Writing Time Wasters

I’m no more immune than anyone else to the plague of time wasters. Time wasters are habits we fall into that consume the time we have allotted (or could allot) to writing so that we end up not writing! Here are some of the most insidious that take up too much time and squander my writing energy.

1. Checking on e-mail before I begin to write for the day. Either it takes up a lot of time as I read through the e-notes or I come across an e-mail that gets me charged and I begin to write a scathing (or, depending on your point of view, insightful!) e-mail in response.

2. Needing to research a point “a bit more.” This is a very tricky one as research is essential to a well-written memoir. In this time waster, I forget that “perfect” is the enemy of “good.” In my quest to write the perfect piece, I forgo writing a good piece. The solution presents itself when I begin to feel that I already have more material than I can possibly handle–I know then it’s time to write!

3. Letting my best writing time of the day be co-opted. In this time waster, I think, “Yes, I can do both. I’ll do this other thing first and write later (obviously it doesn’t occur to me right then that ‘later’ I might be tired and in no mood to spend time writing!). When “later” comes, I might think “Well, for this one time, it’s ok not to write.” The problem, of course, arises when the “one time” occurs too often.

4. Answering the phone. This leads to much loss of energy and the assumption of all sorts of tasks that need attention “right now!” More productive to let the answering machine or service take the calls and return them at a later time.

Do you have a “favorite” writing time waster that I haven’t mentioned here? Write a post below.

About Denis Ledoux

Denis Ledoux began helping people to turn their memories into memoirs in 1988. Denis was named Lifewriting Professional of the Year by the Association of Personal Historians in 1996. Today, Denis is a writer, educator, teacher, autobiography co-author, memoir-writing coach, editor and publisher. He directs The Memoir Network, an international group of memoir professionals who use his method and materials to help people write lifestories. Denis also offers writing tele-classes and leads memoir writing tele-groups.
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10 Responses to Writing Time Wasters

  1. Sue Mitchell says:

    I think you’ve hit on the main time wasters, Denis! Really, the only way I get my writing done is if I create a time for it, preferably early in the day, and then protect that time like a mama grizzly bear. I actually just published a post on my blog about this very subject about an hour ago! If we don’t carve out the time and stay faithful to our plan, it’s so easy to put off writing until…someday.

    • Denis Ledoux says:

      Thanks, Sue. Send your blog address so everyone can read post.

      • Sue Mitchell says:

        The post is A Juggler’s Guide to Making Time for Writing: http://wp.me/p31lkm-6z

      • Denis Ledoux says:

        Thanks. Many good ideas.
        I like the suggestion to protect one’s energy.
        An extension is not to waste time talking about what you are going to write and to do the writing itself.

      • Sue Mitchell says:

        I’d like to add a little nuance to what you said about wasting time talking about what you’re going to write, Denis. Contemplating and playing with ideas is an important part of the creative process, so sometimes talking about what you’re going to write can clarify ideas and inspire you to get to the writing. If you never do get to the writing, though, then yes, it was time wasted. 🙂

      • Denis Ledoux says:

        No, I’m thinking about people who talk their stories away. Lose their energy for the story by speaking. Ernest Hemingway said someplace that more stories were lost in the cafés of Paris than were written in the garrets. I belong to a group of writers and we get together periodically to read our stories in progress. Now this I do not consider talking away a story but, as you write, it is contemplating and playing with ideas, clarifying direction.

        Keep writing!

  2. cmadsen says:

    Reading the newspaper is the best time-waster, I am sorry to say. First the local rag, and it is a rag, unfortunately, full of poorly-edited articles from wire services and PR firms. Then it’s on to the New York Times, which can occupy me for much too long, depending on the day. Heaven forbid it’s Science Tuesday, or Arts Thursday. I’m lost!

    • Denis Ledoux says:

      Chris, I so totally understand you. I scan the electronic version of my local paper and then sometimes get snookered into replying to the political articles. When I absolutely must post a reply, I limit myself (in my better moments) to 3-5 sentences. I keep asking, “Will I be happy to have been doing this?”

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Thanks for this post.

    I allow myself a few minutes of playing Shanghai on my computer, but my mind’s gearing up, so I don’t consider it a time waster. I work on my memoir in the mornings before doing any other type of work, and it’s paid off. I’ve sent the ms off to the editor, and await her pleasure.

    I’ve been keeping to this schedule while working on my second memoir, and the first draft is finished.

    • Denis Ledoux says:

      Lynette, you rock!

      We all have to remember to show up for the writing. Not showing up for the writing equals no writing. You are the proof of the value of daily writing.

      Great work!

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