Things to Eat and Drink During NaNoWriMo

If your brain is working overtime and your creativity is starting to wear thin, consider what you’re eating and drinking. Both activities have a remarkable influence on creativity, stress handling, and overall brain function. Here are a dozen things to consider ingesting beyond a cup of coffee when you’re trying to get your mental muse in gear.

  1. Water
    Starting off with what to drink, we’ll begin with something that makes up around 80% of your brain. Making sure you’re hydrated can boost mental flexibility by 14% (and it’s the least expensive on this list!)
  2. Green Tea
    Besides a jolt of caffeine, green tea has an amino acid called theanine that can reduce creativity crashing.
  3. Alcohol
    There’s a reason why so many writers drank alcohol, and it wasn’t always talking to their publisher. Alcohol reduces executive thinking, relaxes the body, and is known to increase creative thinking. The problem is you shouldn’t drink it while driving or in excess, so no going to any NaNoWriMo write-ins with a jug of moonshine.
  4. Fish, especially non-farmed Salmon
    The amino acids and Omega-3 oils help to increase the size of the hippocampus. Fish is brain food, so it makes a good meal and can build the gray matter. Try not to get fried fish though, as that can decrease the good stuff and add calories.
  5. Egg Yolks
    Egg yolks contain choline, a nutrient that is crucial to creating some neurotransmitters that boost memory and brain speed. Yolks also have a good dose of Omega-3 oils.
  6. Popcorn
    Popcorn is a good snack unless you soak it in the tasty but not healthy stuff like heavy salt, butter, oils, or ranch. My favorite was popcorn dipped in yellow mustard (sounds weird, but is surprisingly delicious and addicting.) Whole grains help regulate glucose, and the additional B6 and B12 vitamins can boost concentration.
  7. Pumpkin Seeds
    Halloween is over and you’ve made a pile of pumpkin seeds in the oven? Good for you! (If not, add it to your list for next year’s NaNoWriMo!) Pumpkin seeds make a great snack because they contain zinc, an essential mineral that boosts memory and critical thinking. For some folks, they can also act as an anti-depressant and boost your mood.
  8. Berries
    Berries are brain food, plus they’re tasty and healthy for you. Some of them, like the tiny blueberry, have lots of antioxidants. Berries have nutrients to help maintain communication between brain cells and to promote survival and growth of new neurons.
  9. Seaweed
    Seaweed-based snacks (or even a meal of sushi) contains tyrosine, a nutrient that promotes abstract thinking.
  10. Avocados
    Avocados or dips like guacamole enhances blood flow and oxygen to the brain, so feel free to order up a delicious bowl to share with your writing buddies.
  11. Walnuts
    Since walnuts look like miniature brains already, you shouldn’t be surprised to see them here. They contain lots of neuroprotective compounds like melatonin, antioxidants, and those familiar Omega-3 oils. Studies show they increase cognitive performance and inferential reasoning skills.
  12. Dark Chocolate
    I saved my favorite for last. Dark chocolates contain flavanols, a nutrient that increases the blood flow to the brain by dilating blood vessels. There’s also a little jolt of caffeine and the mineral magnesium, which releases serotonin and endorphins.

Now that you know what to eat, add some of them to your Thanksgiving feast this year and get a few extra hours of writing instead of falling asleep with the tryptophan blues.

 


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Don’t Panic!

Today’s post is in scream-o-vision. When you see the prompt (Scream) you should scream — especially if you’re in a public place. Librarians are particularly fond of scream-o-vision. Enjoy.

(Scream)

(Gaaaah!)

This is the time that many NaNo writers dread. The month is 2/3 gone, and for one reason or another you’ve fallen behind. You’ve got 20K (or more) to write still, all your friends are at least 15K ahead of you, and just thinking about how you’re going to catch up is giving you a panic attack. The Final Countdown is playing through your head (and if it wasn’t it certainly is now). Plus, in the US we have the worst complication. Dare I say it?

 

(Dare! Dare!)

 

Thanksgiving is coming!

(Scream)

(Gaaaah!)

The family is coming over in three days, you haven’t cleaned since before Halloween, you haven’t even bought the turkey (let alone started thawing it), and the idea of serving your family frozen pot pies instead of a Norman Rockwell feast is looking better and better.

(Scream)

(Gaaaah!)

If this sounds like you then I want you to do something. Take a deep breath and DON’T PANIC! There are some things you can do that can help you salvage NaNo:

  1. The first thing to do is to not rage quit. If you give up now then it’s guaranteed that you won’t win NaNo. If you stick with it you might surprise yourself with what you can do.
  2. Look on the bright side! You have (insert word count) words that you didn’t have before. A lot of people who dream of writing a book never make it as far as you have and you totally deserve a button for that. Whether you reach the 50K mark or not, that’s something that you can still be proud of.
  3. Totally do the pot pie dinner. That’s at least 6 hours of cooking time that you’re eliminating — time that you can spend writing. Or if you don’t want your mother-in-law to accuse you of dialing it in for the rest of your life, serve turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, and a store bought pumpkin pie with the words “It’s NaNoWriMo. Be happy it wasn’t frozen pot pies.” written in frosting on the top.
  4. Get a massage. Yes, it’s lost writing time but it’s not unproductive time. You can think about the next scene or about entertaining conversations your characters might have. Once the massage is over — and you really needed the stress relief — the words can flow easily.

Did you find this helpful? Great! Soon you’ll be back on the metaphorical road to success. If you didn’t, at least you got to relieve some of the tension by screaming. See? You feel better already. All of those mental stress knots are loosening and you can go sit down and crank out another 2K words today.

(Scream)

(Gaaaah!)

Now go write!

What Does It Take To Perform Under Fire?

I’ve been involved in the Martial Arts for over ten years. I have a black belt, and if I hadn’t become a writer on top of my day job I would be a second degree. But I got distracted by writing, and that’s that.

Belt tests are some of my least favorite parts of the martial arts. I love class. I love my lessons. I love punching and kicking and knife techniques and sparring and sometimes I pretend to love forms. But belt tests are a different animal.

In short, the instructors—who are usually cool people—turn into demons that are there to push you until you’re teetering on the edge of your endurance and sanity. I can do techniques all day long, but make me run around the building or scale a wall and I go to pieces. Other people lose it if they have to do defense techniques quickly, or spar more than one person. (Most people don’t do well with that, by the way.) Whatever it is, the instructors will find it. And then, once you’re barely standing and thinking about quitting, they ask you to do a form. Or spar. Or defend yourself from them.

On some level it’s awesome. Especially after you’re at the end looking back. There’s nothing like knowing that you did every single Defense Maneuver you have flawlessly against guys taller and stronger than you. Or that you didn’t get stabbed when they brought the fake knives out.

But in the middle of it, there isn’t time to think, and if you do think, it’s usually about how much some part of your body hurts. Sometimes that includes your brain.

I’m short and round and don’t look much like a black belt, but when I’m in practice, I’m pretty darn good.

And that’s the key to passing a test. Being in practice. Because if you’re in practice, then when a fist is coming straight for your face, no matter how tired you are, you will do something. It might even be the right thing. Either way, you won’t get hit, and the next moment the other guy will be on the ground and you’ll think, “Hey, that really works. Oh crap, there’s another guy coming.”

I feel like this relates to writing. Lately I’ve been extremely busy, and my writing has been suffering. It’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve thought about the fact that I’m out of practice. I work part time and write part time, but I haven’t been consistently writing. I work on marketing or editing or blogging or putting together a newsletter or a giveaway. I pour words onto the page when there is a deadline looming, but not every day. I’m out of practice. Which is silly, because I know how important it is to write each day, and yet I’m not doing it.

So that’s my suggestion. Write each day, even if it is just 200 or 500 words. Write something. Stay in practice. Get a list of writing prompts off the web if you don’t have any ideas on what to write about or you don’t want to work on your current work in process. That way, when the pressure comes, and it will come, you can crack your knuckles and go for it.

Writing Stories – One Layer at a Time

Shrek - LayersI love in Shrek when he tells Donkey that ogres are like onions. They have layers. Even though Donkey suggests layered cake would be a better image, the onion analogy really works.

Books can be like ogres, onions, or cake, depending on the day and how your current scene is going. They’ve got lots of layers, and sometimes discovering a new layer can dramatically affect how we approach a work in progress.

Diving deep into a new novel during a focused writing burst like Nano can really help the story come alive in ways impossible to do when we’re outlining or planning or just writing a chapter a week. When we get deep into the zone, we can see things about the story we might have never imagined. We peel back the outer layers of plot, setting, and outer conflict to some of the deeper layers of motivation, inner struggle, and world view of our characters that shape their decisions and how they react to the world.

Those moments of discovery are awesome for both pantsers and plotters, and they’re key to ensuring that a story is deepened as well as broadened. We need to feel the heart of a story and make sure all of those layers align. Until we know those layers and make sure they build upon each other in a solid, optimized way, there’s at least one more draft that still needs to be done.

I’ve learned the hard way that even when I thoroughly outline a story, I don’t really know that story until I’ve worked through all those layers. I might write a huge 200,000 word draft that only touches on the outer layers. It’s not until I begin working edits and diving deeper that the true story emerges. Sometimes that requires some pretty substantial rewrites, but that’s a necessary price to pay for producing a professional quality story. If we quit before that, we’ve cheated the story and ourselves.

Here are a few things to ask yourself about your story to check your progress and make sure you haven’t missed any important layers:

  • Is your plot finished? Do you have a solid arc, including your plot points? Do you know the ending?
  • Is your setting well defined? Are the locations where scenes take place fleshed out with sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch? Is your blocking clear and easy for readers to follow?
  • Is your main protagonist’s challenge clearly defined, with a clear antagonistic force in place, with rising stakes.
  • Do you know what motivates your protagonist? Your antagonist? Other main characters? Why do they see the world the way they do, and are they open to changing that world view, learning, and growing, or are they fixed, closed-minded, and set in their ways?
  • What is your protagonist’s inner struggle?
  • What do other characters struggle with? How do they handle stress? How do they handle change?

If you can answer all of those questions with confidence, you’re well on your way. Keep charging ahead to the end. If you’re not sure, take a few minutes to think about these layers and consider how answering them might add depth and meaning to your story.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org