November is for writing: NaNoWriMo

Tuesday, 1st November

Last year, I finally found a copy of John Steinbeck’s writing journals during The Grapes of Wrath. It’s a book called “Working Days.” I was in Davis, California at a used bookstore when I finally found it, just sitting innocuously on the shelves — seemingly unaware I had been searching for a way to buy it for months.

Oh, the complex nature of relatively obscure books and international shipping fees.

Working Days is a complex journal of how the days passed for Steinbeck while he wrote one of the most influential books of his repertoire. Of course, there’s no way he could have known that at the time, but I find it incredibly therapeutic to see what he was thinking of when he sat down to write. Most days, he was thinking of everything but writing. Most days, he was focused mainly on how to get himself to show up.

Quite a few of the entries are unfinished, like he lost his train of thought in the middle of the actions of the day.

For the next month, while doing National Novel Writing Month (or, NaNoWriMo for short), I’m going to share my Working Days. My daily reflections. Not the writing, just the observer of the work.

First, here’s my favourite Steinbeck entry. Then, away we go!

June 8 [1938] – 10:45 [Wednesday]

This is the longest diary I have ever kept. Not a diary of course but an attempt to map the actual working days and hours of a novel. If a day is skipped it will show glaringly on this record and there will be some reason given for the slip. Yesterday the general and now back to the particular. I find I am not satisfied with the numbering of these chapters. It may be that they will simply be numbered with large numerals for the general and small for the particular. The reason is that I want the reader to be able to keep them separate in his mind. Today Joad and Casy come home and find the house deserted. They meet Muley Graves and he tells them where Joad’s parents are. They sleep in Muley’s deserted house. Background for the moving comes in here. This is followed by the general [Ed. — Chapter 7] of the old cars, of the equipment, of the moving technique, and then the Joad family enters and the book really gets moving. Well, that’s done but only a little into this chapter. I think maybe two or three more days on this chapter [Ed. — Chapter 6] I think. And tomorrow will be

– from Working Days by John Steinbeck


What does success look like for NaNoWriMo?

  • I have no daily minimum word count. Well, I guess I do. Let’s say a 10-word daily minimum word count. 
  • November seems like a contemplative month ahead:
  • I’m travelling a lot, which brings out a lot of thoughts
  • I’ve got a new iPad, so I can write on the go
  • Systems and routines help to ground me, so I’m looking forward to being consistent in writing daily
  • I’m meeting a lot of new, amazing people, and having a lot of deep discussions. Which feels like fuel for the writing fire.
  • I have 3-4 editorial deadlines coming up, and all of the topics are applicable to my book.
  • I want to solidify my daily writing routine
  • I want to get some really interesting thoughts down on paper, and get some research done, before I leave for the writing retreat in Thailand

Day 1

Wrote 1393 words for an article for Zendesk about the value of showing up to work as a full human being. What does it look like? What are the symptoms and negative effects of continued segmentation of our lives/interests/passions?

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