23 March 2012

The Writer's Vampire - Time Suckers

As a new author I face a number of obstacles when writing. Time is my most valuable commodity. I’m always wishing for four extra hours in each day to get more done, because I never can seem to find enough. When I do have it, I’m so starved for it that I tend to waste it, which is what this post is all about: Time Suckers, the Writer’s Vampire.
Screenshot from the 1931 film Dracula
Partnerships – Before I lucked upon Nerine Dorman as a co-author, I tried with other people. I’m sure some of you have chatted with a fellow writer and gotten excited over a really crazy collaborative idea. Or maybe you enjoy one another’s writing so much you just have to write together. Until Nerine, my advice would have been “Don’t,” but my mind has been changed. It can be a very rewarding experience with a same-minded, dedicated, creative person. It is important to recognize warning signs of time-sucking, both from the manuscript and the other person(s) involved. Are you running around in plot circles? Have you rewritten the story more than once without actually having finished a first draft? Has the other person ever finished anything of comparable length before?

Family – I really can’t do much about the people I’m related to. I have a particularly difficult time explaining to my mother why she can’t visit when I’m on a deadline. My child, and pretty much any small child will not understand the importance that Mommy or Daddy need quiet time so they can write or edit their book. My previous spouse felt that my writing and research was time that could be better spent with him and viewed it as a waste of mine.

You can’t let blood bring you down. The ideal situation is where you work so hard and are so dedicated, that the need for you to have your time and space becomes evident. Spouses are usually made aware once that first check comes in. It becomes legitimate at that point. A lot of writers, including myself, burn the midnight oil to avoid conflicts with children or day job.

Friends – This has been a particularly sore spot for me. To start with, I’m antisocial. I’m a mother that works at home, which means I don’t see people in person very often and that is fine with me. However, friends aren’t very happy with my need to have my space when I’m thinking on a plot, actively writing, or scurrying to finish edits. In fact, those that are closer to me haven’t been really considerate at all.

Social Networks – Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn, YouTube, and definitely chat clients, such as Yahoo, MSN, Gmail chat, etc. can be a huge time-suck. Actually, I’ll just go ahead and admit that they are. The only way to stop the madness has been to turn them off, as leaving them up while writing has proven to be distraction I can’t seem to resist. I do leave chat up and send messages to an author friend as we write. We don’t say much, but the sense of connection to another human being is there as we write, also we like to plug in fun excerpts for the reward of instant gratification. I cannot do this with very many people, as they have proven to take the simple reply as cue to unload their daily disgruntlements on me which then eats up valuable hours. 
Writing is a lonely occupation in the end. Those that can understand me (poor things), have their own thing going. Those that don’t get what I’m doing are usually pushed away eventually. I’ve ended up with the best matches: Writers, artists, and other introverts. Everything else has been polished away as I became more serious about getting Crooked Fang revised and published. I’m a cold-hearted bitch because I’ve tried to put my book’s needs as a priority. I’ve had to make very hard decisions in order to choose what was the most important to me. This has burned more than a few bridges in my constant drive to find a balance between contentment and success.

The point of this rambling blog is for both parties:
ppdigital from morguefile.com 
Writers: Stand up for your writing career and time. Turn off Facebook. Dismiss friends that continue to hinder your progress, either intentionally or not. Make family aware of how important this is to you, and if they still don’t understand, find another way. There will always be a sacrifice involved for the things worth doing.

Friends and family of a writer: Above all, try not to take anything personally and back off when requested. Understand that this isn’t just a hobby to your writer. Try to find ways to make it even easier, such as offering childcare, a chance to sleep in the next day, and so on.

People, I’m writing. I’m at my desk because I want to take this to the next level and produce novels. The next time you look at a book, think about the sacrifices the author might have had to make in order to see that story through. The time it took to write the thing. The coffee he or she might have had to consume. Maybe even the booze. ;) - CC


Jaimi said...

Well said. I'm sure those of us that really adore you will understand, as we "Patiently" await your blood, sweat, and tears for our reading pleasure.

Melissa Ecker said...

Excellent post and right on point! Thanks for giving a voice to how many of us writers feel.

Scath said...

Oh, especially the coffee! And the Oreos. :)

The social media stuff is hard to disengage from. I usually can't go a whole day without talking on Twitter or posting in a forum.

As for the family...sigh. We instituted 'office hours' for me. Those didn't stick past our decision to home school (which I'm still very glad we made).

So most of my writing related work is done at night, and by then, I'm tired and cranky, so don't get much done.

Short version: I feel your pain.

Pamila Payne said...

Amen, sister. If I never hear this from my friends and family again, I'll be happy: Why is it taking you so long? Are you ever going to finish this thing?
Yes. Yes, I am going to finish it.

Unknown said...

Excellent post. I've been very lucky in that I'm married to a guy who loves books as much as I do. The only pressure I get from him when he sees me writing is to ask "got anything for me to read yet?"

The social networking is an issue. I deleted Pinterest because it was such a time suck and I rarely mess with my Tumblr anymore for the same reason. I've come to enjoy Twitter though. It provides me with an nice break.

The biggest time suck problem for me is promotion, especially when I see that so much of it doesn't seem to work. :(

John Wiswell said...

Twitter and Facebook I relegate to specific periods of the day, so they never get to suck up more time than is warranted. The same goes for opening up my GChat client. I'm fortunate in that most of my friends are very sympathetic to my writing process and respect my space.

Anonymous said...

Well said, and I must say, in spite of your time constraints, thank you for always being there just to give me encouragement. I think only other writers understand the necessity to be left alone at times.
I have given up a lot for my WIP. I quit my last permanent job, I lost tons of friends (none of them real friends anwyay) and much more, but one day, I hope to get where you are, with an almost finished product. You're an inspiration my dear...

Unknown said...

I just realized I didn't even address video games because I gave them up so long ago. I've been lucky in the spousal department also.

Hey, thanks for all your comments. I know we all have our own "vampires".

nerinedorman said...

Because my time is so limited, I've become very precious about it. An hour in the mornings on the train. An hour during lunch. Perhaps an hour or two after work in the evenings. I set aside time for my social media, sometimes using it as a reward for when I get stuff done.