Friday, 4 February 2011

Writing Time-Sucks

I'm a champion procrastinator. I can happily spend days on writing related business without actually doing any writing. Apart from writing blogposts about procrastination, my top time-sucks are...

Social media
Twitter and Facebook are great for putting you in touch with other people, other writers. Publishers tell their authors to go out there and get involved in social media. Unpublished writers are advised to build platforms through social media so when they do get published they have a ready-made readership.
I love Twitter, though I find Facebook less compelling. But I can spend hours on both, following up links, reading blogs, staying ahead of any publishing gossip. It feels like work - it IS work, given my publisher told me I should be doing it. But it is work that should be rationed. Last year I blogged every day without fail, this year I'm trying doing weekdays only.

Checking emails all the time
It is death to a writer to have the device turned on that pings whenever an email turns up in your inbox. You will never get anything done. Turn it off now!

Phone calls
Have you ever been in a shop with a query when someone phones and the assistant immediately answers the caller's query before yours. And you took the trouble to come in! Why do we feel compelled to answer the phone? I don't know, I just know I am. I now write with the phone nearby so if a window replacement company phones I can answer, and disengage in a couple of seconds. The only problem with this approach is that friends and family ring and if I answer I get sucked into a long call. The only solution is to let the answer machine answer for you.

I don't watch much television in the evening, it's day time television that's my problem. Bargain Hunt at lunchtime, Countdown in the afternoon. On good days they are my reward for writing. On bad days they console me. Either way, they take up an hour of my day. I actually think that's quite modest for most people and hey, you've got to have some downtime.

I love the Times crossword and Sudoko, the harder the better. I think I like them because I get so absorbed in the puzzles all else zips out of my brain. This includes writing a novel. For that reason I don't buy a daily newspaper at the moment for the sole reason that I don't want to get sucked in and lose hours of my life over a square of newsprint.

I love thinking about writing. I can wake up and spend at least an hour mulling over the latest book or thinking up potential blog posts. I could delude myself that this mulling time is an essential part of my writing process, but the truth is I get on much better I start writing first thing. You do need thinking time, but it's best saved for other occasions like exercising, commuting or doing domestic chores.

The chances are that your family is hugely disruptive to your writing. They interrupt writing time with questions "I won't be long, I just wanted to ask you..." or kindnesses "I thought you'd like a cup of tea and a biscuit." They want to go out now, or eat a meal now so you have to stop what you're writing and do whatever it is they want. If they are young they have an inexorable timetable of school runs and homework all of which comes just as you're writing the most important scene.

Domestic stuff
Things have to be pretty bad with the writing for this to be my procrastination of choice. Unless it involves spending serious money, like playing fantasy houses or dream kitchens, in which case it becomes more interesting. But I can honestly say that I have never chosen to do ironing, hoovering or dusting instead of writing.

The scary thing is, this is already one of my longest blog posts, and I could go on - but instead I shall go and do some proper writing.


Anonymous said...

I can happily ignore telephone and most other interruptions but my weakness is emails. I can't resist looking every time it blinks at me. I mean, it might just be THE OFFER I've been waiting for. Sadly, it rarely is, so I'm going to give it a go for one day and switch it off.
My other time-waster is reading other people's blogs and replying to them!!!!

badas2010 said...

Except for Twitter and Facebook you've hit my nail right on the head.
I feel there must be another blog post looming: Why does writing time suck?

womagwriter said...

Yes, I read 'Writing Time-sucks' as 'Writing Time: Sucks' ! Oh the importance of punctuation!

I have a day job, so have to fit my emailing, writing, blogging, tv-watching in the evenings. Am getting very skilled at half-watching tv while I blog or write 500 words of my novel. Probably the less time you have the more you fit into it. If you procrastinate a lot, book lots into your diary so there's less writing time so you just HAVE to use what there is!

And daytime tv? Ask yourself what you actually gain from watching it. Maybe watch half an hour while you eat lunch, but that's all! (By the way, I used to love Countdown while on maternity leaves!)

Kate Kyle (scribocin) said...

Ouch! you hit the nail on the head, Sarah!
I've recently learnt to ignore the phone, don't watch TV, but email checking and social media are killing my writing. (lowers her voice to barely audible whisper) and my family - why do they want to know what I'm doing?? Can't they see I'm writing?

Sarah Duncan said...

Gail, you should be able to hide or turn the email waiting indicator off. Even if it's THE offer, it will wait for a couple of hours. Don't waste time reading other people's blogs and replying to them - you only need to read mine!

Yes, I realised that it could be read with a different emphasis, hence the hyphen. But mmm, I was tempted because writing time sometimes sucks too.

I agree with you that time wasted spreads according to the time you have available. Until a few years ago I used to have a school run to do, children to feed and a dog to walk. I was as productive then as I am now. If not more so.

My day time TV habit is usually confined to lunch and tea breaks so I reckon it's justified. Sort of. I've got a Countdown teapot, you know!

Kate - you made me laugh! So know that feeling re family.

womagwriter said...

A Countdown teapot? I am green with envy! Did you ever win a People's Friend teacosy to go with it?

Sarah Duncan said...

I didn't know there were People's Friend teacosies. Now I'M jealous.

I must admit, I don't think I've ever wanted something as badly as I wanted a Countdown teapot. Not even to be published!