Sometimes I Almost Write

I’ve just surfaced after a long period of “almost” writing.  It was a stark, depressing time where I felt an aversion to the very act of writing—the very activity that I define myself by. It was horrible. Despite having three books published, I felt like a fraud.

Writing is hard. For a while I wondered if I had just lost the drive, the willingness to put the hard work in. But although I often used that “You’ve gotten lazy” mantra to beat myself up, it didn’t seem to be entirely true.

I decided to look at the symptoms in order to follow them backwards and see if I could find the root. After several weeks and by keeping a journal of a minute-by-minute history of my activities, it became apparent that busywork—almost writing as I call it—was sucking the life out of me.

For me, almost writing starts with social media.  The First Commandment for authors is Thou Shalt Do Social Media, and this is true for both indie and traditionally published authors.  In fact, ideally, it’s supposed to be put in place years before we publish. Build a platform. Nurture a fan base. Connect with readers. Above all, spread the word! So when I take a few minutes to visit on FaceBookTwitterLinkedInPinterestGoogle+GoodreadsShelfariLibraryThing, then I’m promoting my writing. Right? Maybe.

And then, there are writer communities. Every morning I check several blogs, list servs, and forums to take the pulse of the publishing world.  I have to stay current! And I have truly learned such invaluable information that I couldn’t imagine being where I am now without these communities. But beware. They are addictive. Kboards is probably my favorite “drug of choice” because I can count on its members for up-to-the-minute news as well as intelligent discussions on craft, marketing, and publishing as well as emotional support.

There’s my face-to-face critique group, too. Five of us have been meeting every other week for years. We exchange a chapter of our current works in progress each time. I love this group. They keep my writing honest and my motivation to grow strong. There is no way I’d have published without their hand-holding and encouragement every step of the way.

The worst time-suck culprits—and the ones with the least amount of value—is the compulsive checking of KDP sales reports and my books’ current rankings that I indulge in. Out. Of Control.

‘Nuff said.

All of these—with the possible exception of the last—are good things. They really are part of platform building or, as I like to think of it, reader connection. Publishing today seems to be in a state of constant churn. Staying on top of the flood of information could be a full time job.

But it’s not writing. None of that is. It’s almost writing. And all of them combined didn’t just time-suck; they passion-sucked.

I’m not going to stop almost writing, but I am going to re-prioritize real writing. I spent $10 on a software program called Freedom, which allows me to block the internet for however long I choose to set the timer. It’s a bit of a hokey fix, because I have to be the one to turn it on in the first place, but it has been invaluable to me. After the first 45 minute session I felt like Mel Gibson wearing blue face paint and mooning the English troops on the other side of the field. Thank God, no one was in the office with me.

And it felt like freedom. I had a chunk of time… just for writing. For that thing I love. To develop that person I want to be. I’d forgotten it was fun. I’d forgotten that sometimes when I sink in that world it feels like the book is opening up for me in the same way reading does. Only better.  It’s magical.

I feel like a writer again. Heaven.   

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Author: donnawhiteglaser

Donna White Glaser is the author of The Letty Whittaker 12 Step Mystery series. Like her main character, Donna is a psychotherapist and lives northwestern Wisconsin. As if that weren’t enough, she and her husband own a residential construction company where it’s Donna’s job to deal with any overly emotional, what-do-you-mean-you-can’t-put-roof-trusses-up-in-a-thunderstorm? clients. Strangely enough, she often comes up with ideas for creative murders and hiding bodies during business hours. Currently she is at work on the fourth Letty Whittaker 12 Step Mystery-THE BLOOD WE SPILL. Donna would love to hear from you via her website at www.donnawhiteglaser.com or on Twitter: @readdonnaglaser.

15 thoughts on “Sometimes I Almost Write”

  1. I so relate, even after 24 books! I think we’ve been driven crazier than usual by social media and the push from publishers and ourselves to connect, connect, connect. It becomes toxic, especially when you keep hearing about the exceptions, the tiny % of indie or other authors who hit it big because of their platform or their huge Twitter following. Even before all this social media razzmatazz, the % of writers who either made it big or made a living at their work was small. But now, the successes get more exposure and we can end up more ashamed of our comparative failure. The work is what we have to focus on, making that as fine as possible.

  2. Donna, about halfway through this I was saying to myself FREEDOM! And then I saw you use this. That is what saves me. Also, I have to divide my day. Until the kids get on the bus, I’m allowed to surf the web and check in on different websites while I do other things (like get them ready for day, get myself ready for day.) Then, the minute they are on the bus, my writing time starts and ideally lasts until lunch. After lunch, I can spend two hours doing promotion type stuff. Since I’m a debut author, a lot of what I’ve been doing is arranging place for a book launch, blog visits, stuff like that. So it helps to have my day divided and Freedom has saved me.

  3. I totally agree. A friend of mine showed me a questionnaire from her publisher, and it wanted number of Facebook page likes/friends, Twitter followers, blah, blah, blah. Like Kristi, I have to divide my day. But I have to do it different, because of the day job. In a way, I guess it’s a little bit of a boon. Get to work, spend half-hour to an hour “catching up” on Facebook Twitter, blogs, etc. Then work. Of course, I work in software, so FB is always running the background. But come noon, I go to the cafe area, with my personal laptop where I don’t have wi-fi, and I write for an hour. Just writing, nothing else. People have learned not to bother me (too much). On the weekends, I turn off all of the alerts, shut the library door, and write. Need a snack? You know where the fridge is (the joys of kids who are FINALLY old enough to say that to!).

  4. Donna, Great post. Unfortunately, you reminded me of some places I should be on to promote and also Kboards, which keeps popping up. 🙂
    I know some other folks who use Freedom.
    I remember someone asking Judy Grahn (I believe) about how she found time to write. She said that what worked for her was fascism. Ha! That was her little joke. She said she would set a timer and the rule was she had to write until the alarm went off. I tried it and it worked.

  5. Being distracted by the Net is something that always nagged me. So, I converted an upstairs unused bedroom into my “writing room” and my husband installed a picture window that looks out over our farm pond. Then my computer is basically a word processor as it does NOT have internet access and I even removed Solataire. No phone…can’t even hear it ring elsewhere in the house. Nothing left to do but write. And I’m not tempted to run downstairs for “something” as stairs can be a challenge. It’s been a great solution for me.

  6. I love this for so many reasons. The more I commit to new projects, the more I fear it’ll all vanish. I see authors who have managed the social media thing–and by managed, I mean have lassoed social media and made it their bitch!–but I’m still a drive-by-and-post kinda gal. Good for you for reassessing and doing what you needed to do.

  7. Theresa, it’s scary, isn’t it? Kboards, it keeps coming up for me too and I’m not sure exactly what to do about it. And as much as I’d like to chuck it, part of me wonders if I won’t always have a day job.

  8. I completely agree with this. Sometimes I think “I need to be even more involved!” and then I find myself drowning in “almost” activities when I could be writing. It’s such a nice thing to be able to just sit down and write and not be distracted, either by outside forces or by your internal ideas about where your writing will wind up (Does this fit the market? Does this fit my “brand”? Is it too different? Is it too similar?).

  9. Lev- It does become toxic, doesn’t it? And I think you nailed it that hearing about outliers who hit it big creates a bigger push for us. That maybe-I’ll-hit-the-lottery lure is powerful.

    Kristi- I love your day breakdown. It’s pretty similar to what I’m trying to put in place for myself now. I have two days a week when the kids are in school that I’m not working at the day job and I’m really trying to use that “golden time” effectively.

    Mary–Now that my kids are a bit older we’ve been having a lot of FFY nights in my house. (Fend For Yourself.) They increase in the weeks right before launching a new book. 🙂

    Patti– NO SOLITAIRE?!

    Theresa– I saw Hugh Howey’s new report. Isn’t it amazing? I have trouble balancing my checkbook, so this kind of math gizmo thinking is awe inspiring. And, yes, I first heard about it on Kboards. 🙂

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