Why I Don't Write

David Mack wrote, "It's not the writing that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write." I've been thinking a lot on what keeps me from writing, and recently I made a major change to help me work better.

The list of what keeps me from writing is huge. I'm married, have a toddler, homeschool, parent 5 kids, teach programming, blog, fix computers, write newsletters, fix the house, and on and on. But all of those are Things I Have To Do or Things I Should Do. There's an equally large list of Things I Don't Need To Do (or Things I Shouldn't Do Instead of Writing): e-mail, pointless research, blog reading, chicken counting*, books, Sudoku, and more.

I've always been aware that most of what distracts me is on the internet. I sit down at the computer out of habit, and the first thing I do is check my e-mail. I check my feed reader for any updated blogs. If I'm being particularly distracted, I'll do some research I don't need to do or check recent hits on my blogs. Only when I'm sure I've exhausted my interest in the internet, do I start to write. Needless to say, getting my head into writing after repeating this cycle a few times is difficult**.

So in the interest of Getting Things Done, I have made a change. As of yesterday, I check the internet once in the morning and once at night after the kids go to bed. The rest of the day Firefox stays closed. It's not easy, but I think I'll get used to it after a while, and I think it will help.

Mindy Klasky at SFNovelists mentioned a similar self-discipline technique, though she allows Firefox for research, et al. Unfortunately I can't do that. I know myself too well. Instead, I write blog posts offline to be uploaded later. If I need to research something, I make a note of it and look it up that night. If I need a dictionary or thesaurus, I *gasp* use a real paper one. I'm still working out where to get random names, as I make heavy use of online generators for minor characters. Yesterday I used my wife's highschool yearbook.

Mindy also talked about making daily goals for herself. It's a good idea I'm going to try and keep in mind. Today I need to write a blog post (done) and start a short story***.

* A reference to the fable whose moral is "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." Also known as daydreaming. I waste much more time than I'd like to admit thinking about what things will be like after I get published.

** Everytime I get up, the cycle repeats when I sit back down, and with homeschooling and parenting a little one, the times I need to get up are many. Right now, for example, the Little One is quiet, which means he's doing something he shouldn't be.

*** I know. "Start a short story" is too small and vague to be a good goal. But I can't say "finish it" because I don't think I will, and I can't give a word count because I don't yet know what's reasonable for me, given the aforementioned homeschooling and Little One****.

**** Now that the day is done, I managed to write almost 1,600 words, or about 40% of the story. Not bad.

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