Camp NaNoWriMo: It's Dangerous to Go Alone (and Without These Resources)!
As discussed in the last blog post (Routines, Routines, Routines!), a well-designed routine and a distraction-free zone are essential to making the most of your writing sessions. If you're familiar with NaNoWriMo, you're aware of the extensive resources nanowrimo.org has to offer. While NaNoWriMo's official site offers plenty of resources to choose from, there are few it does not. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of listing those resources that will help you cut back on distractions, sharpen your focus, and introduce you to a writing community I vouch for.
Quick NaNoWriMo Links For Your Convenience
Focus Tools You May Already Own
Before we get into any free software to download or websites to check out, let's review what resources you may already have. Chances are you have Microsoft Word as your word processor. Microsoft's software is constantly updated with maintenance patches and new features, and wouldn't you know it? A new screen focus mode has been added to the thousands of options in your word processor's menu bar (refer to the screen shots above). When you activate this feature, your document is centered and any background distractions hidden. It's easier to focus when all you have to look at is your writing!
(Although word processors may vary when it comes to this feature, don't worry if you do not have one, there are apps further down this list that offer this feature.)
Notifications & Focus (Mac)
If you have a Mac, in your system preferences there's a section titled "notifications & focus." You can set a focus protocol that schedules when to block notifications across your apple devices and specify which notifications to block. This feature's schedule offers the convenience of not only setting times but days you want the protocol to activate. It's an even handier tool if all of your devices are Apple products and you keep your devices synced.
I'm not a Microsoft user but I do know, at the very least, the pathway to activate the do not disturb protocol. Start > System> Notifications>Do not disturb. The do not disturb feature allows you to specify priority notifications or set them off completely.
Your Music App
I make playlists for my writing projects. I make playlists for writing sessions. I make playlists for every reason under the sun. Whatever streaming service you use (Amazon, Apple, Spotify, Youtube Music, etc), build yourself a playlist that will get your creative juices flowing. While you're at it, look up playlists other people may have built specifically for boosting productivity, you'll be surprised by the amount of options you're find!
Free Apps and Websites for Focus
I'll die on this hill that involves listening to ambient environments while I write. This is possibly due to my growing up with ADHD and discovering sound therapy's effectiveness, but I don't write without it. Ambient-mixer.com is a site filled with thousands of sound environments made by thousands of users for free. You don't have to create a login to make use of the feature but if you want to make your own, you'll have to sign up with an email. No matter how you choose to use this tool, it's one I couldn't recommend more.
While you'd normally want to avoid the internet distraction that is youtube.com, the site can prove a useful tool if you can resist the temptation of clickbait. Have you ever searched Youtube for focus music or environments before? Have you ever searched sci-fi styled music? Not surprising there are communities of composers on Youtube who construct genre-themed playlists and sound environments to inspire. If you're interested in giving genre-themed playlists a try, head to my personal Youtube channel and check out some writing playlists I've curated. You'll find several genre themed playlists (like western, mystery, historic, etc.) that have hours full of themed music to get you in the zone.
The focus app I suggest to anyone who asks for two reasons. Firstly, the app offers a unique blocklist for offline apps and websites with an intricately customizable scheduling feature. Second, the subscription price is .99¢ monthly. This app's the greatest weapon against the worst temptations that keep us clicking off of our word processors. The only drawback of this app is that it is an app store exclusive, but still on I swear by.
What's not an app store exclusive, is the Forest app. Forest is a cute little app that you install on your mobile device to block distractions and plant trees in real life. The developers of this app partnered with Trees for the Future so every time a user completes a session, real trees are planted! This app is free with advertisements and the subscriptions cost $1.99 monthly. If you give into temptation during a focus session, the trees you are growing will perish! I always love to give back to charity where I can and this app has definitely earned its place on my phone because of it.
Writing Communities Worth Considering
NaNoWriMo has plenty of communities to offer through its forums and virtual write ins, but sometimes chatting in a forum isn't enough. "The key to keep yourself writing is to surround yourself with writers." It's the best advice I've ever received and it led me to a worthy community that offers services I find essential. Critique groups, 24-7 virtual writing rooms, virtual workshops and yearly writing conferences. The Houston Writers Guild is a resource everyone should consider.
First time memberships cost $60.00 and renewals are $50.00 every year from then on. The full list of membership benefits can be found here. Houston Writers Guild offers a staggering amount of resources for a price that I have yet to see beaten. It's a guild run by writers for writers. In fact, many guild members actively run NaNoWriMo virtual and in person write-ins for the sheer love of doing so. Head on over to houstonwritersguild.org and see what they have to offer. Look forward to the next blog post as we'll be closing off Camp NaNoWriMo prep with the topic of networking.