In just a little over a week from now, hundreds of thousands of writers worldwide will be taking part in one of the most significant writing events of the year; National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo).
The goal is for each writer to write at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. There are no judges, no one will be editing their writing, no one will even be able to see it unless the writer decides to share it at some point, and there is no tangible prize for completion other than the draft version of the novel itself and the satisfaction of knowing you completed it.
The expectation is that the writer will write and complete a fictional piece of work; however, many use this challenge to write non-fiction or an anthology of some sort. Regardless of what the writer chooses to create, they still receive the same benefits from the experience, one of which is a strict discipline of sitting down and putting their undivided attention into their craft for long periods of time.
This level of discipline often requires a complete disconnect from the rest of the world. Writers need to prepare to eliminate all possible distractions and become as intimate with their allotted writing time as possible.
As Steven King advises, “Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open.”
This preparation looks different for each writer; however, one popular idea that’s become a recognized trend amongst writers, especially writers participating in NaNoWriMo, is the creation of a writer’s basket.
What is a writer’s basket, you ask? Well, the long answer is that it is the difference between dozing off and staying awake, it is the difference between staring at the screen for hours with absolutely no idea what to say and having that miraculous breakthrough idea that makes your fingers tremble with excitement as they fly across the page, and it’s the difference between comfortably enjoying your time doing what you love and stressing every second as your wrists ache in pain and icicles develop from your nose.
The short answer is it’s a gathering of everything a writer loves and needs in preparation for maintaining discipline while focusing on putting words on the page for hours at a time. It doesn’t matter if you fill a basket full of these items, load them up beside you on your desk, put them in a favorite carrying bag, or load them up in a tackle box; whatever you choose becomes your “basket.”
The goal is to have everything you need, or may want, ready and within arms reach to ensure the least amount of distraction as possible during your pre-defined writing sprint.
Some of the most popular items found in these ingenious baskets are listed below. Of course, every basket is unique to the writer, but these are some standard basics.
Noise-canceling headphones come in handy when you need to turn off all outside noise to concentrate on the task at hand fully.
Portable chargers are necessary for those writers who may be taking their writing on the road or their local cafe.
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or energy drinks are always great options to keep nearby for that much-needed boost of caffeine when you feel yourself slipping. Of course, you will also want to ensure you pack your favorite writing mug to hold your favorite drink. Some writers also include, or substitute, caffeine pills as well.
Water is essential also. You must ensure you stay hydrated during this time so packing a couple of bottles of water is always the right choice.
A stress ball or some sort of squeezable item that can be used to release some tension in your wrists and fingers when needed is helpful to include.
A notebook or journal and pens and pencils to jot down quick thoughts or words you decide you want to cut but keep somewhere else. Journals can also be used for documenting your stats for each sprint; when did you start, how many words did you complete, what did you eat or drink, how do you feel about it, etc. Keeping track of your stats can help you determine the best approach for your writing going forward.
If you use a pencil for your writing or note-taking, make sure you include a pencil sharpener in your basket of tools.
Snacks, preferably healthy snack options such as dark chocolate, nuts, energy bars, or fruit. Something light to ease your hunger and help you keep moving forward, not put you to sleep.
Candles, many writers like to write by candlelight, so packing candles is a must for them.
Something inspirational can also come in handy. Maybe it’s a sign that you put on your desk or wall with an inspirational quote on it or a book of inspirational quotes you throw in your pack. Whatever you feel can ignite your fire when you are feeling doubtful is the right choice.
Ibuprofen, Aspercreme, or any other medication that you feel you may need during your time of focus. Maybe you get frequent headaches or have arthritis in your fingers. Ensuring what you need is quickly attainable will always mitigate the risk of progress delay.
A quick writer’s block fix is a must! You can have a box of words you’ve written on torn pieces of paper that you randomly pull from when you need help, or maybe you have something like The Storymatic or the Writers Emergency Pack tucked in your basket to help you along the way. Think about what may be helpful to you and toss it in.
Last but not least, comfort! It’s essential to have what you need to maintain your desired comfort, whether that be a pair of writing gloves and a blanket to keep warm or a fan to keep you cool. A chair that your rear-end can sit in for hours at a time without going to sleep is a must. Determine what works best for you and get it ready.
Your options are limitless in creating your own unique writer’s basket, but the ultimate benefit is the same; more focused time on your piece of work. What writer doesn’t want to maximize the amount of time we have allotted to our craft?
Whether you’re preparing for NaNoWriMo or just trying to find more time to write, I wish you well and hope this helps you along the way.
Brooke is an Autism Mom and a Mom of 3 with a Masters in IT who loves her family, writing, running, bow hunting, and tattoos. She’s a survivor and an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. She writes for Columbia Mom, her personal blog at BrookeMcAlhaney, Medium at Brooke Moore, and is the Owner of the Medium Publication What Doesn’t Kill You.