Confessions of an Email Junkie

It’s there, taunting you.
The bouncing email icon. You have mail.
But you just opened your WIP and you don’t have three words, much less the three pages you promised yourself before you check your email again.
But you have mail. And it could be IMPORTANT.

Here’s the thing, guys. Reading and writing email will not get that book done. No book, no possibility of a contract. No contract, no possibility that you’ll be able to quit the day job.

Okay, that’s my personal goal. Yours may be different.

I know I’m not alone with this distraction. I come home from work and my inbox is full, with anywhere from 70-110 emails. Then there’s the eHarlequin boards. It takes an hour to read and respond, and that’s skimming. This has been going on for over a year. Add that up. No, on second thought, don’t. And now there are blogs.

I’ve recently tried to scale back, since science can’t seem to find a way to add another hour to the day, and as I’ve made the sacrifice, I’ve realized some things about email.

The good:
The friendships. One loop (we call ourselves the Wet Noodle Posse) came together out of a joint success and we’ve formed the most amazing, supportive friendships. We met up in Dallas and had a blast. Another group, formed from the AOL boards, was the best part about the NY conference. I’d never met them face to face before, but when we got together, it was like we’d known each other all our lives. We DO know each other. We email everyday. And all the loops are ready to jump in with cheers at your successes and support with your failures. I’ve run into people at conference who know me from online only. And some of the SARAs use email as the only way to keep in contact with our chapter, since many live so far away.

The education. I learned more from one year in the Wet Noodle Posse than in all my years in RWA. Because of my involvement in various loops, I’ve honed my quest for publication to Intimate Moments, I know deep POV, emotional depth. I know about new markets opening up because of my involvement in these loops, as well as eHarlequin. I kept up with all the RWA hoopla through the blogs this year.

The Bad:
The time. The one hour I spent when I got home wasn’t all the email reading I’d do. I’d read again before I’d go to bed, then again when I woke up. Between writing and reading email, I was spending all my time in front of the computer. And sadly, the email was taking more time than writing.

Too much information: Seriously, how many times can you read about the unfairness of contest judges, the difference between Courier New and Times New Roman, the difference between a query and a partial? It’s amazing how many people have opinions on all these things.

The competition: I know we don’t like to talk about it, but how many times does your heart have to be broken when you don’t final in a contest, when someone sells a similar book to yours, or sells the first book they ever wrote? Isn’t it better not to know? Why beat yourself up over something you have no control over?

The distractions: One of the Wet Noodle Posse sent a link to a website. I was there an hour playing. Ack! An hour!

The solution:
Okay, admittedly, I’m working on this. I’m a junkie and cold turkey is not for me.
The main thing is to set limits, again something tough for me..

• Cut out the loops that are repetitive. Some loops rehash the same topics over and over. How many times do you need to hear it?
• Set goals. You will not look at the email program until you’ve written three pages, or revised five, or read an article on writing. Hey, I didn’t say it would be EASY.
• Go digest. It still takes a while to read, but I reward myself with one digest for every non-email-related accomplishment. I read 5 blogs for every page written.
• The timer is your friend. I can set my email program to only retrieve mail at intervals. It used to be ten minutes. Now it’s twenty. Admittedly, I’m not always patient. Don’t ask how many times I checked my email while writing this article. I also use the kitchen timer to keep me from wasting time on websites.
• Work together. Recently the Wet Noodle Posse realized how much time we were spending on email when so many members started dropping away to finish drafts or work on revisions. We declared a moratorium from email, unless we had good news, for one week. That first day was ugly, but we all got a lot of work done!
• Step away from the computer. This is why I bought my AlphaSmart, though I don’t use it as much as I thought I would. Another benefit to this one is not checking the page count at the bottom of the page to see how much you’ve written. You may have a laptop you can take to the coffee house, or outside away from the internet connection. Train yourself to write first, email second.

With school starting again, I’m going to have to limit my blog hopping as well, especially since I’m trying to get DLB done by Labor Day. I’ll still be visiting, but it may be every couple of days instead of every day. I may go through DTs the first couple of days. Eek! Withdrawal!

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Anonymous said...

I hear you on the email distractions! My goal is to finish my book this week...well before school starts.

MJFredrick said...

You can do it, Michelle! You only have about 15 pages to go, right? I'd planned to finish mine by this weekend, but I still have 70 pages to go.

Anonymous said...

I swear I could have written this post, Mary! I spend half my day reading email and blog hopping. I already gave up the eHarl loops because I just couldn't keep up.

Trish Milburn said...

I do many of the same things you do, Mary -- the writing on the Dana away from the computer so I can't check e-mail or blogs, and the reward system of being able to check those when I've written a certain amount. Seems to work.

Anonymous said...

I'm already there, Mar. I just put my email loops that weren't that informative on "no email". When I get time, I may drop by. Otherwise, I only kept those spiritually or professionally important to me, and on digest format only.

I just accepted an adjunct instructor position at the high school. I have six days to get up to speed. The only blog I have time to read is yours, Mar. It's all I can do. Writing on my own blog? Probably only on the weekends now, or when something important comes up.

I set myself a goal of a total of 25-30 pages for the two days a week I don't have classes to teach. This is WHY I took a part-time I can't waste those two writing days.

With all this and my daughter's medical condition, it will be a lot. But I can and will do it.

I know you will achieve all your goals and more, Mar. I believe in you, without exception.


MJFredrick said...

Of course, after posting this today, I've only got three pages done because I keep getting emails! The eHQ boards are a little more manageable for me now - I was spending way too much time in the Hollywood Confidential section.

Good luck with your goals, JoAnn. Since you're on an AB schedule, will you have different days off every week?

Trish, you are SO much more disciplined than I am. I bow to you.

Amie Stuart said...

I left most of the RWA loops--too repetitive for me. I'm just on my chapter loops (2) and a couple of book sites but those are more for promo. I've even cut down my time at eharl. My big bad is blogs =(

MJFredrick said...

I'd cut way back on loops, too. Blogging is my new bad, but I'm forcing myself to only visit once a day.

Anonymous said...

This really hit home, Mary. I've gotta start setting daily time limits. It's been SO rewarding to catch up with all the Posse members, but it just eats your days.

Re: Picture...
A leather kilt. Yowsa.

MJFredrick said...

Esri, as you can see, I wasn't following my own advice today. But I added nine pages as I smoothed out my story, and I'm almost to where I can start writing new till the end.

Isn't he just...inspirational?


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