Discipline, Distraction and Hairy Legs

Being a writer takes a fair amount of discipline. No, I don’t mean the fun kind with whips and restraints (that’s a totally different kind of post) but the kind of discipline required in order to reach your writing goals, whether you do this full-time or part-time.

Not the correct kind of writer's discipline.

Not only are there plenty of shiny things to distract you from meeting your word quota or deadline, there are classic tricks your psyche will pull on you and the next thing you know, it’s well into the day and you’ve got nothing accomplished. Yikes! How did it get to be 5pm already? Wasn’t it just 10am? Where did the day go?

Shiny. Avoid at all costs.

Oh yes, there is much to divert you from your tasks, and some of it is disguised under perfectly logical and reasonable activities. Beware! There are the obvious traps to avoid, but the tricksy ones present as perfectly acceptable, nay, even necessary chores you must complete as soon as possible, even if they are jobs which could wait another day, week or even month.

We’ll tackle the most obvious first.

1. Social networking. I am the first in line to preach strong social networking skills. It’s a vital part of the job, after all. You can’t “build a platform” without social networking. However, it’s difficult to justify 12 hours on Twitter or Facebook when your writing output for the day is at zero. My solution is to set aside specific and scheduled times to interact, and to utilize tools such as Hootsuite to schedule important updates. I make sure to participate in addition to scheduling certain updates lest I be perceived as a spammer.

2. Tweaking out the website. It’s like decorating a room — you can do it forever, splashing new paint on the walls, shopping for a new, fresh template, introducing those cute little widgets and getting the latest plugin. While website maintenance is important, at some point you have to stop. Again, scheduling can help here. Set aside a specific day on a regular basis to take care of business, and then walk away.

3. Reading blogs and commenting. Boy, that internet is something, isn’t it? Very important to be active with other people, but you need to choose carefully because your time is precious. Think of time as a checking account, and try not to bounce any checks.

4. Research. Oh, the places you go in the name of research! Hint: if you are writing an article about scar revision, it’s not going to help you if you’re neck deep in the newest photos from Jupiter or reading the biography of Nelly. Clicking here will lead you here and the next thing you know, it’s four hours later. Try to put a rein on it.

Special note: Stay away from YouTube.

Resist the siren call!

Now, on to the unexpected derailments.

1. Food. Yes, you have to eat regularly. However, this doesn’t mean spending three hours researching crock pot recipes or how to create a meal from three mushrooms, a slice of leftover pork, the withered baby carrots in the bottom drawer of your vegetable crisper and a half a bottle of teriyaki sauce.

2. Dirty windows. This one caught me. One minute I was writing, and the next, I’m washing curtains, windows, and cleaning blinds. Yes, they were filthy. Yes, they are now clean. Could it have waited until I finished my word count for the day? Definitely.

Windows before. Now you see why I couldn't wait.

3. Phone calls. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know my deep aversion and hatred for the phone. However, I have this stupid urge every time it rings to pick the damned thing up. WHY? WHY? WHY? I’m not obligated, but when it rings I feel as if I am! And there goes 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes of my day that I can’t get back. It’s okay to say NO! And whomever calls will leave a message. If they don’t, then evidently it wasn’t that important.

4. Miscellaneous annoyances. It’s too cold in here. It’s too hot in here. I’m thirsty. I need a nap. The cat is hungry. The news is on. The sun is shining. It’s snowing. It’s raining. I have a headache. My ass itches. The hair on my legs is too long. A movie I haven’t seen in 20 years is on TV for the first time in a decade.

Oh, yeah. There’s a million reasons. HOWEVER. If I were working outside the home, and punching a clock, none of these excuses would fly. My boss would punch ME. Therefore, none of those things matter.

Your legs may be this hairy, but they can wait another day. Maybe. If you don't go out in public.

You need discipline; you need good organizational skills; you need to prioritize in order to meet your word goals.

Good luck. And maybe you should shave your legs. Dang. 😉

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Some of My Favorite Things

I spend a lot of time on the ‘net due to my job duties and a natural curiosity I find difficult to resist. If there’s a rabbit hole, I’m diving in it. In my travels, I have come across some pretty cool things that may help you, entertain you, or annoy you. I’m hoping for the former two 🙂

Morning Coffee is a Firefox extension that allows you to mark pages you visit every day, and conveniently load them with one click. I use this mostly for sites on which I click daily, such as the Breast Cancer Site or other sites where I vote daily for my favorite online fiction. Saves me from riffling through the half a million bookmarks I’ve collected. *sigh*

I have rediscovered StumbleUpon, and while this can be as big a time suck as any other online networking device (not mentioning any names, *coughtwittercough* or *sneezefacebooksneeze*) SU actually points you toward useful and interesting sites, for the most part. You can give the thumbs down to those that don’t meet your standards and a thumbs up to outstanding pages. Be prepared to lose a couple of days down a black hole until you get used to it. There’s a Firefox add-on that will provide a toolbar to make it even more convenient, curse them. Heh.

If you need a few minutes away and you like puzzles, here’s a small one that provides a little entertainment. Only took me about 15 minutes. Fun 🙂

And, if you’re having a bad day and you are thinking about how dumb you are sometimes, fear not! There are people having a much worse day than you are, and if you need proof, just click here. I literally laughed until I cried.

Sometimes, you just need a boost to get the creative juices flowing. This page gives some great prompts guaranteed to put a boot right up your Muse’s….uh, nether regions.

Speaking of boots and the Muse, 3Words is a perfect place to get your fiction on if you feel as if you just can’t fit it in. Three prompt words are given daily, and you write 100 words (or more, it’s flexible, but I like the challenge of only 100 words to work with) every day building a complete story by month’s end. I love it, and if I can fit 100 fiction words in a day, so can you. Registration is free, and the stories being built are great fun to read.

This article is a couple of years old, but it really details out the health hazards that face working writers. I like to refresh my memory of how dangerous this job really is.

And, speaking of the writer’s life, here’s an article that really lays it all out. An honest appraisal of the lighter side of the pen.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. BACK UP YOUR DATA, PEOPLES. I’ve lost more stuff than I can remember, sadly, because of my lazy backup practices. Mozy is a free online backup system, up to 2MB, and you can configure it to run as often as you like. Mine runs automatically twice a day, and is an important part of my overall Backup Plan. All info is stored offline, which is nice in case something happens to your flash drive, CDs, or hardcopies of your material.

That’s about all I have for this week. Yep, enough there to distract you for a couple of hours. Hey, I’m not going down that rabbit hole by myself!!