Pep Talk from Sandy Hall

It’s the last day of NaNoWriMo! Woohoo!

You have a word deficit; oh, no! (Or maybe you don’t. I don’t know your life. But you might just find something useful in this post anyway, so read on.)

At this point in the writing process, sometimes it seems like the only way to push through to the end is to lock yourself away in a cave somewhere, a Fortress of Write-itude, and not come out until midnight on December 1st. I totally understand that instinct, I really do. I’ve been there myself many times. If you have that kind of fortitude and you can manage it, more power to you.

But if you can’t, I am here to give you permission to take a break. Round off those next hundred words and walk away for a little while; even if you just wander to the fridge and eat some ice cream out of the carton. If that’s all the break you need, crack your knuckles and get back to it. If you need more than that, you have my permission give yourself more time.

Some people might want to take a run or listen to music or go for a drive. Or perhaps a combination of all three.

I want to remind you, before you protest that there isn’t any time for a stupid break, that sometimes inspiration can be found in the strangest of places.

For me, personally, I like to watch an episode of a sitcom as a break. I promise it’s not because I’m a big fan of laugh tracks. I’ve found over the years that certain episodes can be inspirational and can actually  help me break out of a writing slump. I have a bunch that I come back to time after time, because each one teaches a different lesson about writing and character. Don’t believe me? Here’s my list.

Three Days of Snow (How I Met Your Mother, S.4 Ep. 13)

This episode messes around with time in the best way possible; you never know which of the three days of snow you’re watching until the end. It’s a lesson that sometimes it’s good to mix things up a little and keep your audience guessing and engaged.

Pepperwood (New Girl, S.2 Ep. 14)

Not only does this episode feature main character Jess teaching a course about writing, it’s also a great portrayal of how you can up the stakes in different ways. Her friend Nick honestly believes that Jess is in trouble and in trying to “save” her, he gets himself in deeper trouble.

Double-Edged Sword (30 Rock, S.5 Ep. 14)

Sometimes you just need to lock your characters in a room (or a plane which is what happens in this episode) and make them sweat it out for better or for worse.

The Fight (Parks and Recreation, S.3 Ep. 13)

Then there are other times where you need to get all of your characters drunk and let chaos reign.

(Super weird that these are all episode 13 or 14 of their respective season’s. Makes me wonder if the two-thirds point of the story is where writers really hit their stride. Something else to motivate you as you finish up.)

I am fully aware that some of these lessons are a bit of a stretch, but guess what? They really have helped me in these ways. I love watching a twenty-minute nugget of writing inspiration that has the bonus of making me laugh and leaving me feeling less stressed out about everything.

So here’s your permission to take a break and go looking for inspiration. (Or even just take a break. Period. You have my permission to do that, too.)

And if your search leads you to your Netflix queue, I need you to promise me one thing: when they ask if you’re still watching after a couple of episodes, say no and get back to work!

Because seriously, even though I don’t want you to lock yourself in a cave, the fact is the month is almost over and you have a novel to finish.

Now get to it!

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