When Amy first introduced this idea, I felt, as I’m sure many others did, a bit intimidated, even threatened. I mean, we’re all trying to create relationships, build a following, and get work done, and the reality is that for most of that, the internet is crucial. I told myself I’ve already declared the after school/evening time off-limits to writing time, so I can focus fully on my family. I’ve already backed off the blog, dropping one day and allowing the rest to be less polished, more free-written. And yet I recognized what she was describing: this feeling that I’m never quite fully present in my life as long as my attention is directed at the screen.
As the week went on, I began to recognize how much wasted time there is in my day. I blamed it on other things, namely distraction. I can’t get into a groove of writing when I only have five minute blocks, when Nicholas is yelling “Mommy, Michael is getting near me!” and Michael’s reaching up and wreaking havoc by pulling on my arm and banging on the keyboard. What I really needed was time without the kids. But then Nicholas went to school, Michael went down for nap, and I was still playing catchup: blog reading, another crack at making Twitter a useful tool, and so on. After all, I didn’t have enough time to really get my brain in the game on that short story revision, and I didn’t even know where to begin working on the novel again. Besides, I have a book coming out in five weeks, and it’s almost Lent–shouldn’t I be working on promotion?
In the end, I completely flipped out. I need more uninterrupted time, I wailed to Christian. I’m not getting anything done!
That’s not strictly true, of course. I’m getting a lot done. But I have such a wide scattering of projects, from magazine to book promo to bulletin inserts and short fiction and long fiction and writing music. Not to mention the flute practice. The up side of having so many irons in the fire is that there’s always something to work on, and always some way to draw income. But the flip side is lack of focus. Momentum doesn’t get rolling very well when you’re jumping from one thing to the next.
Thursday I listened to Gennifer Albin speak about the writing process and her debut novel, Crewel. She wrote, edited, submitted and sold that sucker in less than a year. How? She left the house and wrote 25 hours every week.
Twenty. Five. Hours.
What do I do with twenty-five hours? Not that much!
Friday afternoon, I had a sitter. I resolved to go to church and work on a song text (these take me longer than anything else I write). But the weather was gorgeous…well, marginally warm, anyway. And I’ve been scolding myself for not taking the time to go out and meditate, be quiet and pray when I can.
I had two hours. Not enough time to get away from the city. So I went to the back of the park and walked five minutes down a trail to a little hollow with a wooden bridge, where a dozen robins were flitting around, drinking from the spaces between the ice. I sat for fifteen minutes, listening to the low gurgle of water beneath ice, watching the birds. Not long enough to completely quiet my mind, but enough to release the tension. And then I went on to church, sat down in front of the Tabernacle, and worked on that song text for twenty minutes.
And I made progress. As in several couplets finished. So I pulled out my NEO and the short story I was revising, and worked on it, too.
I accomplished more in that two hours than in any other two-hour block in the last several months–and I spent half an hour of it driving.
What an eye-opener! I realize now I’m staring at a yet another paradigm shift in my life. I don’t know what all the implications are. Since I sat down to write this post, I’ve had to change out the bread machine dough, help a little boy count to twenty-five, and put Michael down for a nap. This is reality; for the foreseeable future, distraction-free writing time is not in the cards. What I can control is the online part. And so I, too, am going to be seeking times to Power Down this week, along with Amy & co.
Care to to join in?