by Bitsy Kemper
Ah, the life of an author. Writing, creating…it evokes images of stretched legs and hammocks by the sea.
Yeah, right. Sometimes I’d rather clean the toilet. Let’s face it. No matter how much we love what we do, and no matter how easily words may flow, there are days when it’s still work. To be a good writer, nay, a great writer, we are faced with days and days of less fun and more work. But hey, it’s still fun. And usually better than grabbing a scrub brush.
With an easily-distracted brain (IS THAT CHOCOLATE?), my biggest challenge is focus. When faced with a deadline or obstacle, my mind tends to freak out. It wanders about like a baby that’s just learned to crawl. (“Oh, I need to see that up close. Oh wait, there’s something shiny, was that always there? Can I eat it?”) Sometimes it sprints like an escaped prisoner and doesn’t come back for days.
When I *have*to focus, I usually can’t.
I figured I could better harness that energy by creating a blog. After all, writing is writing, right? In July I created a WordPress account and literally went live within five minutes. Then I spent 105 minutes picking out a font. Background color? Agonizing. Theme? Changed it four times. I could easily spend five hours a day refining and fine tuning to get it just right. And not one minute would be spent writing. That recently-sprung prisoner called distraction would be laughing all the way to the bank.
Creating or maintaining a blog isn’t the same thing as writing one. But you can’t do one without the other, not if you want to do it well. All the time I spent obsessing over managing formatting ate away at the time I could have spent writing it. Or better yet, working on a manuscript. There’s only so much time in a day, and we need to spend it wisely. (Oh, crap, did I just turn into my grandfather?)
Some of you are very good at writing a pithy post, hitting enter, and going back to your regularly-scheduled program. You impress me. But my brain won’t let me off that easy. “Was there an extra space after the fifth sentence? Would this look better in blue? Maybe I could take a few pictures to post along with it…hang on, I’ll grab my camera…” Next thing you know I’m knee deep in gifs and jpegs and have completely forgotten the purpose was to write.
Here’s the deal: WordPress ISN’T WHAT I DO. It’s not what defines me. Sorry, blog, I mean I like you and all, but you are not what I wake up in the morning eager to work on. You are not what I think about all day and can’t wait to work on again once the kids are asleep. You are not what kept me from falling asleep last night because of all those great story ideas resulting from an otherwise painful trip to the mall. Yes, I will tend to you, dear blog, but not at the expense of my other writing progress. I can’t hand you the steering wheel.
I set the blog up only to walk away because it aggressively detracted me from my one true love: working on my manuscripts. (To think they just waited patiently for my return! They are so good to me.) My blog is imperfect and I hate that. But sometimes “good enough” has to be, well, good enough.
Bottom line: if there is only enough time in the day to get one thing right, it’s gonna be my manuscript, not my blog. I won’t be a better writer if I use the blog as a distraction away from my “real” writing, the way I use my writing to distract me from cleaning the bathroom (honestly, you’d think it’d be spotless by now).
Maybe you can replace the word “blog” with “Facebook” or “crying baby” or something else from your own life; we all have that one big distracter that keeps us from staying on track. The trick is to fight the temptation, tame the beast, focus focus focus.
Make time for yourself, no one is going to give it to you.
Now I’m off to finish those revisions my editor needs next Thursday. Sorry, bathroom and blog, you’re gonna have to wait.
Bitsy Kemper is author of six educational picture books and one nonfiction YA that’s due 2014. Interestingly, her passion is humorous middle grade and creative, fictional picture books, but real life (or is it her blog?) has a way of interfering with finding their perfect publisher…
Busy with three kids (four if you count her husband), Bitsy has stayed focused long enough to present at writer conferences and schools from NY to CA. She’s enjoyed using her corporate background to create custom business plans for fellow writers who would rather clean toilets than market themselves. Follow her at @BitsyKemper or BitsyKemper.com.
Now stop reading and get back to writing!