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.
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.