The thing about writers is that we are rarely working on just one project at a time. We’re writing our new book—the one we’re madly in love with and staying up late to scribble on—and we’re revising the manuscript we finished before that. We’re also working on a short story or two, maybe some poetry, and trying to journal every day. And blog posts…don’t forget about blog posts, or email, our social media presence and then, of course, there are all those books we need to read.
Writers are busy people.
This might be why every time I tweet something out about the evil internet being a huge time suck for writers, it gets retweeted through the roof. Because we already know how busy we are.
And we know that the very network that helps us move forward in our work and promote our career also has the power to zap our energy and steal our time.
But the internet doesn’t only affect us when we’re plugged in. It continuously immerses us in an energy of speed, distraction, and frantic urge that carries over into our real life, even when we’re offline. After being on social media for hours or skimming a pile of blog posts on writing, you might notice that you feel like you’re not writing enough pages, you’re not producing at a fast enough speed, and you don’t know enough about publishing.
These kinds of feelings drive us to consume more-and-more-and-more information, but more information is not always the answer.
The real solution for writers comes down to focus and boundaries.
Let’s begin with focus. You can start by picking one project and sticking with it for the long term. That might be one novel you’re writing, and you stick with it for eight months. Or it might be one short story, and you stick with it for the next week. Your focus is on just that one project, no matter how messy or difficult it becomes. You can take breaks, that’s fine. But focus means you come back to it. You stick with it, day after day.
After you pick your focus project, you introduce boundaries. That means when you’re working on that project you are only working on that project. You have the internet and your phone turned OFF. The door to your private space is CLOSED. The people in your life have been informed that you are UNAVAILABLE.
Boundaries can be tough to enforce at first, because the people around you aren’t used to them yet and your monkey mind wants to thwart your plans.
But enforcing your boundaries consistently will eventually train everyone on what to expect from you. Pretty soon all involved will understand that there is now an impenetrable fence built around your writing time.
Pick your project. Rope off your chunks of time for it. Build your fence and then enforce the boundaries.
Once you get experienced practicing with focus and boundaries, you won’t even be susceptible to the siren call of the internet anymore.
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