The Internet, Procrastination, and Writing

Like so many other writers, I’m addicted to the internet. To Twitter, to Facebook, to Netvibes, and every other feed related to my hobbies and interests. And I struggle daily on getting myself focused on my productivity and writing (not including blogging). If I had my way, sleep should be optional! Unfortunately, I’m not superwoman, I have two toddlers, I’m a homemaker, a chauffeur, and have multiple things on the agenda that make me stay up until at least 2AM every night trying to get everything done that I want to get done. And writing in my novel — well, that tends to get shoved to the bottom of the list and with 15 minutes remaining in my awake hours, I end up putting it off completely because to me, I can’t instantly reorganize my mind to get into the writing mode.

Now some may say, “Just write! It doesn’t matter if it’s 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or 50 minutes, just get something on the paper. That’s what the first draft is all about.” If there’s one thing I really truly hate, it’s going back and rewriting entire scenes and plots because my mind wasn’t completely there when I was writing (I’m there right now. It’s absolutely awful). Unless I know what I’ll be writing in a scene (which is rare even though I just recently discovered I’m more a plotter than pantser), it’s just not happening. Sure, fifty words down on paper is better than none, but I’ll lose the flow, or the spark just won’t be there, and I’ll just end up hitting select and delete.

But I didn’t come here to complain about my 2AM problems. Over the past few months, I’ve been organizing and reorganizing how I work. I wanted to give you some of the things that have actually worked for me. And leave out the things that haven’t worked for me, which is every other procrastinator’s tip out there. Procrastinating by reading on how not to procrastinate. I love that. I’ll start off with how I deal with the internet:

  • MS Word is for editing and reviewing my draft when it’s complete. That’s it. I use WriteMonkey to write my draft, a distraction-free text program that is indispensable to me. When I hit open, it opens to the exact spot I finished writing, and I’ve made it a rule to never scroll back farther than the page I can see. The temptation to change a word here, work on that sentence there, has always hindered my progress, so I prevent it entirely, and WM helps me do just that. No red squiggles in this program!
  • I recently read Matthew Stibbe’s article with its tips on getting up earlier in order to accomplish more work. Even before reading the article I’ve been pushing my alarm clock ten minutes earlier every week so I don’t suffer from being over exhausted and hitting snooze 5+ times the next day. And it’s true: my mind is much more focused on getting things done in the morning, and getting up earlier every day helps me accomplish that much more work and leaves me more time to write at the end of the day!
  • I use Trillian to stay on top of all my tweets, incoming emails, IMs and more. No matter what program(s) you use for your bombardment of information and links, just turn it off. An hour or two without it is really refreshing, and believe it not, you don’t even notice it’s not there when you’re writing.
  • It helps to mute your computer volume (or everything else except for your music program).
  • Writing is your passion. Writing is your life. No matter what other hobbies you have, you need to addwriting pretty high on your priorities list. My family and livelihood are at the very top, of course, but writing comes right after that. It’s hard not to become addicted to reading blogs and other edifying morsels on the writing life, but is it really progressing your writing career? I’m convinced that you can be aware of every writing tip out there, but unless you actually write, those tips are useless. Show that you’ve learned something instead of just reading about it.
  • Find at least an hour of your day that has the least chance of interruption, and use it to write. With my toddlers, it’s after they go to bed, which always varies as some of you may know. But like the prioritization tip, is rechecking your email and facebook, smoking that comfort cigarette, or whatever you find yourself doing, is it really that important? Just. Start. Writing. Squeeze that muse until she collapses for the night. She’ll last longer the sooner you start. And the longer you wait, the more excuses come up, and the more tired you will be once you finally get around to writing, if at all.
  • It sounds so awful, but if you’re like me and have a wide variety of goals and hobbies, put them on a schedule. Sounds like a sin, but unfortunately, it’s depriving you of your time with your writing muse. I hardly spend longer than 5-10 minutes on facebook now (what a relief!), and I’ve let go of a lot of other social sites, too. The commitments are just not worth it, unless you’re getting paid for it. Your writing is worth so much more. If it helps (and if you love procrastinating as much as I do), create an Excel chart of all the hours in your day. Forget all those programs and freeware that calculate how much time you spend in this program or that website. The procrastination cure is the word “NOW.” Just make up a quick chart, color code it with tasks that take up a variable amount of time, or whatever. See how much time you can alott to just you and your muse, and you’ll be surprised how much free time you have for writing.
  • I’m convinced that when there’s external pressure, or someone is expecting something from you, it gives you incentive (to write). I decided after much thought to post my work online at Protagonize.com. When a fan or two wants to see more, then it gives me a push to keep going, and pronto! Give yourself a deadline, or imagine that you have until the end of the summer before your (imaginary) agent (yes, I’m a daydreamer) begins to wonder where your first draft is. Lying Pretending to yourself can psychologically coerce you into writing. We’re all still children dreaming up stories, right?

I hope some of these tips help you to keep on track. They’ve helped me over the years and maybe there’s something new up there that can prove useful for you. If there are any other tips that you use to deal with procrastination or the distraction of the internet, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me!

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About Jessica M


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