Friday, May 15, 2009

Wasting Time

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

I am in awe of authors who have several major projects going at once, write for a dozen different blogs, market their books, Tweet frequently, stay updated on other social networks, find time to visit and comment on other blogs, yet manage to eat, exercise and spend time with family and friends. Whew! Some do all of this while holding down a full time job. Sadly, I am not one of those authors. After noting my actions one afternoon while ‘working,’ I’m now know why.

I sit down to write and:

A brilliant idea pops into my head and pops out again before I have the chance to put it down on paper. I play a game of solitaire while trying to retrieve the thought. That game may snowball into two, three, or more before I convince myself to give up and move on.

I write down another brilliant thought and read back over it only to find it makes no sense at all. I sulk and play a game of solitaire or two or…

I turn the sound off on my computer but out of the corner of my eye, I see the ‘you have new mail’ icon pop up. I tell myself it can wait. Now I can’t write because I’m wondering what it’s about. I click on my mail. Thirty minutes later I’m still replying to email I meant to answer days ago.

I finally pick up momentum but find I need to do a little research to make sure something I’ve written is accurate. I log on and become captivated by a site or article I run across. I log off and realize that I never got around to finding what I went online for in the first place.

Clicking away on the keyboard like crazy with thoughts coming fast and furious, I grind to a screeching halt. I don’t like a word I used. I try to think of a better one. I can’t. I flip through my Thesaurus. No good. I go to an online source. I find an interesting word but not one that will work in the sentence. I try to write a sentence around the word. It sounds forced. I play a game or two of solitaire, mulling the sentence over in my head before going back and using the word I didn't like.

I write a few more pages before the clock strikes six and I hear my husband announce ‘happy hour.’ I don’t want to miss the news. Okay, I admit it, I don’t want to miss happy hour either, so I glance at my uncompleted ‘to do today’ list, shrug and think, ‘tomorrow is another day.’

Fortunately I do have days of extreme concentration when my characters take over and I’m simply a typist. On those days, an exploding stick of dynamite under my chair wouldn’t distract me and my productivity carries over into other areas. What I want to do is work that efficiently everyday.

I hope by writing my poor work habits down, I'm taking the first step to making them disappear. Any helpful hints on how to stay focused?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: William Penn, solitaire, wasting time, social networks, Tweet, blogs,


Galen Kindley said...

Oh, golly, how true is all this. This sentence particularly resonated, “I write down another brilliant thought and read back over it only to find it makes no sense at all.”

HA! You bet. I did this just yesterday, thinking about a future post. I was out walking. The brilliant thought occurred. I came home, wrote it down, fleshed it out, did a couple of chores, re-read my brilliance…Dumbest thing I ever read, bar none. Deleted it, sending it to hell and saving my readers from same.

Good points, all, Jane. Best regards, Galen

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I have a scheduled to-do list and an online routine that keeps me from wandering from my main purpose. I'm one of those people that if it's on my to-do list, it will get done. (So I make sure "work on story" is on my list!)

Did have to chuckle at your comment regarding the wrong word. That drives me nuts, too. Fortunately, I hand write all of my work first and don't worry about finding the right word until the first round of editing when I type it into the computer. Then a wrong word doesn't bring me to a screetching halt creatively.

L. Diane Wolfe

jerzegirl said...

Sorry didn't answer sooner, but I was playing solitaire.

I understand completely. My problem is I like to concentrate on one thing at a time. Although outside of writing I multitask, I haven't the handle on it for writing..

Karen Walker said...

I smiled while reading your post because I could have written it. My deep, dark, dirty little secret is how many games of spider solitaire I actually play in a day. I make myself promises that I won't allow myself to play until I've done such and such, but I break the promise all the time. I wonder if it's what writers do now instead of drink themselves to death?


Alexis Grant said...

I have the same problem, and I bet many other writers are in our boat, too. Online distractions are mostly what keep me from being productive. I'm still experimenting to see what works, but I find it helps if I sit down in the morning and go through all my e-mail, work on my blog, play with Twitter a bit, so that I feel like all that stuff is out of the way when I start writing. Of course, it never really goes away -- I'll still check my e-mail and blog and Twitter later in the day. But at least I get a few hours in without wondering what online info is out there waiting for me.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Galen, I get lots of my 'brilliant' thoughts when I'm out walking as well. Diane, I'd have to give up writing if I had to hand write anything! I admire your discipline. Thanks for your comments and you too, jerzegirl, Karen and Alexis - it's nice to know I'm not alone.

Helen Ginger said...

I can so identify! And...why is it the best ideas come either while you're asleep or don't have anything to write with?

I play Spider Solitaire and I've set the rule at no more than one game in a sitting. I'm cutting back to one game per day ... soon. Tomorrow. Maybe.

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

Identifying the problem is the first and most important step in solving it. Good for you. Set a schedule for your days and stick to it - except when real inspiration, "The Zone" hits, and then GO for it.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Loved it! So, so true. My thoughts are so scattered sometimes and I run in a million different directions at once. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one!


Morgan Mandel said...

I'm easily distracted also, but unfortunately have less time to play around with. I'm always behind with everything, but since I'm a compulsive writer I have to live with the state of affairs.

Morgan Mandel

Nancy J. Parra said...

LOL- I have a 9% win ratio on, I tend to write more often then play. :)

Fun post. Good luck!!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Wow, Nancy! 9% I am SO impressed. My ratio is only 3%!

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world