The recent public release of thousands of Sara Palin’s email correspondences highlights the challenges of the new information age. Who knows what will be discovered in the many boxes of emails that the State of Alaska released? It can’t all be harmless. She probably wishes now that she’d been plagued with some form of writing anxiety and had used the phone instead.
I’ve heard it said that email is a good thing for blocked and struggling writers because it is an easily accessible, low stress way to stay involved in writing. The theory is that it has made writing to others much easier than the ancient, snail-mail, letter method, and that many more people write as a result. Same with texting, Facebook, and Twitter. The written word is finding all sorts of new avenues to present itself in – and isn’t this good news for writers, especially those who can type on smart phones using thumbs?
Maybe not so much for those who procrastinate. The ease of use and the instant response gratifications that come from online written communications also make them a reliable source of distraction and avoidance. In addition, all of these online communication tools are accessed through the very machine you use to write. They call to you immediately when you lift the lid to your laptop.
The writing you tend to procrastinate on is generally the more challenging task you are faced with. It’s natural to want to avoid engaging with it, even if it is your greatest passion, because there is a sense of discomfort and personal challenge involved. Your social networking activities are probably easier and more fun. And they are only a click away!
Some writers warm up with a few emails, which is fine if that’s all it is – a few emails. If that is not your experience, and you tend to spend a few hours (or months) at it once you get started, then you probably routinely miss the window for getting your important writing done.
Here are a couple of suggestions if the email, Facebook, Twitter, texting, chatting, etc. distractions are gobbling up your writing time.
1) Make your involvement with email, etc., contingent upon having spent a certain amount of time on the writing you really want to do. In other words: No email until you’ve written for 30 minutes, or something to that effect. Do the harder writing first.
2) If suggestion #1 does not work, find a way to shut down your online capabilities while you write. It has to be done in a way that makes it hard to hook back up during your writing time. The more barriers you put between you and your chief distractions, the higher likelihood you will write.
I hope Sara Palin is reading this, because these tips will help her curb her email compulsion in the event she ever has to write something really important with a hard deadline; like, say, an Inaugural Address.