A High Performance Approach to a 30-Day Writing Challenge

Will your current performance level help or hinder you as you try to meet a 30-day writing challenge? If you plan to participate in one of the November writing events, such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo), or National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo), you might need to level up. To do so, employ high-performance strategies and tactics.

Most people know me as an author and book coach, but I’m also a Certified High Performance Coach. When it comes to taking on—and succeeding at—a month-long writing event, the five pillars of high performance—clarity, energy, courage, influence, and productivity—help me become more productive. And a 30-day writing challenge requires productivity on demand! You can’t procrastinate, feel tired or lethargic, or become unfocused or distracted if you want to meet your page or word-count goals in such a short amount of time.

Let’s look at each of the five pillars and how applying its strategies can help you meet your November writing challenge.


nina-amir-2014-featurednina-amir-creative-visualization-for-writersThis guest post is by Nina Amir. Amir is an Amazon bestselling author of such books as How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual and the recently released Creative Visualization for Writers. She is a hybrid author who has self-published 18 books and had as many as nine books on Amazon Top 100 lists and six on the same bestseller list (Authorship) at the same time. As an Author Coach, Amir supports writers on the journey to successful authorship. She is also an international speaker and award-winning journalist and blogger as well as the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month and the Nonfiction Writers’ University. For more information, visit ninaamir.com or check out her books at booksbyninaamir.com. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.


Pillar #1: Clarity

To complete a 30-day writing challenge, you need clarity on every aspect of the book you want to write. This includes getting clear about your book’s:

  • Topic
  • Theme
  • Content
  • Angle
  • Structure
  • Storyline
  • Turning points
  • Scope
  • Research

When you possess clarity, you can determine how many words you need to produce per day to meet your goal, and you produce them during your writing blocks. When your fingers touch the keyboard each day, you know what to write. You don’t waste time staring at the screen. You type!

Clarity also helps you prepare in advance. When you know what needs to get done on your book before the event begins, you can develop a to-do list of tasks you need to accomplish before beginning the writing event. For example, you can:

  • Conduct the necessary research
  • Block out time on your calendar
  • Organize your project
  • Clean your writing space
  • Make arrangements that allow you to let go of obligations or responsibilities during November
  • Begin developing the habits that will help you achieve your goal

Take time before your 30-day writing challenge starts to organize your thoughts, goals, and book details. This preparation will help you succeed in November.

[How To Write Novels When You’re A Parent]

Pillar #2: Energy

A 30-day writing challenge is a bit like running a marathon. You have to train and prepare for it. If you don’t, you’ll run out of energy midway through and have to drag yourself across or quit before you get to the finish line.

A runner won’t start a race without first preparing his body. Not only will he get in physical shape, he also will hydrate, eat foods that provide energy, and use supplementation to ensure his body has all the energy he needs to make it over the finish line. Additionally, the runner sleeps at least seven to eight hours per night while in training and the night before a race.

To run a writing marathon from start to finish, you need to do the same things—not just before but during your 30-day writing event as well.

  • Drink lots of water. (Have a glass near your computer at all times and sip it every 10-15 minutes or drink the whole thing every hour.)
  • Exercise so you have the stamina to make it through 30 consecutive days of writing. (Don’t let writing time eliminate exercise time.)
  • Energize your mind. (Your brain relies on water and oxygen to work at an optimal level. Take breaks to stretch and breath deeply.)
  • Eat a healthy diet, and, if necessary take vitamins. (No fast food to save time!)
  • Don’t miss sleep! (Your brain also needs rest periods to function at it’s best. If you do lose sleep, take a power nap or meditate the next day.)

These strategies will give you the endurance to make it through your daily writing periods and the entire writing event.


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Pillar #3: Courage

Taking on a 30-day writing challenge is a courageous act. It can mean sacrificing your hobbies, free time, and even some other commitments to fulfill your goal of completing a manuscript. You may have to courageously tell family, friends, and even your boss or co-workers that you can’t be interrupted or bothered during your designated writing periods.

And, of course, it takes courage to ask yourself to stretch. Writing anything in 30 days can feel hard, but this is especially true if you have decided to complete the first draft of a full-length book.

What many writers don’t consider is the courage necessary to change your habits. Many people take on a 30-day writing challenge to push themselves to write because in they don’t write regularly. They are too busy. They let life get in the way of their work. They expect to write consistently for 30 days a—although they haven’t done so before.

If your current habits have not to date supported your desire to write, you need to change your habits. Change is scary; most of us avoid it. That’s why you have to courageously approach preparation for your November writing challenge by creating new, supportive habits.

Maybe you need to stop watching two hours of television per night to open up two hours per day of writing time. Maybe you need to go to bed and wake up earlier every day to create a time to write. Or maybe you have to break your addiction to Facebook and other social media sites.

These changes take courage. But new supportive habits will help you get to the next level in your writing—and complete your 30-day writing challenge.

Pillar #4: Productivity

Productivity is based on one skill: your ability to focus. When you create blocks of time to write or writing “dates” on your calendar, you must focus your attention on the job at hand—writing—in that allotted amount of time.

The problem is that most of us are distracted and don’t live in the present moment. It’s easy to find yourself surfing the net, checking email or Facebook, or watching Youtube videos when you should be writing. You have visual and auditory noise constantly asking for your attention.

And then there is the mental noise. You have a voice in your head telling you what you should have done this morning or yesterday, what you need to do today (unrelated to writing), and how you might be missing something if you don’t check mail or Facebook. Plus, that voice tells you that writing is scary, opens you to failure, and hard—so why not stop writing and see what’s happening on your favorite social network?

The key to productivity lies in shutting out the noise. Lot’s of tools exist to block you from internet access; try a few before November. And you can enhance your focus with tools like Focus@Will (or any similar program) that provides “music for your brain.”

Also, don’t check email or social networks in the morning or just before writing. If you do, you’ll be distracted or sucked into someone else’s agenda. Instead, write first, and when finished, reward yourself with a trip to your email box or Twitter.

If thoughts of things you need to do rise up as you are writing, have a piece of paper handy where you can write down these tasks. That way you won’t forget them, but you can get them out of your head and onto paper. Stay focused on this moment and the task at hand—writing. Don’t stop to send a text to apologize to your friend for snapping at her on the phone yesterday, go to the kitchen to check if you have the ingredients for tonight’s dinner, or convince yourself that a phone call can’t wait until you finish writing.

Be present and focus. Your productivity in November will skyrocket.

[10 Meaningful Practices for Every Writer]

Pillar #5: Influence

The previous four pillars of high performance depend to a great extent on your ability to influence yourself. If you can’t persuade yourself to do what is necessary (or what you want), you’ll have a difficult time developing the clarity, energy, courage or productivity necessary to complete NaNoWriMo, NaNonFiWriMo, or NaBloPoMo.

You need will power to accomplish any of the things described above—to create clarity, energy, courage, and productivity. Do you have that will power?

  • Can you make yourself get clear about what you need to accomplish in November and how you will do it?
  • Can you force yourself to develop the energy that will sustain you as you write for 30 days straight?
  • Can you influence yourself to get out of your behavioral or mental ruts and develop new paths to success?
  • Can you persuade yourself to stay present and focused during your writing periods?

Of course, you want to influence those who read your book. You want readers to feel, experience, or learn something new, for instance. Maybe you want to inspire them to change.

But you can’t influence your readers if you don’t know how first to influence yourself. Specifically, if you can’t persuade yourself to write consistently for the next 30-days—or on a regular basis all year long—your work won’t end up in the hands of those you want to influence.

When you learn to influence yourself, you’ll find yourself leveling up in amazing ways—and meeting your writing goals.

Put these five pillars of high performance to as you prepare for your 30-day writing challenge and during the event. You’ll find you have both the mental and physical ability to complete your writing project in 30 days.

For more information on the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, aka National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo), please visit www.writenonfictioninnovember.com. Or simply click here to register for the 2016 challenge. Also join the WNFIN Challenge Facebook group by clicking here.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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