Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You Have Chatter



There’s a lot of talk among writers about wasting time online. What if we’re also wasting creative brain cells?

Sure, I’m right in there with you. I maintain a website, read about 20 blogs every day, post on 2, belong to 12 listservs. I have a presence on myspace and crimespace. I try hard to post comments at the blogs, join in the listserv conversations, send personal messages to myspace friends. I’m tempted to join the competition over at crimespace in composing a great forum, and I have fun plans to improve my website.

But how much creative thought can a writer produce in a single day. I’m finding that, on a good day, I have about three hours before my mind shuts down. That means that if I’m creating all this other junk for two hours every day (and it’s probably three) that leaves me short on resources for the book I have to turn in soon.

So the question is - am I throwing away creative juices?

Writing fiction is damn hard work. It’s much easier to get sidetracked on the internet and write whatever pops into my head, expounding on my personal beliefs, making them come alive for my mailing list, et al audience. Oops, forgot above to mention the newsletter I write.

Yesterday, I woke up with a bad cold. I’m way behind. Manuscript is due June 15th and I’m 2/3 of the way through the FIRST draft. And I have a blog posting due. I didn’t have the energy for both of them. Guess which one I decided was most important? Yup, the posting. It was a bad choice, but I’m making more of those these days.

Gertie Johnson, my protagonist, talked to me through the first two books. In book three, she’s been silent. I’m too busy thinking of witty things to say online to let her voice come through to me. I’m lousy at plotting without her. I need her back.

Look at the authors who are making it, I mean really making it. Are they writing dialogue while I’m writing this blog? Are they creating intriguing characters while I’m hunting down real-life characters to help me figure out problems with html so my newsletter publishes correctly?

Would I produce a better story if I didn’t have access to all these communities and their temptations? I love the writing community. It’s what I should be looking forward to as a reprieve when I ascend from my writing office in the bowels of my home. Instead it has consumed me. Resistance is (almost) futile. I have been assimilated.

What am I going to do about this insidious disease that threatens to eat away at my imagination? I have to try to remember what’s important and cut back on everything else. My husband once asked me, if I had to choose would I want to be a literary success or a commercial success. I didn’t even have to think about it. A commercial success, I said, feeling slightly embarrassed.

So the question I ask myself today is along the same lines – do I want to win over my peers or are my readers more important? And I have to choose. Which do I want? The answer is easy. I have to cut back on my efforts with my writing friends and lure my readers in with the best writing I can produce.

And I’m really, really going to cut back. Just as soon as I write the guest blog I’ve been invited to post, and answer a few myspace messages, and…

Deb Baker

5 comments:

Joe Moore said...

“Writing fiction is damn hard work.”

Hey Deb, that’s the core of the problem. Writing is hard, very hard. So what do we all do? We take the path of least resistance. We do other stuff first. Posting a message, starting a thread, checking email, surfing—all are easier than writing fiction. It’s easier to say that I’ll work on the next chapter after lunch because right now I need to check the Yahoo groups and blogs and whatever. I am the worst. There’s always something I can do besides write.

But here’s the bizarre part: even though writing is hard, it feels good when we get it right. That wonderful feeling of excitement and accomplishment when we finish a chapter and love what we’ve written.

So why do we put off writing even though it brings us pleasure? I think we can blame it on high school physics class. Back then they called it inertia. Today, we can call it writer’s inertia. Writer’s inertia is defined as the tendency of an author who is not writing to remain at not writing, and an author who is writing to remain at writing. I never thought that physics theory had any real-life meaning until now. Maybe I should have listened more in class to some of that other stuff that guy up front kept talking about. To make up for it, I’ll surf the Internet for other cool physics theories I can apply to our writing habits and maybe post them somewhere. I’ll get back to my chapter later.

Mark Terry said...

Amen.

Julia Buckley said...

Deb,

I do understand the siren song of blogs and other internet toys. ALthough I don't read 20 blogs a day, I do write for three of them, and you're right--that's a real time sponge.

So my latest book has about six pages written--although I think you have more books contracted than I do--I need to get some Deb Baker sales before my novels are as in demand as Deb Baker's. :)

But you can't go wrong concentrating on your books. You already have the friends--they won't go away.

Julia

spyscribbler said...

I had the same problem: my mind kept getting all these blog ideas when it should've been writing!

My solution is to jot the titles down whenever I think of them (usually on a free day). Then I turn off the blog idea compartment for the week. When it comes time to write, I just write one of the topics already picked out. I also set a time limit, too.

I like blogging, though. I've discovered tons of new authors I wouldn't have found, and learned a lot from both forcing my thoughts into a coherent structure and learning from other bloggers.

Keith Raffel said...

I have to do my writing at a local cafe where I don't have a connection because of my Internet ADD. A few months ago I measured. 100 words per hour with an Internet connection; 400 words without one.