Detox December (and Rejuvenation January)
As I recently discussed in a Misfits & Daydreamers issue, whole-assing (a.k.a. full immersion) is the only way I can get a book written. I need to fall so deeply into the story that no outside distractions can…well, distract.
I’m not the only author who feels this way. In fact, I’d say that the #1 complaint I hear from my fellow writers is that email, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr…basically, The Internet, is a black hole that both sucks away attention and also sucks away motivation.
Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE me some social media–and nothing gets me more excited than Twitter conversations about Vampire Diaries. But, whether we realize it or not, all those interactions stress us out.
It’s all part of what’s called the Zeigarnik Effect, which basically says that unfinished tasks cause stress and intrude into our thoughts. So for every unanswered email, tweet, text, etc. that you’ve ever read, your brain is carrying around STRESS. And until the messages are answered, that stress will build up and take away precious attention for creativity.
The brain likes finished tasks–it can’t let them go otherwise. So until you ANSWER or DEAL WITH all those social media messages, your brain can’t relax. It can’t unplug.
But hey, if you don’t even know the new email is there, then whoa! Suddenly your brain has some freed-up space.
But it’s not just messages that cause stress–it’s ANY to-do item that’s unfinished. Those packages that still need dropping at the post office. Those blog interviews you never got around to finishing or ARCs that you totally meant to read/review…
So how do we fix all this stress? We finish, we eliminate, and we stop taking on more.
As Jeff Vandermeer says in his awesome Booklife:
…I am not the kind of person whose book promotion/Internet brain is interwoven with my creative brain. The two are separate. To summon one I must banish the other. To go from being in the moment while writing in the morning to this other thing in the mid-afternoons–this person who fields requests for interviews, fan mail, production questions on forthcoming books, and all the other things a writer or other creative person deals with outside writing–to do this, I must make a transition. I cross the border into another land, assume another identity. Because, for me at least, I am becoming someone else entirely.
This is true guys. So true.
I am both Writer Sooz who never bathes and wears the same disgusting sweatshirt day-in and day-out…And I’m also Social Sooz who loves to talk to other writers and readers, who gets all glammed up for an event, and who could spend HOURS on Twitter discussing Henry Cavill’s perfect jawline. But the two sides of me don’t mix too well, and when Social Sooz takes on new tasks, then those unfinished jobs (or unanswered messages) prey on Writer Sooz’s creativity.
Hence me making Fridays my “administrative day.” This has been working quite well for me thus far. BUT, when it comes to drafting an entire book from scratch and also on deadline, I have to allocate my time in an even stricter way. I can’t just make Friday’s my day for Social Sooz. I can’t just try to avoid Twitter and Pinterest for as long as my self-control lasts (ungh, I love them both so much….). And I can’t just put everything on hold to travel for an event.
Somehow, I need to give Writer Sooz all the time and distraction-free space that she (er…I?) needs to write a book.
So, after chatting with Sarah about this, we decided to take December and January “off.” We’re both on deadline and we’re both pretty empty on the event front–which means, this is the PERFECT time for us both to try to whole-ass our way through some first drafts.
What we’ve decided to do–at least for now–is to assign strict “No Internet” hours for each weekday. We’ve settled on 12PM – 4PM. During those four hours, we’ve agreed we WILL NOT:
- Answer emails.
- Go on Twitter.
- Check Tumblr.
- Pin something.
- Use any other form of social media.
In fact, unless there’s some pressing research need, we won’t get on the internet AT ALL from 12 to 4 every weekday. Personally, I’m hoping the less I’m on, then the less I’ll even want to be on… (Bye-bye Stefan vs. Damon discussions…at least for now.)
On top of the 12-4 ban, Sarah and I are going to:
- Eliminate blogging (unless there’s some important announcement to make).
- Cut back on newsletter-ing (well, Sarah doesn’t have one–so just me!).
- Take a 2 week holiday break on Starkillers updates.
Sarah and I hope that, at the end of our Detox December and Rejuvenation January, we’ll not only each have a first draft (or a large chunks of a first draft) completed but that we’ll feel more connected to our writing. We’ll love our stories and our characters, we’ll find creative flow is easier to achieve, and our Writer Selves will have had a much needed “vacation” from our Social Sides.
Now, since December tends to be a time of reflection, and since January is often a time for setting new goals, we thought we’d invite YOU ALL to join us in our creative immersion time! We’ve got a little image you can pin on your Twitter feed or add as your Facebook status…or put anywhere, really! It’ll let people know you’re taking a little break (but will return!), and it’ll let us all join in the #DetoxDecember and #RejuvJanuary together! 🙂
Alrighty, guys! I’ll see you on the 2015 flip-side! (There will be a newsletter on Friday, and a few more throughout this time. Plus, I’ll still be on my social media outlets…just not as much. PEACE!!)
December 3, 2014 @ 3:52 pm
Fantastic idea! Perfect timing for me, too, as I’m trying to get through the first (and second, ugh) draft of my WIP. Good luck to you and Sarah!
And I love that image, wherever it is… I’d go there for two months for sure 😉
December 3, 2014 @ 5:22 pm
RIGHT? I saw it on Unsplash and just knew I had to find a way to make a graphic with it…Cue Detox December!! 😉
And yay! I hope the break works well for you!
December 3, 2014 @ 4:12 pm
Awesome idea Susan!! You go girl!
December 3, 2014 @ 5:22 pm
Thanks, Loie!!! <3
December 3, 2014 @ 4:20 pm
This is such a great idea! And this is exactly the kind of thing I needed to read right now – I’m definitely going through that whole “stress caused by unfinished tasks” thing.
Thanks for this post, and good luck to you and Sarah!
December 3, 2014 @ 5:23 pm
I have lots of that unfinished-task-stress (hence me answering comments as soon as I read them!!! Must close the loops!), so I hope the break helps my writer self grow a bit. 🙂
December 3, 2014 @ 5:08 pm
Love this idea! It’s hard to find balance–great post! : )
December 3, 2014 @ 5:23 pm
It is SO hard to find balance, and I tend to have it for a while….and then slowly slide back into Internet Addiction Mode. 🙂
December 3, 2014 @ 5:24 pm
Love this idea! Good luck!! 🙂
December 3, 2014 @ 5:25 pm
December 3, 2014 @ 5:28 pm
Wonderful post, Sooz! Good luck to you and Sarah on all this: I know you both need it. My December will be me working furiously on my current WIP, querying and a great new idea I’m working on, so no Detox December for me. So, you enjoy it (and the Salvatores, when you have a chance!) for me <3
December 3, 2014 @ 11:37 pm
OOOH, great new idea!!! Happy writing with that!! 😀 How exciting!
December 3, 2014 @ 9:58 pm
Will be joining in! Could use less stress for sure 🙂
December 3, 2014 @ 11:37 pm
Hooray! Fist bumps!
December 3, 2014 @ 10:07 pm
Ellie Drake years ago had one of the most impactful insights for me. She has this whole thing about “It’s easier done than said.” The point is basically the effort to actually *do* something is less than the stress of continually thinking “I have to do that” or not wanting to do it or dragging it out over hours or remembering day after day you need to do it. Actually, just doing it involves a lot less stress and effort. Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.
Enjoy your Dec Detox! 🙂
December 3, 2014 @ 11:38 pm
This is SO true. That’s why I started last winter to answer as SOON as I see a message–email is always at inbox zero and comments like these are answered as soon I know they’re there. Then I know the work is done. 😉 But, rather than open new loops (that I then feel compelled to close right away), it’s better for me to just avoid the internet during my peak productivity hours.
Sue Yeon Hong
December 4, 2014 @ 4:59 am
Good for you guys!! Whole ass all the way~ I also find that if I even START getting on the internet, my habits start kicking in and I just keep opening more and more windows like it’s an addiction.
December 4, 2014 @ 5:23 am
It actually IS an addiction! Every time you get a new message or see a new update, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin–so you get addicted to those little bursts of neurotransmitter!!
Sue Yeon Hong
December 4, 2014 @ 6:16 am
I read the Habits book too! It was absolutely fascinating, but being aware of my brain hasn’t made me more productive haha….I feel like I’m always at war with myself.
December 4, 2014 @ 2:47 pm
This is a GREAT plan. 12-4 is perfect, too. I can run errands in the morning if I need to, and I have to pick my kid up from the bus stop shortly after 4.
December 4, 2014 @ 3:53 pm
Awesome!! I’m so glad you can join us! 😀
December 15, 2014 @ 6:39 am
This is seriously such a great idea! I’m debating about how I can incorporate it into my own life, perhaps after work and on the weekends. We’ll just have to see. Thank you for sharing though, and good luck to you both! <3
January 10, 2015 @ 10:28 pm
Wow! This is a FANTASTIC idea! I have the same issues, only I hadn’t realized to what extent they were causing stress until I read this and realized I was nodding throughout. I seem to be either whole-heartedly into social media or into my book, but I have trouble balancing both. Now I have a feeling I know why. I’m taking a social media weekend for a variety of reasons, but as of Monday it’s back to my book and my Tumblr queue, suddenly-quiet blog, etc. will have to carry on without me.
January 20, 2015 @ 6:28 am
Okay, I admit I’m a little behind on my email. Just saw this, great idea, I had to make a rule about playing computer games. I can not play until after i have done my writing tasks for the day…I haven’t played a game for three weeks because I run out of time!