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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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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