So, among the things I have done this morning that don’t include writing: Tweeting, Facebooking, Scrabbling, Scrambling, updating my blog, and surfing through various gossip/entertainment forums in search of…what? Distraction? Yes, distraction. The one thing that I haven’t yet done today? Write. Despite the fact that I have a 1k (minimum) self-imposed word count per day and despite the fact that my manuscript on my fourth book is due in just a few short months.
And because you guys are out there reading this post and responding to my tweets and putting up pictures of your kids on Facebook, I know that I’m not alone. So how do we juggle it all? How do we ensure that this time-suck of social media doesn’t, well, suck up all of our time?
Truth be told, I’m still tinkering with the answers to these questions. I don’t, however, think it’s any coincidence that I wrote my first two books at a much faster pace than I have my second two: back then (in ancient days – okay, four and three years ago, respectively), Twitter didn’t exist and Facebook was something those young folks were doing. In other words: I wasn’t distracted in the same way that I am now. But now, whenever I feel the urge not to write (which, let’s be honest, is more often than I care to admit), there’s always something that can steal away my attention. A Scrabble move that needs to be made, a perfectly hilarious tweet that needs to be posted (and then replied to and then replied to some more…)
So what’s a writer to do? I guess I’ve tried my best to impose limits. I try to set a very strict start time every day for my writing – usually about 11 AM, once I’ve surfed through every last thing I can surf through. And I have to write until I reach 1k words. I’m the type of writer, however, who sometimes digests what she’s working on while mindlessly scrolling through something else, so it’s not uncommon for me to flip back and forth between my manuscript and Tweetdeck while I mentally work out the best way to phrase a sentence. But until those 1k words are met, I don’t allow myself to get stuck there – on Tweetdeck or Facebook or wherever. The truth is, that when I check back in after my designated off-hour or however long it takes me, I discover that I haven’t missed much, if anything at all. I can always scroll down through everyone’s post, and within minutes, I’m caught up in the way that I would be if I’d watched it via play-by-play. I think this is an easy thing to forget: we don’t want to miss out, but really, we’re not missing anything so important.
Writing, in ways that extend way beyond social media and procrastination, is really very much about discipline. Never has this been more true than in our current internet-heavy environment. So for me, I force myself to exercise a little bit of that self-discipline if only for an hour or so a day. After that, I can Scrabble to my heart’s delight. But for that brief slice of time, I have to be what I really am: a writer. All the tweeting in the world, after all, won’t add up to a completed manuscript.
Do you struggle with balance? What borrows from your creative time? How do you manage your day?
Photo courtesy Flickr’s jenny downing