The distracted writer
My wife is constantly
nagging chiding reminding me about the need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Of course, our definitions of what’s “healthy” are frequently not very well synchronized…
Dorothy: “Darling, you said you’d mow the lawn this morning.”
Me: “But I’m writing!”
Dorothy: “Dear, you said you’d do the washing-up two days ago, and green slimy things are now crawling out of the sink and trying to eat me. When did you plan to get around to it?”
Me: “But I’m in the middle of a chapter!”
Dorothy: “Sweetheart, you promised to move the gas cylinder and space heater off the clothes dryer so I could use it. I’ve been waiting so long for you to do it that I now have to wash our entire week’s laundry all over again, because it’s gone moldy.”
Me: “Stop nagging, dammit! Just give me time! I’m stuck on this action scene!”
Does that sound familiar to any of you? Yes, I’m guilty of all those things (although my saintly wife does her very best to exercise forbearance, and not hit me over the head too often.) It’s not just with domestic chores, either. It’s all too easy for me to spend so many hours locked into writing that I neglect to get enough exercise, or eat proper meals, or write that check, or mail that urgent form, or… you get the idea.
On the other hand, it’s very easy to let normal domestic chores, and the needs of day-to-day living, build up until they prevent me from actually sitting down and writing at all. I have the added problem of being permanently partially disabled, and in pain 24/7/365. Sometimes the pain gets so bad that I simply can’t think creatively at all, and writing (and almost everything else) has to take a back seat until it eases. That can be aggravated by additional health problems. For example, a bout of kidney stones – on top of my ‘normal’ back and nerve pain – shut down my creative writing altogether from mid-2018 until earlier this year. That was no fun at all.
I’m not seeking sympathy over these things, you understand; nor am I trying to use them as an excuse. Other people have other distractions and problems that keep them from writing; children, pets, in-laws, the drug addict in the house next door, the squirrels trying to nest in the attic, or the skunk taking up residence beneath the house. (Yes, I have stories…)
For many of us, social media (including blogging) has become a major distraction and time-sink. Neal Stephenson wrote about this some years ago, and Marko Kloos recently announced his almost complete withdrawal from social media for similar reasons. My case is different, in that I don’t have the name recognition either of those gentlemen has, and I don’t have a publisher helping to advertise, distribute and publicize my books. It’s all up to me. As I noted some years ago, I started my blog precisely as a learning and publicity tool for my writing. It’s succeeded very well in both purposes. I have several thousand blog readers every day as a result. However, that also means I daren’t neglect it. It’s my primary regular contact with my core readers, and as such, if I neglect them, they’re likely to drift away and find other authors who are more willing to engage with them. Catch, meet 22, so to speak. I don’t do other social media, apart from limited engagement via Gab, so I’m spared the Facebook-Twitter-Instagram-whatever outrage du jour; but the blog still eats up one to two hours of my time, every single day.
On the other hand, if one learns to work through the distractions, one can still produce output. I have two books coming out in the next two months, my first published works in over a year. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have writing them.
I thought it might be interesting to open up this topic to wider discussion here on Mad Genius Club. Readers, what are your distractions? What keeps you from writing and/or other essential or important tasks? What are your time-sinks, and how do you deal with them (if you do, that is)? How do you keep the conflicting demands on your time under control? Please let us know in Comments, so we can all learn from each other – or, at least, sympathize and commiserate with one another!