Finding answers in silence

We’re all busy

Who believes they have way too much to do and not enough time to do it? Raise your hands. Yep, even you all in the back of the room multitasking as we speak. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you ask anyone what they are doing, regardless of what they say, the gist is that they are busy. If they aren’t busy, then they are really busy, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who is truly experiencing that life-swallowing sensation of being extremely busy.

I get it. There’s a lot to do. Like A LOT. Some of it is necessary to survive, like earning a living enough to keep the heat on and food in the fridge. Some of it is important, like making sure clothes are clean and some of that food is actually good for you.

Then there’s the stuff that’s actually not important, but we’ve assigned importance to it. You know where I’m going with this. Things like compulsively checking social media and trying to get lots of likes on that cat picture you posted. You know the one.

Now this is the kind of silence I’d love. Anyone have a boat I could borrow? Or a lake? Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

Taking a necessary break

For the last five weeks I’ve stepped way back on my social media posting because of one really terrific reason, my kiddos were home. Year-round school has a handful of benefits, most of which stem from reducing the number of kids in already overcrowded classrooms. Allowing mom to run her authoring business isn’t one of them. Something had to give.

In the past, I’d fight to keep the same posting schedule in addition to all the other authory things that needed to get done. It always resulted in frustration and anxiety. This time, I let it slide. While I enjoy interacting with strangers and the practice can be helpful to help people find my books, in terms of effective marketing and producing more books, it falls last on my priority list. When the kids are home they are my first priority. After that comes all the other stuff, like staying on top of deadlines and making progress on my new books entering the world this year.

The funny thing about social media is that it’s an all consuming affair. Trying to stay current with everything means you have to check it constantly. The urge to scroll for another few minutes, to post, to interact, to like, to be liked, and so on – can eat you alive. It even sneaks into bed with you as ideas for posts creep into your thoughts as you drift asleep. The energy and time this requires can’t be measured – except that you get less done during the day and can’t figure out why.

Be still and let deeper thoughts flow through you like a breeze, you might be surprised what you find. Photo by Samuel Austin on Unsplash

Lessons from the silence

What did I learn? For starters, no one really missed me. My noise was just more noise in an already noisy place. My followings and numbers and all those statistics that geeky folks like me like to track didn’t change or plummet. The world didn’t end.

What did happen surprised me. In the quiet space left in the wake of stepping away from social media, I had the freedom to consider if all that posting was doing me any good in the long run. My normal posts had no goal other than interacting. It often felt like talking into a void and hoping to be heard. In my hurry to make noise, I missed a huge piece of the puzzle – creating a way to continue the conversation once I found someone who wanted to listen.

My goal is to find like-minded readers who love the same things I love and more importantly, keep them happy and supply them with more stories and books that they will enjoy. Now, my efforts are refocused to help those readers find me. What that means is that I will be sharing more of my shorter fiction to more people – including you, dear readers.

I will have to return to the noise of social media, it’s inevitable. But, now I feel like there is an end goal in sight and a plan in place. I’m no longer making noise, I’m seeking connections.

A whole post about Silence and not one mention of this guy? This must be remedied. By the way, does anyone know why are there tally marks on my arm?

What will you find in the silence?

Have you ever dared to step away and see what happens?


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Oh, the Distractions!

A recent study came out comparing the quality of writing by people who were allowed to work uninterrupted vs. those where were interrupted every few minutes. It’s not surprising that those who were able to work without distractions did much better than those who were distracted.

I could have saved them a lot of money.

The majority of my writing time happens when there are small people in the house. Despite their best intentions and all my efforts to keep them entertained with projects and games, they still come to me every few minutes.  Even when they don’t come to me I have to keep my ears open and listening for sounds of destruction or distress.

Needless to say, I’m a distracted writer.  It is very rare when I have the house to myself, so rare in fact that it takes time to adjust.  The silence is jarring. I continue to listen for problems to be solved, even though there is no one home. This time is vital to work through difficult scenes that require focus, but no matter how much it doesn’t make sense, part of me feels there is something wrong.

It gets worse.  Even without the kids around there will always be email, Facebook, Pandora, and Pinterest just one click away.  While I do turn notifications off, the temptation is always there, especially if I’m working on something that’s hard.  A small break can easily turn into a dive into the rabbit hole of social media that can last anywhere between 5 minutes to the rest of the evening.

Is removing distractions a good idea? Yes.

Is it possible? Yes, but it’s tough.

Now let’s go see what’s on Facebook… 🙂

My Distractions are Bigger Than Yours

For all those who are anxiously waiting for another episode of Mike Finnegan, I apologize. He will be making his next appearance next Friday when I have had time to write another episode.  For now, I only have time and energy for a brief update.

I’ve had my novel on my mind constantly these last few weeks and it’s been driving me crazy that I haven’t had any significant undisturbed time to really dig in and build up my characters.  It’s not that I can’t work with the little ones around, I can.  It’s just that the quality suffers.  I read through a few passages that I’d written while being besieged with requests and even physically pulled away from the keyboard every few minutes and found that although the writing is okay, the characterization really suffers.  When I can’t focus, I can’t get inside my character’s heads and live the scene through their eyes.  And for me, one of the most vital requirements of a great book is that the reader feel fully immersed in the characters.

For first drafts this isn’t as big of problem, but now I’m deep into near final drafts where I’m trying to hone and refine all the different aspects of the story, the inability to find that laser focus and actually work on it is driving me crazy. I’ve played with the idea of starting a small contest called “My Distractions are Bigger than Yours” and feature pictures and videos of all the crazy things that happen when people are trying to work.

This would be the first submission –

Creepy Baby HandYes, that’s a hand reaching through my desk and touching my screen. At least she can’t reach the monitor power button from there, the hand itself is distracting enough, having the screen turn off and on would be the last straw.  Sometimes I keep goodies like jelly beans that I can offer the hand, sometimes the hand brings me gifts like small toys.

On rare occasions I get dual hands, there is a second hole in my desk on the other side meant for cables and baby D will come and play along.  Sometimes the hands want to play catch with each other and get angry when it doesn’t work.

Where there are little hands there are also little bodies trying to sit on my feet.  The way this is going I’m not going to finish the book until my youngest starts going to school!

What are your worst distractions?