John Saye recently had a spiffy post on writing totems, particularly in relation to NaNo. I've never been a big believer in such things, but when I stopped and thought about it I've had them the last couple of years.
In 2005, for my first NaNo there was nothing. And I only made it a little over 5k that year.
In 2006 I set myself the modest goal of achieving 10k. I made a bit over 51k and won that year. What inspired my project that year was a mysterious photo (a series of them, actually).
When my grandmother died in 2000 I helped my mom clean her mother's things out of the nursing home. By the time she died she was in the full-time nursing care wing and her personal possessions were cut down to what she could fit into a tall dresser and a desk beside her bed. In the desk I found a series of photos of my grandmother in her 20s obviously affectionate with a man decidedly NOT my grandfather or her brother. In light of her limited space, who was this man that was so important she kept his photos with her 60 years later and after over 50 years married to someone else? I looked at those pictures a lot in November 2006.
In 2007 I wanted to win, but never managed to bring my plot into focus enough to get past the set-up (all 35k of it!). I gave up when I went back to work, part-time, the week of Thanksgiving. Last year's book was, loosely, about a hydrophobic woman who tried to commit suicide by drowning herself and discovered she was a mermaid. (oops?!) I didn't have a totem, just a mermaid sticker pilfered from my 6yo that I put on the wrist rest of my laptop.
So, maybe there is something to totem/project touchstone thing after all... As soon as I figure out what I'm using this this year, I'll spill... Or not, since I don't like to talk about my NaNo project too much til I'm done or it is.