by Nancy Martin
Elizabeth George calls is "bum glue." To be a writer, you must have the will to keep your butt in the chair for long, long periods of time to generate pages.
These days, I have plenty of bum glue. (And I have the bum to prove it!) I can stare at my computer screen for hours. But lately I tend to be reading blogs, cruising the internet, shopping online, checking stats, catching up on news in the publishing industry--and let's not even discuss the many hours I can spend e-mailing. The PR work I do is never enough: Build a mailing list. Keep a listserve going. Create a MySpace page, my editor urges. Sure--but it takes hours every day to build a sufficient network of "friends." It's easy to start it all, but maintaining it requires . . . you guessed it--time.
Some days I look up and discover I've spent the whole morning on this junk and haven't written a word of my book.
I'm frittering away my precious keyboard hours.
If I don't have a book to show every year, though, I'm in big trouble. In the end, it's the finished book that matters. (Okay, maybe my marriage and my children factor into the equation somewhere, but you know what I mean.) If writing is my career, I need to spend the time required.
Every now and then, I need a wake-up call. That moment has arrived. I need to re-assess my time management.
Many years ago, I trained myself to stop watching television. (Yeah, I still watch a little. Mostly on the treadmill in the mornings or one or two evening hours a week to watch the one or two shows my husband and I limit ourselves to every season. Over the summer, it was Weeds. This fall, it's Dexter. Both shows provide something new for a writer to think about--a troubled protagonist who could be bad or just struggling to be good.)
A couple of years ago, I went cold turkey to quit Free Cell, another huge time drain. (I must be an addictive personality. The Free Cell got so bad I discovered I was writing one sentence, then clicking over to the Free Cell screen again.)
I've pretty much given up on the telephone, too. Better to email a friend than spend an hour chit-chatting. Of course, my mother is the exception to that rule. (She was in labor for 30 hours, so I guess I owe her.)
My children grew up learning when to leave me alone and when it was safe to venture into my office without getting their heads bitten off. I trained them--and myself--to value my writing time except during emergencies like the dog upchucking on the living room rug. The kids learned to do their own laundry in junior high, to clean up the mess themselves if they spilled a glass of milk. (It seemed cruel and unusal to make them clean up after the dog, though. See? I'm not a monster.) They seem to have survived, and in fact have grown up independent and fondly amused by their mother's eccentricities.
But I found myelf slipping again lately. Frittering. It's easy to do. Especially around the holidays. This is the only time of year when doing laundry seems to take precedence over just about everything else. Except doing dishes.
This morning I vowed to get myself back on schedule. I've got a book due in the spring, and I need to focus. A moratorium on blog reading! I must remember what's important. Make the time to write. Honor the commitment that's actually spelled out in a legal contract that I signed. I need to strip away the activities that waste time. So I'm saying it in public here and now: I need to have 150 clean pages by Christmas. Goals are important, but that's another blog. (Is anyone doing that NaNoNooNooWhatchacallit challenge? What a great way to stay on task!)
Perhaps most of all, I need to quiet my brain so I can concentrate for long periods of time . . . and allow my characters to inhabit my constant thoughts again. That's when the magic happens.
But only if I can stop frittering.
And if anyone has some ideas for getting rid of all those hours I seem to spend running to the grocery every week, I'd be very grateful.