The Writer's Den

UCLA's creative writing student group


Time Management During NaNoWriMo

In NaNoWriMo, utilizing every spare moment of the day is what helps you stay on top of your classes, get enough sleep, and cross the finish line.

…I’m really bad at using my time wisely. Sure, I plan my time down to the half-hour, but I never feel like doing what I’ve scheduled. I end up sitting at my desk arguing with myself over what to do until I’ve wasted an hour (or even two) fighting an arbitrary schedule of my own creation. And even if I remake the schedule, it happens again.

I can’t afford that kind of time loss during NaNoWriMo, so last year I created a productivity system based on a checkbox method that Austin Kleon used to create 250 poems in six months.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Make a to-do list for the week or the weekend. Include your assignments, word-count goal, and anything else you want to get done.
  2. Break up every single item on that list into manageable chunks that preferably take between 30 minutes and an hour to complete.
  3. Draw the boxes onto a sheet of paper, grouped by task.
  4. Fill in a box whenever you complete that portion of the task.

So simple it seems kind of stupid, doesn’t it? But turning your to-do lists into a visual progress bar can radically increase your productivity.

Usually when I have a spare 45 minutes I figure I don’t have enough time to get started on anything, but this system helps me shift my big-picture thinking down to the micro level and I actually get stuff done. Little by little, yes, but a small amount here and there is easier than trying to do it all at once.

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Peeling Skin Off My Sunburned Feet

Submitted by Dmitry Neronov. He wrote it at the Getty. We are amused by his rhymes.


There’s nothing to do,

Nothing to do, nothing to see

I can’t explain

The emptiness inside of me


All my friends are out,

Out of town, all took their cars

I can’t even hang out

With my cronies at the bar


Nothing to watch

Nothing good on TV

The most exciting show on

Is Meet the Press on NBC

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NaNoWriMo is approaching!

In exactly twenty-four days November 1st will be upon us, and you (may or may not) know what that means—National Novel Writing Month will be in full swing!

I have a five-year NaNoWriMo winning streak that I don’t dare break, so if anyone is interested in participating this year and needs some sort of motivator/spiritual guide/taskmaster, I can offer you advice and physical force encouragement for catching up on your word count. I’m dragging as many people to the finish line with me as possible this year, including YOU. Yes, you. You can do it. I have faith in you. We can do this together.

And if you want to attend NaNoWriMo meetups/write-ins and meet other participants, make sure to set your region to Los Angeles on the NaNoWriMo website—you’ll then get emails from our Municipal Liaisons about events in the area and have access to the regional forum, where someone will soon start a UCLA thread for arranging on-campus meetups (and I’ll probably be at all of those).

Stay tuned for a blog post about why I do NaNoWriMo! That’s all I’ll be writing about for the next two months, by the way. Just a heads up.


What does creative expression mean to you?

Two years ago, I walked into a room full of middle school students as a volunteer with The Writer’s Den – a club that only had about 7-8 consistent members. I was nervous at the idea of having to teach students about creative expression and storytelling. I was afraid they would think it was a waste of their time. I was afraid they’d BS their way through the work we’d give them. I was afraid of a lot of things, but most of all, I was afraid I wouldn’t do what I and the other members wanted to do: to guide, to inspire, to give these students a space to think and put themselves on paper.

Today, I experienced the same emotions and fears as Mary, Kate and I walked into the high school. It was The Writer’s Den’s first time teaching to high school students (This year, we’ve expanded to three weekly classes and have an outreach of more than 200 members), and I was afraid it would be more challenging, more difficult.

It ended up being inspiring – one of those times when by talking to them about why they write, I am reminded of why I write as well.
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