Internet stealing your writing time?

An article in the current ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) newsletter offers suggestions for ways to eliminate distractions when you’re working at home. The article is reserved for members so I can’t share the text with you, but let’s talk about one of my biggest time-sucks: the Internet. Specificially, I’m addicted to email and Facebook. You too?

How much valuable email do you get in a day? I get a ton of email, but maybe two out of 20 messages are worth reading. These days if you do business with any company even once, you wind up on a mailing list and they send you stuff forever after. Some of it is fun. I haven’t been to music camp for 15 years, but I loved getting photos this morning from this year’s camp. Unfortunately, viewing them took time away from my writing.

You can “unsubscribe” until your fingers are worn out, but you’ll still get junk email. And yes, there’s always a chance that next time you look, you’ll find an acceptance, money coming your way, or a note from a long-lost friend. It’s like gambling. With the next turn of the cards, you might win.

It takes discipline to—wait, my email just dinged that I have  a message. Ooh, a writing challenge and somebody wants to be my friend on Facebook . . .

Okay, two words: timer and silencer. Time your email reading (I give it 15 minutes in the morning, after lunch and at night), then either turn it off or silence the sound that comes when you have a message. Otherwise, you know you’re going to look. And then there might be a link to click on, which leads to another link .  . . You know how it goes.

Now, I love Facebook. I can keep up with my friends, share my every last thought, promote my work, connect with VIPs . . . It’s like I’m not working alone, but constantly chatting with my co-workers. But if I do that, I don’t get anything done. Suddenly I glance at the clock and it’s time for lunch.

If you, too are a Facebook addict, use that timer again. When the time is up, turn it off. Sometimes I have to turn off my wi-fi because I just can’t resist. That or leave the house for someplace where I can’t connect. Not only does it take time, but I’m also tempted to tell my stories there instead of actually writing them and getting them published.

Being a successful writer takes a lot of self-discipline, and there are many distractions beyond the Internet, but sometimes I yearn for a power failure just to get something done.

There’s a computer program called “Freedom” that will let you set times to block access to social networking sites. I use it.

Another suggestion that doesn’t cost anything: tell your friends when you are supposed to be writing and ask them to hold you to your schedule.

I realize that reading this blog is also non-writing time spent on the Internet. Read, take heed, and go back to work. No, don’t check your messages first.

One more thing before you go: ASJA is a great organization for non-fiction writers who really want to get ahead in their careers. It costs a bit to join, and you have to qualify for membership, but it might be worth it for you.

One Comment on “Internet stealing your writing time?”

  1. This is a comment to see if my comments are working. FYI, I did pretty well for a while, but I just checked email and Facebook again. No more until I’m done for the day.

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