Sunday, August 3, 2008

In Which I Admit I am Powerless

First, I have some good news. I got my Foundling Wheel groove back this weekend and I have a new first chapter, (don’t tsk, you tskers, I really did need to go back and rewrite the beginning of the story so I could pick it back up again in the middle). I finished chapter 12 and got halfway through chapter 13. I’m back in the saddle and crawling forward again.

Now, the bad news: Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m addicted to the internet.

Between the malaise of summer, taking off for that heavenly writing retreat in the mountains and a growing to-do list that I never seem to make any progress on, I have allowed myself to slip into a state of inertia and near-depression. Why can I not get anything done?

I’m like Pavlov’s dog whenever Google reader alerts me to a new blog post or whenever a new email comes in. Not long ago I added fuel to the fire by subscribing to more blogs! I started Twittering – why? I can’t exactly say. And don’t forget Facebook – where I admittedly spend very little time, but do end up wasting time every time I accept an invitation to “friend” someone new. Might as well check out their page and see who else they’re friends with!

I have always rationalized that reading and commenting on blogs doesn’t interfere with the time I so desperately seek to work on The Foundling Wheel. I have a full time job and I tell myself that if, in between tasks at work I read and comment a little here and there, it’s not impinging on writing time because I can’t write while I’m working.

I finally had to call bullshit on my own bullshit this week.

Maybe I couldn’t work on TFW in that stolen ten (okay, twenty) minutes after the Monday morning conference call and before I answered the first email, but if I had used the ten (twenty?) minutes to go and clean the kitchen, write that thank-you note, respond to the two letters still waiting answers, pay my bills, swiffer vac the hallway, run out and restock the fridge, brush my cat, or godforbid go take a walk and get some exercise, perhaps I wouldn’t feel so constantly behind.

Some of you are disciplined, determined souls and I envy and respect you for it. You get a post out there, comment on occasion, but keep your noses to the grindstone and you make progress on your work. Then there’s me who has to click every link on every post. There’s me who somehow ends up watching YouTube videos of Lang Lang at two o’clock in the morning or I wonder whatever happened to that girl I was stationed with in 1982 and I’m on, and all over the internet following cyber-leads until I find her and in the meantime, holy cow, I wonder what happened to that couple from Minnesota? Damn, Jensen is just too common a name, but I’ll bet they stayed in touch with…

I’m out of control. On a side note: I did reconnect with an old friend from 1982 and I also reconnected with an old childhood friend this week. Evidence of my cyber investigative prowess and I’m delighted to reconnect, but it’s not getting me any closer to “the end”.

This calls for drastic measures. I have to give up the web – cold turkey – for a week, just to see if I can.

I have to prioritize and here are the “must-do” items in order of precedence.

1. Work. I never neglect the hand that feeds me – despite some evidence to the contrary.

2. Work on The Foundling Wheel – too easy to neglect due to poor time management.

3. Take care of my body – I have turned into a junk food eating sloth.

4. Establish a routine and a schedule and stick to it – at least a little.

5. Read. It’s just as important as writing is.

I’ve got at least one time-sensitive blog post that I’ll allow myself this week.

I won’t ignore email. The time it takes to read an answer email is infinitesimal, in comparison to my unbridled out of control web surfing. While I’m “away” please feel free to email me at lisa dot eudaemonia at gmail dot com. As a matter of fact, please do! I'll be suffering severe withdrawal from all of you.

I’ll comment back to this post, but I won’t allow myself to do it until Wednesday.

I won't be reading or commenting on any posts until (ugh) Friday. There, I said it.

Is it just me, or has anyone else had to find ways to set limits on their internet time?


Maddy said...

I hear yah! Can't figure out facebook anyway, nor turn off the alerts that ping in all day.

My google reader has died, all the text overlays itself, it looks like a vision test.

Nevermind summer is all about procrastination.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've had trouble with all the blogs I try to keep up with and post on. When school starts I'm definitely going to have to cut back. It just takes a lot of time, even though I'm pretty good about not following links.

Ello said...

Oh Lisa, I totally hear you! I think we all know exactly what you are saying. When the kids got sick with pneumonia, I had to stop blogging cold turkey and ever since then, I only come back around once or twice a week, and even post at the same frequency. And it paid off because I finished my WIP cause I wasn't on the net all the time. I think it is an important thing to do and I think that all bloggers should understand and support one another to find the right amount of internet and life. So yeah for you and the Foundling Wheel which I can't wait to read!

kristenspina said...

Yes, I hear you. I know what you mean. I deleted my facebook account today--never could understand that thing, anyway, and never could remember to keep my "status" updated.

I've cut way back on blog reading, saving time for a few favorites...And, like you, I need to start writing again. I think I'm ready for summer to be over. (Finally!)

CindyLV said...

Hi Lisa,

You're not alone. I struggle with time management. I, too, broke free from my sloth and my reluctance to write on Casual Duty, sloth that lasted 3 months I might add. I, too, went back and reworked a previous chapter to jumpstart a stuck chapter.

I've looked over your list off priorities, and . . . where's Scott on this list????

I only ask because I've recently been reminded that my hours at the computer screen have resulted in a lack of attention to my "wifely duties." So, as I check the clock and see it's 10:24 on Sunday night, I'll sign off.


Usman said...

Totally with you Lisa.

As you know, I gave up blogging for six months. But I did read certain blogs and made comments. In those 6 months I made fair progress with the WIP.
I think like you said there is some discipline involved. we cant allow ourselves to be take over by the machine.
Good for you that you are working on the TFW.

Günter said...

I'm with you down to your description of stalking old friends and acquaintances. I'm finding blogs so much of a distraction that I can't even comment here properly. This is why activity at It Was Colonel Mustard has been so sporadic for the last couple weeks. If you're a fiction writer, poking around online can be draining of all the wrong energies. Once I establish better "work habits" - a necessary phrase I've always disliked - maybe I'll try to pick up the posting pace.

Yogamum said...

Boy, do I hear you on this!

Coincidentally I read this post:
Right before I read yours. All you procrastinating writers, run and read it!

Karen Carter said...

Enjoy the break! Sounds like the change will do you a boatload of good. If you decide to extend it a bit, don't think twice. We'll all still be here. K.

Sustenance Scout said...

p.s. (says my alter ego) Congrats on your progress with your book!

moonrat said...

[Hi, Lisa.]

There's strength in numbers. Let's, umm, meet on the internet and form a support group...

CindyLV said...

RE: moonrat. What a great idea! Put a bunch of procrastinating writers together on the internet. Imagine the power! Why, we could take over the wor...hey! What's this tiny url that YogaMum posted? Hmmmmmmmmmmm.........


pattinase (abbott) said...

Needless to say, my problem too. It's worse than quitting smoking 20 years ago.

Yogamum said...

I know, it's ironic that I posted a link...but it's about internet detox for writers!!

Patti said...

i employ a different method. i give myself UNLIMITED access whenever I want thereby making it less of a poison apple and more like an ordinary banana.

when told i can't do something, even if i am doing the telling, it has the opposite effect on me. i am a child that way.

somehow it works.

Larramie said...

Perhaps everyone took your pledge yesterday, Lisa, and that's why cyberblogs are almost silent today...

And, of course, you had to rewrite Chapter 1 in order to start amidst the action of TFW.

Jess said...

Hi, Lisa--

Oh, you're not alone, you're not alone. I do it too. I've been through several periods of depression and inertia, and I'm supposed to be writing for a "living". Heck, right now I'm supposed to be slogging my way through a pile of writing manuals (I'm choosing one for a course I'm teaching this fall), and instead I'm commenting on your blog. Aieee! It's a vicious circle and I'm an accessory to your half just by writing this.

I sometimes think the internet is the worst place a writer can be. There's crap everywhere, and it just pulls you right in. And the worst bit is that you feel like you're working, because you're typing, and reading, and occasionally even thinking.

Your list of priorities is a good one. Switch off the modem is another good one. Don't feel compelled to reply to Jess's comment will work, too. I won't be hurt. ;) Hang in there. You'll make it.

Travis Erwin said...

I'm with you on the addiction.

Steve Malley said...

I get one hour with my morning coffee to read blogs, news, etc. After that, I pull the little card out that disables the wireless modem. Done.

If I can't seem to quit plugging it back in, I close the computer and pick up a pad and paper. If I'm going out that day, I take the pad and paper. It is my way.

Lana Gramlich said...

Take care & don't worry about us. I'm in a similar boat with you, although I'm not at the unbearable level yet. I'm definitely on the edge, however, debating how I expect to get any painting done in between keeping up with e-mails, FB & visiting blogs. I started watching Pink Floyd videos the other day...It's insidious. I must stop myself. <:(

steve said...

I'm happy to read that you're making progress on TFW. Your decision to suspend your blogging makes sense. I've been away from the Web for a couple of weeks, though not voluntarily. Best of luck in reaching your very well-thought goals.

Tim said...

I know you're not going to read this until forever, but I'm proud of you -- for the new first chapter, and for pulling the plug. (Although I was just about to e-mail you to remind you about the bookstore event this Thursday.) And I know exactly what you're talking about when you call it an addiction; I'm actually working on MISDIRECTION in a coffee house and I just discovered it has wi-fi. Eeeeeeeeeeeek.

See you at Murder By the Book Thursday?

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Yes, I'm with you all--one of the reasons I won't even find out what all the twittering is about. And while it's nice to feel all popular with facebook and goodreads and whatnot, I have no idea what's really happening there. And i intend to keep it that way.

Now, if I just had the discipline to get read of the solitaire game on my laptop . . .

Denis said...

YEA LISA! Go, go, go! Stick to your guns and congrats on your writing.

Therese said...

It's been tough for me, too, but I've scaled my 'net time back drastically this summer--blog posting, reading, and commenting, all.

Step #1: admit you have a problem. :)

Congrats on making all kinds of progress.

Shauna Roberts said...

What a coincidence . . . I've decided I need to limit my Internet time too. Haven't quite figured out yet what rules to set for myself, though. Good luck to both of us.

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

Good luck giving up the web! If I didn't have my computer, I might have to resort to - egad! - real work. Actually, I seriously need more focus. Perhaps we should join a twelve-step program of sorts?

Lisa said...

Whoa! Looks like I've hit a nerve!

Maddy, Good to see you! I did a bit of the summer procrastination, but now -- it has to end!

Charles, I liken it to alcoholism. You can read and walk away from the links. Once I get started, I can't stop! I click the links, Google names I've never heard of, one-click order interesting books, and on and on. I'm trying to learn some limits this week and it's been better.

Ello, Thanks for the support! Staying away is a little like being the little kid who gets sent to bed while the party is still going -- I'm so afraid I'll miss something ;)

Kristen, Despite my initial ban on all things internet, Twitter has been my methadone. A couple of times a day I can still check in and I've mostly been using it to track reading and writing. Thanks for the validation!

Cindy, Good to hear you are back in the groove too. Maybe early fall will be a good time to toss out a new Dickens gauntlet...

Oh -- it goes without saying that Scott trumps everything. I always make time for him :)

Usman, Your presence was missed but if it allowed you to move forward with your WIP, it was more than worth it.

Gunter, I won't ever give up on It Was Colonel Mustard -- it's one of my very favorite blogs anywhere. Of course, all that cool stuff you find does take time to find, doesn't it?

Yogamum, Oh man -- I waited until today to read this and now that blog is gone! See what happens when you snooze?

Karen, Thanks for your support and let's do lunch again soon!

Moonie, HAHAHAHAHAHA! You're the best ;)

Patti, Quitting smoking was the absolute hardest thing -- until this!

Patti T, That would NEVER work for me. I find way too many things interesting and I would never get off if I didn't impose limits on myself.

Larramie, See? You understand!

Jess, I'm so happy to "meet" you and hear from you. And you're right, so much of the online stuff could be attributed to "research" -- except that it's usually not! I think we all tend to be overly curious, so getting on line is like planting a junkie in the middle of a crack house for me!

Travis, We can figure this out, I know it :)

Steve, Since I telecommute and live and die by email and an online sales management system -- I can't really ever completely disconnect. That's what is sometimes even more maddening.

But -- I have been doing much more writing on paper lately and I'm thinking of trying the longhand and legal pad method with my next new chapter. I do think there's a big benefit to doing that -- I can also do it anytime, anywhere and I can't do that when I keep everything on my laptop.

Lana, Don't get me started on YouTube! I go to see one thing and the next thing I know, I've watched a dozen and lost two hours!

Steve, My recent work on TFW probably would look pretty chaotic to someone looking in from the outside. I'd compare it to starting renovations and decorating on a mansion where I've done a few rooms without a plan and now that I'm starting to see the master plan, it's caused me to have to go back, change paint colors, rearrange furniture and even gut a couple of rooms I've already done.

Tim, We will most definitely see you at Murder by the Book and you will also get to meet Denver Blogger, Karen (Sustenance Scout) and with a little luck, a few other of my writing friends.

Judy, Oh right -- I forgot to include: LibraryThing, Goodreads, Shelfari and who knows how many other social networks I belong to. But in the end -- we all know where the time NEEDS to be spent.

Denis, Thank you for your support! And thanks for your ongoing encouragement with "The Foundling Wheel". AND Happy belated birthday :)

Therese, I HAVE A PROBLEM :) And I hope I can follow your good example. Thanks for stopping in!

Shauna, See -- I've been waiting to hear from you because I hold you as the highest example of a good time manager. Can't wait to hear the rules you come up with.

Orchid Hunter! It's funny, I originally thought blogging was a quasi-support system for existential writing angst. Who knew it would necessitate creation of another 12 step program? But hey, I'm almost finished reading "The Orchid Hunter" and I may have to segue right into "Orchid Fever". Wow, I'm starting to understand the fascination. My favorite bits are the ones about the nineteenth century hunters and collectors though. What lives!

Lisa said...

That is all. Over and out until the weekend and maybe not even then. I forgot that Scott and I are leaving Friday for a long weekend up in Grand Lake. Thanks for all the support, blog peeps. It's good to know I'm not alone.

Jennifer said...

Congratulations on getting your TFW groove back! That's awesome news!

You're definitely not alone (as the comments above show). I've struggled with this for years now, and while I've improved in some areas (compulsive posting), I've gotten worse in others (compulsive link-following). The Internet is, for me, both blessing and curse.

Inertia is, funnily enough, one of the main themes of my DC novella, and now I think I understand why: It knocks me sideways a LOT. (By the way, I think renewing the DC this fall is a GREAT idea! I'm finally working on WFG again, and it sounds like several of us have captured our muses! Maybe they can't run as fast in this heat. . . .)

We recently de-cluttered our entire house, and it felt so wonderful--literally, my brain feels better (freer!) when I walk into one of these simplified rooms. I'm so much more focused on the task at hand instead of picking up a book or a letter and forgetting why I came into the room in the first place.

I realized that it would be good to do the same to my bookmarks and my hard drive (where I save copies of articles, etc., I plan on reading "later"). It's been slow going, and I only get a few items sorted each day, and it's HARD for me, but I can see that it will help. And maybe then I will finally be able to stay on top of things instead of being so spread out across the Internet. :)

So I just want to cheer you on and say, You can do it! I believe in you! *rah rah rah* And I hope you guys have a great and relaxing weekend!

Shauna Roberts said...

Since your post, I've taken my first steps to reducing my time on the Internet. I do most of my shopping online and so was subscribed to many store newsletters. So I've been unsubscribing. Bye-bye, Pier 1, World Market, Penney's, Eddie Beyer, toy stores (my nieces and nephews are almost beyond the toy stage now anyway), plus all sorts of places I don't even remember subscribing too.

My next step will probably to set up a schedule so that I limit reading nonwork and nonemergency emails at to certain times.

jamiegrove said...

Mah stone (o) as you are trying to kick on Internet use. Best of luck, Lisa! Keep rockin!

Melissa Marsh said...

I usually get a lot of surfing time done while at work (bad, I know!). But then I don't feel like doing it when I go home and I can just focus on the writing.

Seachanges said...

I so know what you mean! too many blogs, not enough time in the day, the dayjob, the writing, etc. etc. It's sooooo easy to push the writing aside because you've 'got to read' the blogs. It's a difficult one to kick.....

Lisa said...

Jennifer, The internet (not just blog) break has done me a world of good.

I find that not only does it allow me the time I need to write, probably more importantly, it allows the story to stay with me all the time -- which makes writing more a LOT easier.

Yes -- let's make a tentative plan to resume our DC projects with dedication after the Labor Day weekend -- how about that? Thanks for the support and yes -- we did have a relaxing weekend up in the mountains :)

Shauna, We must be on a similar wavelength. I've unsubscribed to a number of things too. I also unsubscribed to a number of things in Google Reader -- I think I can stay more disciplined if I just limit how often I go out and check the blogs I like to visit.

Jamie, Thanks for stopping by! I'm subscribed to your blog and I was truly moved by the post that brought me out of exile to comment.

Melissa, I don't think it's nearly as dangerous to surf at work if you have a workplace to go to (and therefore couldn't do any of the things at home that I was also avoiding). I think your approach probably works well for you.

Seachanges, It is! And I know you do a LOT of heavy reading and it competes too -- although reading and writing are two priorities that I look at as equally important, so I'll always eliminate other activities in favor of either.

Riss said...

yes. I have. And it really does amazing things for you. I have compromised with myself, however. My problem is I get to thinking about things and then i want to go look them up. so, I make a list. I write about what interested me in the first place and then I come back and when I am off the internet ban, if it still seems important, I look it up. And then, think back to DARE (is that a my childhood thing or did everyone have to do DARE) and JUST SAY NO! ;D It gets better. I have lived without a cell phone for 7 months in a row. And the internet...well...i get it once every three days or so around here. Here being the farmlands of Estonia. (c: Good luck and great pics and have a great week off. It's amazing how many things come back to you when you're not online. And I started Chapter 5! Finally!

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf