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Day 27: Managing Expectations

Today I’d like to delve into how you manage expectations. Gaining this insight is critical because the art of conquering a challenge like NaNoWriMo is really all about managing expectations: yours and those of others.

Gretchen Rubin has created a framework to understand how individuals manage expectations. She’s identified that people can be classified into one of four styles which she outlines in detail in her book, The Four Tendencies. You can take her quiz to find out which type you are.

Here’s a graphic to illustrate the four tendencies:

Four Tendencies

So, let’s break down what this means for Nano.


You thrive on both sorts of expectations: your own and those of others. In a sense, you’re perfectly suited for Nano. You’re self-motivated and don’t need a lot of hand-holding to get it done. You’re likely to succeed to the extent that you’ve made a strong commitment to yourself that you’re going to complete the challenge. You can give yourself an additional charge by creating external expectations. To the extent you’ve made Nano your community, you will create a positive impetus for yourself. It’s particularly important for an Upholder to engage in Nano community building activities. Get out there and declare your novel. Not just on the NaNowWriMo website but shout it out on social media too. The more publicly you make your intentions known, the more likely you are to succeed.

There is a risk area for you, however: friends and family whose expectations compete with Nano. You don’t like to let other people down so you will have to be mindful when others are wanting you to do something besides write.


You are motivated to meet the expectations of others, while you find a harder time meeting your own expectations. Since you don’t have that internal commitment pushing you, it’s crucial that you create outer commitments by announcing your intentions to the world and relying on the Nano community to create expectations for you. Likewise, you will need to really work to not allow others’ expectations to derail you.

So, here’s what I’m saying to you, Obliger. I’m counting on you! Show me that this blog works to change people’s lives: get it done in November!


You must convert an outer expectation into an inner expectation if it’s going to motivate you. For you, securing your own personal endorsement of the expectation is critical. I’m a Questioner, so I feel you. When I first heard about Nano in 2015, I was intrigued by the contest and promptly did nothing. I didn’t write at all in November. Then in December, I jammed out about 35,000 words of fanfiction for the hell of it. We don’t need no stickin’ Nano! But now that I’ve have drunk the Kool-Aid on Nano, I’m a true believer.

You can easily uphold external commitments, you just have convince yourself that you buy-in.


You resist all expectations, both inner and outer. You thrive on rule-breaking. If there’s an expectation, you’re just as likely to do the opposite. Frankly, I’d be surprised if there are any of you here because a contest like Nano probably wouldn’t be appealing. So, please let me know if you are out there, planning to do this. If you are… try this. Or rather: don’t!

Focus on the present moment. Feel your love for writing. Just write for the sheer pleasure of it. Write because you can. Write to show off the fact that you control how you spend your time.

So, let me know, how’d you come out on the test?


If you’re not already on the “31 Magic Days of NaNoWriMo Prep” mailing list, sign up here.

Looking for more support? I coach writers on the Nano process and I’m currently offering a free planning session to help you get started. You can sign up here.

Table of contents for other articles in the series.

Be sure to also check out the 5 Epic Clues to NaNoWriMo Success webinar.





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