My latest epiphany about my writing habits brought me both good news and bad news.
The good news is within the last two weeks I achieved my goal to write 1,400 – 1,5000 words everyday on my novel.
They are ugly and rough, but I still got the bones of my story down on paper. That alone thrills me, but even more so when I realized it totaled to 10,000 new words each week. This doesn’t include additional blog posts, client projects, etc., so woohoo! Yea, me!
The bad news is — you might be making the same mistake, too…I’ve been wasting 30 – 60 minutes online EVERYDAY before I complete my daily word.
Seriously, that’s a lot of wasted time. Too much. I don’t not have many client projects right now, so the blessing/curse is procrastination and I are becoming reacquainted…with my writing, washing the dishes, going to the grocery store., etc.
I’ve made considerable progress recently for more book time: unsubscribing from several worthy writing blogs because they gobble up my hours to write. I didn’t need to read posts on the craft. I needed to shut up, sit down and write.
Problem solved. Or, so I thought.
I’ve started clicking on random articles on MSN or Facebook before I settled down and produced. Here are few examples of my new lows (WARNING! Time-suck ahead):
* Watching Weird Al Yankovic’s Parody on Blurred Lines (funny, but it could’ve waited until later).
* Reading The Things I Did Not Need for My Trip Around the World (I have no such trip planned, but I thought, wow…someday)
* Taking a quiz called, How Old Do I Look? (It analyzed my profile pic and said I look 35; I’m 49. Forget my novel, that was worth it!)
One hour of such nonsense?
I don’t think so. I had a long talk with myself about priorities.
It did nothing. I ignored me. Well, I did cut my procrastination time down to just 20 minutes each day, so it was an improvement, but still.
My kids will be back in school on Monday (!), and I’ll get slammed with new contract work in September. There will be less time to goof off, or even write. I needed a solution now.
While journaling (writing!), I got an idea!
Take a Timeout
Before my writing session, I set my computer to an Online Clock for five minutes. I quickly checked my email and deleted all the junk, skimmed MSN.com for articles I wanted to read after my writing session (it gave me a reward to look forward to), ending with a quick scroll through Facebook.
At the end of my five minutes, the Online Clock made a HORRIBLE digital beeping sound, which reminded me of the watch I wore back in junior high, when I thought I was oh so cool to use a watch as my alarm clock (this was eons before cell phones existed).
That noise scared the bajeezus out of me and knocked me back to my senses. I turned it off and went straight to writing.
This simple act satisfied my hunger to be bad, while not letting me go off on an hour-long tangent. Who knows how long this will work? For now, I’m happy.
Old Habits Die Hard
Maybe you don’t goof off online like me. Maybe you watch TV, say you’re hungry (when you’re not) and binge eat, read yet another novel in the name of research for your book.
Indulge yourself in your favorite time-suck for five minutes, then get to work.
In theory, since I’m procrastinating less I could be writing even more, but I’m on a quest for balance. I’m using that extra time for other household chores or even fun interests, like reading.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes. It’s from a book I read years ago — Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd: “Your life is time. How you spend your time is how you live your life.”
What’s your #1 bad writing habit you’d like to tame?
Please leave a comment. I’d love to chat.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.
Hey Marcy – I hear you. I wrote an article about procrastination addiction last weekend. I should finish it this weekend. It is an addiction like any other, but I killed it, cold turkey.
I set up Inbox Pause, so new emails only hit my inbox at times that suit me, not their sender. I unsubscribed from everything and went to Inbox Zero in 2 mins (Archive *everything*).
I actually feel good about myself, but just like a tobacco addiction, it’s always waiting to ambush me and catch me unawares.
Inbox Pause? I LOVEEE THAT – how do I set it up? Thank youuuu
Here’s the URL – Free Chrome extension – piece of cake
Thanks for sharing that link, Phil. Good luck with your procrastination piece. 🙂
I’ve missed you, Phil. I hope you’re doing well! Inbox Pause is great for Gmail users, but I’m not one of those. At this point, it’s up to me and my willpower to withstand my habits, which is a day-to-day challenge.
Procrastination addiction….I like that term. Take care!
Great advice Marcy, and congrats on your awesome word count! I know my bad habit is hands down, Facebook scrolling and blog reading time suck. I love the timer idea and I’m definitely going to try that.
It’s always great to see you @ MPW, Dana! Warning if you try that Online Clock I used, the sound is AWFUL. Awful, but effective. I still indulge in my guilty pleasures (Facebook, ridiculous MSN articles), I just try to do them later in the day when I have less energy. I am a morning writer. Take care!
Aaah…there are too many fabulous writers who make me feel like a worthless writer ;)! Nonetheless, I can’t help but devour their words…eesh 😉
I have hit a plateau with regards to online articles… *sigh* I want to spend more time reading a few pages of a fun book, top-notch articles on Readers Digest and other fun fiction 😀
In all, my Inbox is my worst enemy, and I will take any tip that helps me tame this beast 😉
It was really HARD when I first unsubscribed from all those writing blogs (it was like 6-8 GREAT ones). However, it’s been a few months now and I don’t really miss them. Plus, some of them are still on my Facebook feed, so I still read some. It’s just too dangerous in my email in-box. I feel like I HAVE TO read those, so I’m quite proud of myself on cutting down there.
For me, I’m happiest when I write my fiction FIRST, then do everything else. Even when I have a ton of client work to do, I feel like I’m putting my dream at the top of the list. 🙂
Why are you reading comments? Get back to writing! lol
I feel your pain, Marcy. My son is going back to school in September too, but honestly, I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to time management.
I’m a political junkie so I’ve got some favorite alternative news sites that I go to, tell myself I’ll just skim something and before you know it I’ll wake up from a daze and say what the hell am I doing? Get your a$$ to work! lol
Instead of an inbox pause I just close the page with my inbox. I also use a countdown timer so that after 25 minutes I get 10 minutes to read, check my email or do something else.
Works most days.
That said…I’ve got some client work to do so better hop to it!
Thanks for the tips!
Sounds like you’ve got a good plan with your countdown timer, which allows you to write and indulge in your guilty pleasures. Practice makes progress. Right?
I’m soooo not a politico. I thought just yesterday that I’m already SICK of the presidential election and we don’t even have the final candidates yet! Thanks for stopping by.
I was just brain storming about this in my journal this am, Marcy! I’ve given up checking email first thing. I do my brainstorming/brain dump writing. Now I’ve set the timer for 20 minutes to check email and futz with FB and other things — whatever I want. I’ve also put on some pounding rock that helps me feel the passage of time. Oof! There goes the timer. Diving back into my WIP, editing! Ciao for now!
How funny we’re on the exact same page, Beth. Great minds think alike. I like your idea of listening to music. I may have to try that. Good luck with your WIP!
julie mayerson brown
Of the many things I love about connecting with other writers, one of the most valuable and comforting is the “we’re all in this together” camaraderie. If it’s okay with you, Marcy, I’ve included a ink to my article on how we writers must “DIS” ourselves in order to get back and stay on track. Thanks for ALWAYS making me feel like I’m not alone in this very solitary quest to be a writer.
What a fun post idea. Thanks for sharing it. I’ve already got my word count done for today, but still need to DISappear from the house later this afternoon. I’ve been helping my husband with a HUGE project all week. While he’s gone to meet friends, I just want to go grab coffee and do nothing. Thanks for giving me permission to do so! 🙂
I’m just horrid at marking e-mails to read later, taking almost a month to clear them out, then schlogging through them all at once, information over-load. Why? Gotta update Facebook, skim through new recipes, do housework, play with the dogs, run errands, sleep, and oh yeah, brood about how I’m not getting any writing done. Schedule? Discipline? HELP! 😀
Hmmm, you do have a challenging situation, Sarah, but only YOU can make it better. When is your most productive writing time? Try to get some words on paper then. And, do you have a period when your writing was going decently? If so, you want to try to duplicate. It sounds like it wouldn’t hurt for you do eliminate some of your distractions. You’ve got to do housework and play with the dogs, while the rest can wait until later. It’s all about choices. We can do it all, just not ALL AT ONCE.
I love this post. It’s got my name written all over it, this month. For some reason, I have been spending tooo much time playing on the internet. I’m not even accomplishing anything valid for my writing. Maybe August is national procrastination month. 🙂
Last night, I was cursing myself about it to! I have begun to recieve comment on my writing which I’ve posted on the web. Some good and some not so good, but all useful.
I need a kick in the backside!
You don’t need a kick in the backside — writers are too hard on ourselves anyway. You just need to begin. So, you’re like me and got off track some…just come back to it. Could fear be a factor at all with some of the not-so-good comments you’ve recently received? If so, take what’s useful, then can get back to work.
You can do this!
I do the exact same thing, Marcy. I make a plan to write, sit down at the computer, and immediately open my e-mail inbox! Instead of writing, I’m reading newsletters, responding to job leads, and looking up new calls for submission for easily an hour each day before I even get any writing done. All those things are good uses of my time — just not my set-aside writing time. I’m going to start using the timer tomorrow morning; I’m tired of wasting my writing time on things that can wait. Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Marcy!
Isn’t it crazy the things we do to avoid our writing?! In addition to the online clock, I also put a post-it on my laptop before I went to bed that was the first thing I read at my writing session that said, “Do u want 2 b a NYT best-selling author, or to dink around online all day?” Silly, but it worked.
Good luck to you. I’ve been thinking about you since you graduated….
That post-it is going up on my computer screen TONIGHT. I’ve wasted far too much precious writing time; today’s the day to change the negative pattern of procrastination, and kick things into high gear.
You know, Marcy, graduation was a little anti-climactic. I find myself still toiling away to get the certifications I need to continue in a career that, were I to know then what I know now, I never would have pursued. On the bright side, once I’m finished testing, I’ll be suited to a career that can pay the bills while I write “on the side.”
Thanks and good luck to you, as well!
HA, Adan. I’m so glad my post-it helped you. I felt too silly including it in my post. Since I write so early in the morning, I’m not fully awake and that post-it sort slaps me awake.
And, YOU SAID IT: the negative pattern. These are all just patterns. For awhile there, I was in a pattern of watching silly videos, reading articles, etc. that could ALL wait until later. Then, I sat my arse down and made myself write 1,400+ words. It was all my choice.
Regarding a college diploma, it really is just a silly piece of paper, but it automatically puts you in a higher paying bracket. That can make a big difference for your family. You’ll find where you belong Good luck.
I waste a lot of time also. I’m taking James Patterson’s writing course now and it has helped me get over my writer’s block. Yet I still don’t spend enough hours writing everyday to get any where. I wanted to have my 3rd novel ready by the time Cindy finished editing my 2nd one. I was hung up with writer’s block for 3 months! When I had to write a parking garage scene for class I used the one from a novel in my queue. That seemed to help break the block, but I still can’t get up any steam to spend more than a few hours writing a few times a week.
Be patient and keep at it. Around July 1st, I was FREAKING OUT because I’d written the first 100 pages of my latest novel without much trouble, but then stalled out. I’ve also broken through the block I had and am getting back on track, but it was hard that panicked feeling seemed stuck to my brain. Try focusing more on what you’re doing RIGHT (taking JP’s class, breaking your writer’s block, etc.), rather than what you’re doing wrong (not having your 3rd novel complete). Small steps. You can do this. Stop being your own worst enemy.
Alternating between URGENCY(HOW TIME FLIES and possibly not finishing what i need to finish) and IMPORTANCE (PREP WORK). eg. abandoning the prep work because the urgency of getting something done bulldozes me, until i discover i’m running on empty then i’m forced to see the importance of prep work, recreational, etc especially those activities that increases the personal capability. always playing catch-up on either one – hate that.
solution to my problem.
Slowdown and get the attachment and detachment tweaked up.
SLOW DOWN, BY LETTING GO OF THE MYRIAD URGENT THOUGHTS – THE MATTER OF URGENCY, PREOCCUPYING MY MIND, PRETEND which role I am in AND FULLY ELICIT It, ENJOY AND EXPLORE, then ACCESSING My RESOURCES OF ABILITY and turning it into KINETIC ENERGY
Wow, Vic…that’s amazing. You sound both zen and super-charged. Isn’t the letting go + fully accessing aspect of writing fascinating. I LOVE it. Your comment was wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
fascinating indeed, but it’s always a challenge – looks better on paper than in practice.
So true, so true…
This is so me. I have those early hours free, the time between walking the dogs and doing chores, and I often spend them reading Facebook. I spend hours reading and commenting on Facebook and need to reel it back because I have writing to do–blog posts and I want to get started on some long projects–finish the sequel to my novel and shape a draft of FB statuses and blog posts. I use FB to block my own thoughts because sometimes I ruminate and that’s not good.
That morning time is when I’m fresh and thinking. Even just journaling then is valuable.
UnrollMe is a wonderful tool for dealing with email inbox subscriptions. It puts everything in one place and you can scroll through them quickly, choosing what you want to read or not. It has saved me lots of time. (I should save that and FB for the end of the day as my entertainment/reading.)
Like you I have other things to do besides FB–decluttering, horses, reading good books. Godspeed on your novel writing too.
Katie, I tell you, where there’s a will there’s a way. My hubby now knows when he sees the laptop in the bedroom not to bother me. Unfortunately, those times seem to be farther and fewer! Discipline! That’s what I need, and a good kick in the motivation-button. Enjoy your horses, and your other interests, and best of luck with your writing!
Yeah, Katie, the great thing is this isn’t an either/or proposition. We both write and still have our Facebook time, we just need to reshift our priorities. We SAY our novels are important to us, now we have to show it with our actions.
Good luck with your writing, too.
Michael Hyatt had an interesting idea urging us to visualize what we’re aiming for, that was very helpful. http://michaelhyatt.com/jumpstart-stuck-project.html?utm_source=Michael+Hyatt+Newsletter&utm_campaign=5198b437e0-rssdaily2&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d1fa5823d7-5198b437e0-251928853
And he had another one about thinking about why we’re doing a project and/or engaged in ur business that I felt really spoke: http://michaelhyatt.com/no-present-like-the-time.html?utm_source=Michael+Hyatt+Newsletter&utm_campaign=81c82b65b5-rssdaily2&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d1fa5823d7-81c82b65b5-251928853
Thank you Marcy and Sarah for replying…Godspeed with your writing…
You got me sidetracked on that Weird Al thing–I love it. Anyway, I get a message that someone I know has put a picture or message on Facebook. I go to see it, and an hour later I’m looking and commenting on everything on Facebook. Once I realize how much time has lapsed i’m horrified and click off immediately. So, that and my email are what are my time wasters. I get tons of stuff in my email that I just delete, but is there a way to keep it from coming in the first place. I waste at least 1/2 hour every day just getting rid of the junk that I don’t want. If I ignore it then it just piles up and up until there’s too much there.
I’m the same way with Facebook notifications, so I try to leave my email and all other online tabs CLOSED while I’m writing. If I don’t know I’m getting messages, then I focus more on my writing.
At the bottom of your junk emails, there should be a place that says UNSUBSCRIBE. Click that, then follow the instructions to remove yourself from your list. If they don’t have an unsubscribe button (which they should), then send a short, polite email that says, “I’m cleaning out my inbox overall. Please remove me from your list. Thank you.”
It feels empowering to get rid of the “stuff” that no longer serves you. Good luck!
The same old, recurring nightmare – PROCRASTINATION due a need for INSTANT PERFECTION! Not throwing myself into writing because I’m not convinced it will sound perfect, even though time and time again I’ve proven to myself that revision will greatly improve the story and that is where the story will always (for me) come together. I feel your pain of those thousand other tasks I can perform to keep myself from writing, so I don’t have to face reading something that really sucks!
I know your procrastination/perfectionism is a real struggle for you, but only YOU can remedy the situation. Where do this come from in your past? A parent/teacher/mentor who demanded perfection and was disappointed in anything less than flawless?
I think you need to find the root cause for this issue, because your perfectionism is crushing your creativity.
Good luck and keep me posted.
Marcy – I think it comes from me having an extremely competitive nature . . . always striving to be better – that’s okay until it stifles your progress as it is doing in my case – but I’ll keep at it and keep you posted.
It’s great to strive for excellence, Jack, but it sounds like you’re undermining your efforts. Please do keep me posted on your progress. Great to hear from you anyway!