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Friday, January 24, 2014

Time-Suck Black Holes

By Linda Lovely

In my late twenties, I was a senior partner in a public relations/marketing firm and regularly worked 60-plus-hour weeks and spent a fair number of days each month on the road. At the same time, I took night-school MBA courses with all the associated homework. I also played tennis, read books, cooked, cleaned house, socialized.

How? I wonder. Were the days longer? Was I more organized? Did my brain function better?

My mother warned me: “Time changes as you get older. It moves faster. You move slower.”

I’m not sure I believed her. I do now.

I started working out of a home office early in my career. So, when I decided to focus on writing fiction and becoming my only client, there was no shift in the work environment. Same computer, office, telephone, and in-home distractions. Pajamas remain optional work attire.

A key difference is that I’m now subject to self-imposed deadlines, and my admonitions—I must write 2,000 words before I quit for the day—aren’t nearly as effective as the arbitrary deadlines clients foisted on me. I can excuse slipping one day because our blueberry bushes need to be pruned and the weather’s warmed enough that I won’t freeze my fanny. Or I need to check Facebook to see if anyone responded to a post on my author page. Or I should spend more time researching an interesting tidbit that may or may not make it into my manuscript.

This is one reason I remain interested in traditional versus self-publishing. I always meet deadlines when I’ve promised someone else that I will.

Another key difference? My attention is fragmented. Social media—Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Linked In, and a dozen writer loops—compete for my attention. By the time I glance at all the media I’m signed into, that Internet black hole may have swallowed an hour or more of my day. Worse yet, I might not have even posted on any of the loops. That means the value of social media in terms of marketing my fiction or getting my name out there is pretty much nil.

Another difference seems to be a lessened capacity to say “no.” Could you (fill in the blank) edit/produce a newsletter for our nonprofit, serve as secretary for our organization, bake cookies for an event, judge a contest? I don’t mind—in fact, I enjoy—granting most such requests, but I seem to have lost my ability to say “no, I don’t have the time to do it now, maybe later.” Perhaps it goes back to those deadlines. Since they’re “just” mine, they’re not as important.
One of the suggested themes for this month’s blog was “turns in our lives.” I’m not going to say I’ve made a New Year’s resolution, but I will say I’m going to look at time differently in 2014. It’s a precious commodity and I need to claim more of it for the things I enjoy doing most—and one of them is writing fiction. Time is moving faster these days and I need to grab hold of more of this precious commodity for myself.

So, authors, how do you make sure you meet your self-imposed deadlines?   

9 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

OMG Linda, it is so very very true that time is moving faster and I'm moving slower. I also look back on the past and what I easily accomplished in a day or week 30 - 40 years ago and what happens to my days now - major black hole time suck!

These days I make lists and through our chapters #RCRWFTB forum tell others what my writing goals are for the day and at the end of the day I check back in with the results. We also have a wonderful Yearly Goals with weekly check-ins that Maggie Lynch is running for us.

So what works for me is telling someone else what I'm going to do. For some reason having it public keeps me more on target. And having other chapter members cheering me on and congratulating me at the end of the day is an extra bonus.

Linda Lovely said...

What a good idea, Judith. Guess I need to do the same thing and make sure my buddy keeps me honest.

Howard Lewis said...

Linda, I know what you mean. Time's gotten faster. I've gotten slower, and I've gotten lazy. I thought that after retirement I'd have more time to write, but I've gotten worse. While employed, I made sure I wrote at least an hour and a half a day. Since retirement, I'll reach the end of many days to discover bed time and I haven't written a word. I don't really believe in resolutions, but I have to do better. I know that's not much of a plan, but it's all I've got.
Thanks, haird

Ashantay said...

I think you answered your own question about your time management dilemma. Put yourself first - your deadlines ARE important - more important than other activities. Including getting sucked into the social media Bermuda Triangle!

Linda Lovely said...

Howard, sounds like you and I have had the same plan. Maybe we need to be accountable to each other.

Linda Lovely said...

Ashantay,
I agree, but believing and doing are two different things. I'm going to try though!

Robin Weaver, Author of Blue Ridge Fear said...

I'm not sure I DO meet my self-imposed deadlines. It could be that in my "older wisdom" I finally get that a missed deadline is not the end of the world. Of course, I may be delusional. :)

Robin Weaver, Author of Blue Ridge Fear said...

I'm not sure I DO meet my self-imposed deadlines. It could be that in my "older wisdom" I finally get that a missed deadline is not the end of the world. Of course, I may be delusional. :)

Sarah Raplee said...

I'm like Robin; I know sometimes life gets in the way of deadlines. No one counts on getting the swine flu or having to pitch in to help in a family crisis. I'm just thankful that,as a self-employed author, I can be more flexible than I could if I worked for someone else. My career is important, but my family is more important.