One of my blog friends has helped start a new meme. It’s called Power Down. This group of women felt that the glut of connection demanded a response, and that response was to take a step back–to disconnect from the Great WWW for a period of time every week.
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?
You are in better shape than i was years ago because fear gripped ME when I tried to write. Now I can hardly type fast enough to keep up to the flow of words that rise up from deep in my spirit. Now example, connections, prayers. scriptures all connect in my hidden, creative self in union with Him. Although they need to be polished.
It took me 32 years before I could start writing again. In the ensuing years, 18 years spent pregnant and/or nursing babies, I discovered fulfilment. My call, vocation and witness became the joy of mothering children. Perhaps I could have started writing seven years ago when everyone was in school full-time but realistically there was simply too much physical work involved in running a household for eleven people and helping with the farm animals and our large vegetable garden.
Now I have come around full circle because I have started writing again. Just as I imagined at 16. It just took 32 years of living a strange life before this avid reader and crazy oral story-teller was ready to start writing again.
I struggle all the time with whether I should be waiting until they’re all in school, whether I should just be “mom” now. I keep coming to the conclusion that each of us has a different path and a different calling, and we have to discern what it is as best we can.
yep and it is okay to make mistakes..I cannot believe my kids turned out so well….grace. It must be grace
My mother finished her first book before I was born and always kept writing. she has written over 50 books now. She wrote when we were in school or late in the evening, through the night even. When the youngest was finally 18, my baby brother was born and she’s back to juggling school, household and writing (as a single mother this time!). i have no idea how she does it, but I do know that internet is evil for writers. 🙂
Some things my mother does (or has done in the past): get out of the house to write (pe: to the library), write by hand, write on an older computer with no internet, write on a typewriter, install a program that blocks internet during her “writing hours”, go to a B&B for a weekend and just write all day …
I like those ideas, Ciska. Can’t use ’em all, but I like ’em…
I love those ideas too!
Thanks so much for linking to Power Down, and more importantly, for offering this glimpse of the need of it in your life (and putting it in practice!). So much of our time is robbed from us in tiny, minute-by-minute ways, sometimes unavoidably if we have kids at home or other responsibilities, but even more so online. I feel so strongly about this as I try to be more and more productive as a writer.
The boys are ACTUALLY NAPPING together today. Michael’s been sleeping very poorly and I’ve had to get up 2-3 times during a nap to coddle him back to sleep the last week or two. Today I sat down and started working on my novel and within twenty minutes was trying to click over to Facebook for a break. I realized it in time and reached over and shut off the internet box. An hour later I said, “Okay, it’s 3:00, time to quit; let’s brave those comments over at Miss Snark’s First Victim (I have an excerpt up for critique today)–and the computer gave me a snarky “you’re not connected to the internet” msg. I went, YESSSSS!
This is so awesome. That quieting of the mind is IT. It’s IT. Look what just a short dose of it did for your focus!!! Awesome. Thank you for sharing Power Down!
Thank you for this Kathleen. I am an empty nester but i work fulltime as a parish secretary. My husband is retired but is active as a deacon. I need to spend time with him – quality and quantity. But also need some alone time and writing time. Hard to work it all out. I have cut down on FB. That has helped. I try to write when hubby busy at church. But a few hours here and there does not work that well for me. One of my biggest problems is having some silent time to ruminate on ideas etc.
Silent time is so important!