Thursday, March 16, 2006

Overcoming the email addiction

I have finally come to a sort of understanding about the mechanics of my email addiction. Maybe even a solution that will lead to me curbing my obsessive checking of it throughout the day -- when I should be writing. I know it's not a good thing to do, because I never know what will be there and even if what's there is good, it always throws me out of the world I am supposed to be working in. Innocuous emails can engage something in my mind that can distract me for hours. Even when checking it produces nothing, instead of going back to work, I'm still feeling restless so I go read blogs. Which can eat up hours as well. But I'll not go on about the torrent of distractions that can flood my life from the simple click of the mouse on the email icon.

I'm more interested in what drives me to do it in the first place and I think I know what it is. Writing for me is hard. I think I've made that pretty clear. When I sit here facing the screen, seeking to write or shape a chapter, and I have all these options before me and no idea which to pick or what order to do them in, when I start to concentrate and to work the material around a bit, only to see what I've done is not right, and I need to do it another way. And then do that again. And again. At some point in there I start to feel a tiny burst of frustration and discouragement. My confidence falters, just a bit. It begins to seem hopeless. I can't see how I'm going to get this mess to ever be right. It's all going to fail. And immediately I have the idea to go check email. These thoughts are mere flashes, and the feeling is very subtle, very quick. For the longest time I wasn't really even aware of them. Just of myself suddenly sick getting the idea I should check the email and the next thing you know, here it comes.

Why do I do that? What do I think I'm going to find in my Inbox? The scene already written out in perfect form? I wish! No, that won't be there, but I might get a nice reader letter, and that will give me a little charge of feel-good emotion. I've read where getting those little "positive strokes" really can get to be an addiction. And in the solitude of my house, in the midst of the pressure of making myself pay attention, a little feel-good burst seems like just the solution.
Only it's not. I might feel good for a moment or two, but the work is still there. Or worse, if nothing comes in, and I need to go elsewhere for my fix, that just leads to, well... (see above).

It was just a couple of days ago I realized the part about the little burst of frustration and discouragement. And it was yesterday that it dawned on me that in those moments I shouldn't be going to the world (email, blogs, etc) looking for something to prop up my flagging confidence and enthusiasm. I should be going to the Lord. Right then. Stop. Realize what's happening. Take a deep breath. Confess the frustration and the fear and ask for His help to overcome the desire to escape. Ask for His help to stick with the work.

I need to remember that He has called me to this project: "You are my servant. I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you at your problems for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Emphatically I will help you. I will hold you up with my righteous right hand.”

I need to exercise patience when things get frustrating, and recall that He has promised to help me, and is guiding me, and that while it may not be beautiful now, eventually it will be. He will make it so and I will not be ashamed. Yeah!

I tried it out today and it worked. I set myself to work for 50 minute intervals -- 50 minutes of writing, then 10 minutes of housework/break. I did five of them. And I worked during those times and I didn't go check the email or read any blogs. The revision of chapter 3 is not yet completed, but close. I need to go to Office Max and get some more paper so I can print it up and let it cool. I also have to decide if I should split up what has turned into a very long chapter, or just let it be long for the moment and go on.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. For now, though, I'm pretty excited about this new approach.

Grace and peace,