Saturday, April 24, 2010


So what do these lovely bleeding hearts in my garden have to do with writing?

Answer: absolutely nothing. That's the problem.

Spring has sprung in Maine and the siren song of birds, peepers, and yes, the very sound of crocuses hoisting themselves from the earth is calling me outside, away from my office. My writing "breaks" (usually nothing more than a stretch every thirty minutes or so) have turned into quick forays into the garden to see what's blooming. Which turns into yanking a weed or two. Which feels so incredibly good. Especially when one prolongs the weed pulling and focuses on the wild strawberries encroaching on the front beds. Unlike so much of what I do, I see immediate, remarkable results of my labor.

Oh, sure, writing is immediate. Drag a pen across a blank page or tap out a little staccato on the keyboard and words appear. But most days it isn't very good and there's a pretty good chance I won't keep it. Some days, the story doesn't draw me in the way I need it to, and distractions take hold.

Springtime in the garden is a pretty good one. So's Twitter. Facebook. Checking email. Reading the NY Times online, scanning my favorite author blogs, and logging onto the announcements page at my kids' school to make sure there isn't something vitally important to their educations which they have failed to share with me. The Information Superhighway draws me in ... no, sucks me in ... and overwhelms, and I'm down to a productivity level of about 25-percent. Damn you, Al Gore, for inventing the Internet.

Of all the distractions in my life, surfing the net is the biggest black hole. It eats up so much precious writing time that I think I would accomplish much more if I hurled my laptop out the window and wrote longhand, or even resorted to a quill and parchment. It's not that I don't want to work on my book: I love to write. It's never difficult to sit down in the morning and settle into work. But I'm weak. I'm no better than other people who can't stop checking their "Crackberries." Thank goodness I don't text, because I'd definitely be one of those hapless souls tripping over sidewalks or rearending other drivers.

This past February I noticed (yes, via the Internet) that several writers I admire had taken a month long No Technology pledge of sorts. Several stopped blogging and tweeting while others just reduced the amount of time they spent blogging and tweeting and social-networking in general. At the time, I didn't give their experiment much thought, and I don't really know how it turned out for them, although I do notice they've all "returned" online. Still, I'm wondering if I could use a dose of that discipline. Especially since the bleeding hearts have been piling on lately.

So, here it is, my personal No Distractions goal for at least one week: only 30 minutes, in total, devoted each day to Social Networking, ie. Facebook and Twitter and Blog Following. Answering emails won't have a time limit, but I will only check at set times each day: say morning, midday and evening. Then let's see, after one week, how much actual writing I'll get done.

Oh, and as for weeding: no limits there. Dandelions beware.


  1. I can totally relate to this post, especially on a gorgeous day like today. I find routine helps. Wednesdays are my social networking/blogging/errand days, and I aim to write on the other 4 days of the week. I check email and get exercise before I start writing and then go offline by 9:30. I don’t even answer the phone unless it’s one of the kids. I check messages/email at lunchtime and after I finish writing. Today my reward was meeting the kids for the first ice cream of the year at Cotes and reading on our sunny deck. The rain in the forecast will make for good writing weather!

  2. What a great idea to have a No Distractions goal! I find that the more and more I am required to use the internet for teaching (Moodle sites are pretty much a must at my uni) the easier it is to get distracted. So good luck with the goal! I'd like to know how it turns out!