Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I'm taking a break from editing to write this post for tomorrow morning. The little turn-dial timer on my desk is set for ten minutes, in case I get distracted. When that bells dings, I will sign off and go back to work.

PBW's secret weapon against internet time-sinkage: a kitchen timer.

Using a timer to regulate my online time is something I started when I used to moderate writer think tank sessions in chat. Writers can ramble on forever, so the group and I would use the timer to brainstorm a writing problem in ten minutes or less. Everyone got a chance to talk about their work but we kept it focused and efficient.

The timer allows me to spend about an hour total on the internet each day without getting sucked into it. Bell dings, time's up. While I'm on (besides writing posts) I use the time to read weblogs, hit some web sites, gather links and answer e-mail. If anything on the internet or related to it gets me angry, I sign off and walk away.

I have no problem doing this. I unplugged from the internet once for a year after discovering it was taking over my life and messing with my work. Unplugging taught me that I don't have to be online to have fun.

Being online is fun, though, isn't it? The internet is a great research tool, and for many of us it's an ever-changing window to the rest of the world. For writers, weblogs and websites can be very effective in the self-marketing department.

Online friends are truly wonderful. Low-maintenance, generally funny, happy, and trouble-free folks who you see when you want. Unlike your RL friend Bubba who shows up drunk on your doorstep at three a.m. with two hookers, no money, and an Impala with a screwdriver in the ignition. Okay, Alison did send two guys over here once, but it was strictly for professional reasons . . . .

Anyway, I'm all for fun and promo and friends who don't boost cars, but the timer keeps me from getting too distracted by them. So does walking away when I get steamed. Even when I feel passionately about something, like the censorship of romance writers, keeping an emotional balance is more important.

The internet is part of my life. It's just not going to take over my life.

Ding -- time's up.


  1. Anonymous6:59 AM

    We have a timer in every room in our house, even the bathroom, and have for years. My son has ADHD, and we discovered that the timer is the single most important tool to help him stay focused and keep himself in control. We never say "go clean your room". We say "clean your room for 5 minutes". Knowing that he only has to do it for 5 minutes, prevents him from feeling overwhelmed by the task. (And he can actually clean his whole room in 5 minutes :)

    It worked so well for him, that we all started doing jobs in 5/15/30 minute chunks. Now I think I'll start giving myself time limits on the 'net. Thank you.

  2. Anonymous7:16 AM

    It was your unplugging which inspired me to launder my own life to make space for writing. Mainly that meant cutting out computer games, trash TV, and lunchtime coffees with people.
    Was it you who cited this article by Jenny Cruise:

  3. Anonymous8:40 AM

    I didn't cite that article, Zornhau, but I think Crusie and I have the same friend. Good article, too.

  4. Anonymous9:07 AM

    >Now, if I could just bring myself >to delete the solitaire games...

    Medieval Total War. Horribly addictive. Why write big set-piece battles when you can play them out with startling realism? Had to delete everything once I'd "liberated" the Holy Land.

  5. Anonymous9:10 AM

    Zornhau wrote: Had to delete everything once I'd "liberated" the Holy Land.

    I had the same problem with online chess. Thank God no one has put Go on the internet. Don't tell me if they have, either.

  6. Anonymous9:19 AM

    Honestly, MTW has to be worse.

    I've spent most of my conscious life obsessing about the Middle Ages. I've read Vegetius, studied most of the Western European battles. Deep down I've always felt I could probably make a good general (morality and puking up, aside).

    Then, suddenly, along comes a simulator in which authentic tactics actually work. The temption to just vanish into it is enormous.

  7. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Right now, my internet buddies are keeping me sane. I've already warned them, though, that once we've moved back into our own place, I won't be around as much. I can't write and chat at the same time. My work time will be spent unplugged.

    I like the idea of using a timer, but mine needs replacing. Since I took over the Friday Think Tank, the switch is wearing out. It still works, sort of. I'm going to get a brand-new one to celebrate the gift I'm being given of time to write without feeling guilty about not earning money from it yet.

    I love Jennifer Crusie's article. Thanks for the link, zornhau. I think you were thinking Sheila passed that on because I think she or Holly wrote a similar essay back when they both went incognito on the same day. Unfortunately, I don't have a good enough memory to remember which and I'm not searching through both of those prolific writer's old weblogs to find it. Sorry.

    Anyway, I'm rambling, but this is a timely topic for me. It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately as we've been preparing to move into a place of our own. (We've been living with my mom during a lot of the approximately one year and four months between my husband being laid off and him finding a job again, for anyone reading this who doesn't know the tale.)

  8. A kitchen timer. What a simple solution. Lately, I see my online time taken up a lot with blog-hopping, the way that it used to be sucked into several RWA listserves. I need to better discipline myself because, while the blogging is fun, it isn't getting the next book written. Thanks for the reminder, PBW.

  9. Ah! Another solution to my "The Internet is ruining my writing life". For me, though, I'll just stay in FM chat until someone says, "War" (or Word War or any variation.) Then I'm pulling out my wireless card. :)

  10. Anonymous5:48 PM

    Posted above my computer:

    God grant me the grace to write as well as I can,
    the courage to stick with it,
    and the wisdom not to play Minesweeper.

    Of course, it only works when I remember to do it. I like the timer idea a lot.


  11. That's a good idea. My dh actually cleans using a kitchen timer. I'll have to 'borrow' it for surfing.

  12. I had to delete all the freebie games from here as well.

    Which hasn't helped at all. First, M:TW, then Rome: TW and half a dozen other damn games. And the net.

    It's a sad, sad life.

  13. That does it. This weekend I'm buying a kitchen timer.

  14. And I'll need superglue -- to glue the timer to my monitor so I won't throw it away when it dings.

    What am I doing here? I have work to do . . .

  15. Yep, I should stop reading blogs I find on other bloggers lists - that's a domino game with no end. And having a LJ besides the blog doens't help, either. ;)

    *goes to make Ciaran's life miserable*

    (Hey, Ciaran is one of my MCs, not my hubby - I don't have one.)


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