bouts of writing. It feels incredible in the midst of it, albeit with ups and downs, but when it’s over things just kind of feel ... empty.

What's a writer to do?

Don’t Jump Into Editing Right Away

With the excitement of finishing the rough draft coursing through your veins, you might be itching to keep working on your story, to edit it, polish it up, and have it done by Christmas. While this is one way to go, it may not be the best way. You need a bit of distance from your project before you can edit it properly. You’ve spent so much time with it over the last month, you’re going to be too close to it to see it clearly, and you’ll gloss over rough spots that will seem glaringly obvious a few weeks from now.

Pick a Return Date

Instead of jumping right back into the thick of things, set a date to pick up your story again. If you’re planning to write over the holidays, maybe the return date will be between Christmas and New Year’s, or maybe you’ll choose sometime in January instead. This date isn’t etched in stone, but it lets you put your project (mostly) out of your mind, for the time being, because you won’t have to keep thinking, “Well, should I get back to it now? I could pick it up again. Maybe today’s the right day.” You’ll just know that until it’s January 4th (or whichever date you decide), you can focus on other things!

Do Keep Writing

Just because you’re setting aside your NaNoWriMo masterpiece doesn’t mean you need to stop writing altogether. In fact, I’d suggest exactly the opposite: keep writing! If you’re feeling drained, something like thirty days of morning pages would be an amazing way to refresh your creative spirit. If your idea well ran dry from the constant need to hit your daily word goal in November, restock the well. You can also shift your focus to an entirely different story and write away!

Journal Your Experience

We don’t often spend any time taking stock of our writing process, but you can learn a lot from it. Spend a few days journaling about your NaNoWriMo experience. Did you have better luck on days where you wrote in the morning or at night? At your local cafĂ© or curled up on your bed? At a write-in with other NaNo’ers, or on your own? Did pushing through to the word goal each day make you feel more creative or less? What did you learn about your writing habits that you could use in the future, albeit in a less intensive manner?

Spend Time With Loved Ones

Best case scenario, your loved ones fully supported your NaNoWriMo endeavors and left you in relative peace to work on it. Or maybe they were neutral about it and your support network consisted largely of writers you found in the NaNoWriMo forums. Either way, your focus was elsewhere for the month of November, and that’s bound to make even the most patient loved one eager to have your company again. Make plans for a date night or go to dinner with your family. Have a baking day with your best friend. Gallivant around the neighbourhood with your dog.

Maintain the Community Feel

People who do NaNoWriMo often come away from it feeling particularly fond of the people who went through it with them, whether it was a local group they met up with each week at the library, or writers from the NaNoWriMo forums, or a writer you buddied up with from Twitter. There’s no reason you need to walk away after this bonding experience. Stay in touch with the people you felt best with, the people who truly inspired you and made you feel that yes, you can do this, you can get to 50,000 words by November 31st! You could do a Google Hangout once a month to check in with each other, or stay in touch via Skype, or form an in-person writing group.

Reconnect With Your Routine

Chances are you shifted your daily routine around for NaNoWriMo, assuming you didn’t throw it out the window altogether. Now’s the time to start reconnecting with it. If exercising and eating healthfully took a nosedive, slip some yoga into your day (try this “Yoga for Wrist Pain” video from Yoga With Adriene!) and put some beans in the crockpot. Start shifting your sleeping schedule back on-track, too, if it got derailed. Read, read, read! There’s a chance you might be feeling a bit worse for wear after such an intense month: be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect to be able to bounce back right away. The holidays are on your doorstep, and you’ll need your energy reserves fully stocked, so rest up!

(If you're not sure where to start in the wide world of self-care, check out my Pinterest board, Wellness for Writers:

How was your NaNoWriMo experience? Did you find it easy or difficult to make the shift back to everyday life? I'd love to hear your post-NaNoWriMo tips!