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April 5th, 2008

The Author's Worst Enemies

I've been having a hard time concentrating on the writing lately, so I've been trying to gain control of my procrastination-inducing distractions. Here's my official list of the Top Ten Writing Distractions:

10) The phone - I rarely make outgoing calls myself, but when I get incoming calls I usually surrender to (long) conversations. I have delightful friends and so the chats are always entertaining, but damn - hard to type and talk at the same time.

9) News magazines - sometimes I sit down and think, Oh, this article's interesting. It should only take a few minutes to read...and two hours later I've read the entire magazine. And then I think, Jeez, did I really need to know that there's a new therapy for autism or what Linda Tripp is doing these days?

8) Friends' writing - I've got a lot of writing friends. They write a lot. They want me to read a lot of what they write. Now believe me, I love doing this (and I apologize if I have something of yours right now that I haven't read yet!), but it's another one of those things that starts with, I'll just read a few pages, and suddenly two hours have gone by...

7) Video games - oh god, I know. I'm too old for 'em. I don't even play new ones - I'm still screwing around with Starcraft, fer cryin' out loud ("Hey, I haven't won this custom game as Zerg yet!").

6) Music - we now enter a section devoted to necessary distractions. I write better to music, but I have to choose only instrumental music, and preferably something I know well; otherwise, I start actually listening to the music, and it's all over. Which leads us to the next necessary distraction:

5) Research - you all know how this goes, right? You need one fact, one little date...and three hours later you've accrued enough information to write a doctoral thesis. Which you never will.

4) Alcohol - yep, it really is sometimes a necessary distraction for me. My job can sometimes be stressful (can't they all?) and a bit of sake or wine or tequila can help me enter that perfect writing space. And then I fall asleep.

3) What I'm working on - so I'm writing along, and I come to something that I'm sure I've already mentioned or written about or described, so I go back to the beginning of the piece, start reading...and start rewriting. I mean, I guess it's necessary eventually, but it's really not helpful when you're just trying to finish a first draft.

And now, far and away the two biggest productivity drains:

2) Being HWA's Treasurer - Trust me, kids, you really have NO idea how big a job this is. HWA really should be paying somebody to do this. Somebody who's not me. Instead, here I am doing it all for free. I'm scoring big points to get into horror heaven, right? Yeah. Sure.

1) Buster - I apologize profusely that this has to end up with my cat, but it's true. He jumps into my lap, and lays there - with my left arm pinioned beneath him. He's so warm and sweet that I can't move him, so I think, He'll get bored and move soon, right? And I indulge in distraction #7, and Buster of course doesn't move, and soon the evening's going, going, gone. Someday I will write the most famous novel in history and it will center on cats and I will be grateful to Buster for all that lap time. I'm sure it will happen. Absolutely.

Notice I have not mentioned my significant other. He's absolutely brilliant at staying out of my way when I'm trying to procrastinate write. Thanks, Ricky. Now could you please have a talk with Buster?