Simplifying Your Writer’s Life
If we could get right down to the meat of the matter, we’d all like a simpler life, right?
We want to be able to do what we enjoy, when we enjoy it, without worrying about whether the dog (or kids) get fed. (Can I get an amen?)
There are a million tools out there that promise to simply your life for you. Just search for productivity apps in iTunes or take a look on Amazon of the books that promise to declutter your life.
Lately, as I’ve been more and more overwhelmed with writing, parenthood, and life in general, I’ve fallen prey to some of these “promises.”
Promise #1: Technology will simply your life.
I think we’re a generation that has been swallowing this lie for far too long.
Sure, technology is a blessing. I love being able to type up this blog post right now in Scrivener, open WordPress, paste it in, press publish, and then have you immediately read (and hopefully enjoy) it.
There’s no cure for technology in our lives. I live by my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook. I ❤️ them.
I use apps to post to social media, like Hootsuite or Buffer, and have found them to help me and keep me posting much more often than I normally would. I also have Scrivener and WordPress installed on my iPhone, along with Pinterest, Facebook, Facebook Pages, Instagram, Twitter, and Google Docs . . . The options seem endless, don’t they? It leads to the obvious question of whether this is really simplifying my life.
There is definitely a time when technology doesn’t simply, but complicates or distracts. Such as:
1. When you get into a Netflix binge and ignore your writing.
2. When you spend too much time on social media and ignore your writing.
3. When the program you use to write takes too much time to learn (or you get distracted with the tools it offers) and so you ignore your writing.
4. When online writing forums become more hindrance than help. You’re spending too much time there and so you ignore your writing.
5. When the use of any of the above stresses you out, or otherwise complicates your life, and so you’re too stressed to write.
Do you see a trend?
Solution to Promise #1:
I love technology. It speeds up our lives dramatically. But sometimes, it’s a great idea to unplug and get away from it all.
In fact, I recommend disconnecting from technology once a month–if not more. In fact, if you can manage to put the phone, laptop, tablet, etc., all away for an hour every day, perhaps you’ll find yourself more relaxed.
Writing by hand or journaling is a fantastic way that I find to disconnect from technology. A nice fountain pen and a Moleskin or Leuchtturm notebook will do wonders for your technology overloaded soul. Trust me. (Even if you can’t decipher your own handwriting.)
Promise #2: Habit tracking will make you more productive.
I like tracking things and I like to see my progress. But sometimes, those things don’t coincide.
Lately, I’ve been using several different tracking apps for my habits, and I get a surge of satisfaction seeing those things ticked off. (Wunderlist, Happy Plants, Today, MyFitnessPal, WaterMinder…) The list of apps that track your life is endless. If you like to track word counts, you can use websites like MyWriteClub.com, or simply record your Scrivener word counts. Where there’s a will–or an idea–there’s a way.
And don’t forget about the Bullet Journal (or bujo for short). It’s quite popular these days, a bandwagon that I have happily jumped upon, but I don’t get very fancy with mine. I don’t have the time, if I’m being honest. It’s purely practical. Of course, I’d love to have mine look like a piece of art, but that’s just too much work (i.e. time where I should be writing). I’m lucky if I use it every day and remember to check off my habit tracker. (Yes, I habit track in old school ways, too.)
I like to keep tabs on my productivity, and these little trackers allow me to do so. It lets me look back on a week, month, or six months ago and see how productive I was. It allows me to see where I might have been more productive and how to emulate (or change) it. I’ve recently started to implement a strictly writing bujo, and I try to update that every few days, tracking word counts and notes on projects, brainstorms or brain dumps, revision notes, whatever I need whenever I need it. That’s the great thing about a bujo–it’s flexible and can do whatever you need.
But there comes a point where all these trackers and methods are distractions. Or worse, procrastination devices.
Solution to Promise #2
First off, determine its use and if it’s helping or hurting your writerly process.
How to tell if it’s helpful or harmful:
1. Does it encourage or discourage your writing?
2. Does it distract you from writing? Or does it focus your writing in some way? If it does distract, is it serving a purpose that you need served so that you can write more freely when that need is met?
3. If you stopped using this method/app/process, would you be a more productive writer? Would you miss it and it’s benefits if it were gone from your life?
4. Do you spend less than 30 minutes total on it per day? (Preferably 15 minutes or less.)
5. Does each app/process/etc serve a purpose that you need served? (Repetitive but worth repeating.)
If any of the things I’m doing are not enriching my life in some way, it’s time to cut it.
Don’t Stress Too Much
Now, I don’t plan on giving up my bullet journal. I don’t plan on giving up my trackers or much of anything right now (okay the plant watering app could probably go…although my plants might suffer for it. But I could consolidate watering my plants into my current habit trackers and simply be more mindful of them).
Each thing I’m doing is important in my life at the moment, and each app is serving a purpose I need to serve. I am currently on an elimination diet to see if my 1-month old is dairy sensitive, and I need to keep track of all my foods and her symptoms so that I can hopefully figure out what is helping her or bothering her. I need to keep my plants watered, and I need to remind myself to study my bible every day, log my food, study the foreign languages I want to learn, give the cat her pills, and more. I need to feed my daughter, and it’s good to keep track of her sleep and diapers and feedings and symptoms in one spot.
Now, do all these apps take time away from my writing? Undoubtedly. But are they important to my life at the moment? Absolutely.
You see, writers are people with lives outside their writing. They aren’t just authors who live in make believe worlds (although that would be nice). But they’re people with needs and obligations. If these “extras” help, there should be no problem with spending the time on them.
So why do I feel guilty? Because I want to be writing. And yet I remind myself that there is a time for that too. It’s important, but my daughter’s health is more important. Taking care of the house and feeding my family is more important than getting 1000 words written today.
What technology distracts you from your writing? What have you found helpful?