Planned Neglect (Or How I Met My Nano Goal Without Even Trying)

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Not to toot my own horn, but here it is, the next to last day of November, and I’m put-a-fork-in-my-manuscript-done with Nano. 

Um…I guess that is tooting my own horn. But I’m going to share how I accomplished my specific goal for this annual writing challenge and if you give my method a try, you’ll be tooting your own horn, too.


Unlike the Nano standard 50,000 words by the end of the month, I tweak my goal to fit my specific need. This year, I had nearly 28,000 polished words of a cozy mystery. I wanted to add 10,000 words in November and develop a doable habit of producing the same per month (approximately 500 words a day). Keep in mind I’m editing and writing so that by the end of November, I wanted approximately 38,000 pretty sparkly words. 


Some of you may be familiar with the concept of “planned neglect.” I came across a reference to it in September, and though there are several versions of the story, the one I read had to do with a concert violinist. 

The violinist was asked the secret to her success and she responded, “Planned neglect.” She went on to explain that instead of doing all the daily tasks that demand attention and then practicing her violin, she flipped her routine. She neglected all those pesky chores and practiced first, thereby insuring that she always did what was most important every single day

Now, if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about my writing process, you know that I make lists and set goals. It’s a process I apply not only to writing but also to the general running of…well, my life. And though I’m fairly good at prioritizing my daily goals, I realized something, thinking about my To Do List. Namely, that working on something that I really enjoy but that has no guarantee return (say, a paycheck) tends to be last on my List of Things I Actually Do. 

Oh, dear. 

Of course, it’s important to pay bills and meet work deadlines, but I was giving my best hours of the day to stuff I could do anytime and fitting in my writing when I was often tired and brain-dry. And so I reversed that paradigm; I found my optimum writing time and everything else had to fit around that time. Or get neglected. 

I’m not going to lie. Forcing myself to leave piles of junk mail or dirty clothes till the weekend made my hands sweat. Neglecting my inbox till 10:00 at night made my heart race. I’m a wee bit compulsively neat and organized so the whole planned neglect thing made me anxious. But only in the beginning. Very soon, something wondrous happened. 


My creative juices began to fill those spaces where the mundane had taken up residence! I woke up thinking about my plot, my characters, bits of dialogue. Throughout the day, my manuscript rolled around in my head and so without even trying, I’d sit down to write and the words spilled onto the page like water from a fire hydrant! 

By November 17th, I hit my goal. Before Thanksgiving, I hit 41,000+ words; I’m only on hiatus now because of research I need before moving forward. But more important than the word goal was the new habit created. 


Try this method. Take a look at what and when you’re spending your best hours. Plan what you can neglect in order to give your writing the best of you. Follow the plan and your priorities every day. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can form a new habit. 

And honestly, I’ve found that I can live comfortably and downright happily with my planned neglect. (But just for the record, I’ve worn clean underwear every day this month.)


Renee Roberson said...

Yay! Congratulations on exceeding your goal! I love this idea of "planned neglect." You don't want to know exactly how dirty I let the house get, mainly the floors and my bathroom. (The kiddos are on their own in keeping their spaces clean!) I chose to focus on daily walks, cooking dinner most of the time, editing for my day job, and working on my NaNoWriMo project. On the days I had to work more during the day and write at night, it was so much harder. My body and brain were more physically tired and the words were more difficult to get on the page.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Exactly what I'm talking about, Renee! (But I'll bet you made the 50,000--I've seen your updates!)

It's funny but after a week or so, I found that around 6:00 was my best time for's starting to get dark, which helps puts me in the right mood/tone, and I was still sharp enough to get in a good bit of writing. As for everything I neglected...after a while, it didn't seem nearly as necessary as I'd thought. I mean, a quick wipe up of a spill on the floor works great, right? I may never go back to mopping my entire kitchen! :-)

Unknown said...

That's great you were able to meet your goal! Congratulations!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--Congrats. I look forward to reading it when it's published. And having all those sparkly words around you... Wow!

Linda O'Connell said...

Hooray for you. I also believe we have to invest in our passion even if it means negelecting necessities once in a while. I was more productive when I was teaching and woke early to write.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks, y'all, I'm feeling pretty special! :-) And I don't know if you'll read it when it's published, Sioux. I'm gonna need a beta reader or two!

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top