My Name is Mark, and I Have a Freakin’ Problem

A writing tip from Mark Terry

I recently put a sign up above my computer that says: Your focus needs more focus.

In case you’re not familiar with the expression, it comes from the most recent iteration of “The Karate Kid,” this time featuring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith.

The other thing I did—today, in fact—is download a free program to my computer called SelfControl that allows me to block certain websites or programs for a self-determined amount of time. In my case, the sole site listed on my “black list” is Facebook.

Like any good addict, the first step is to admit you have a problem. I’ve known I’ve had a problem for a while. Over my decade of freelance writing I’ve wasted plenty of time on the Internet, primarily on news sites, YouTube, and getting caught in the occasional “pornado,” but nothing compares to the black hole of productivity that is Facebook.

I’m an addict and I have a freakin’ problem.

Some of you may be nodding your heads. Some of you may be laughing and saying, Oh, come on, how bad could it be?

It creeps up on you. I have software called RescueTime that tracks how I spend my time on the computer and every week provides a nice little bar graph analyzing my productivity.

A recent report indicated that the average person spends 8 hours a month on Facebook.

RescueTime indicated I was spending 5 to 6 hours a week on Facebook—and that’s just on my work computer, not counting my phone or my laptop during non-work hours.

Unable to go cold turkey—hey, I’ve got friends and family on there—I’m putting a lock on the damned door. And already I’m a lot more productive. So do what you gotta do, but you’re not a writer if you’re not getting the words onto the screen.


Mark Terry is the author of the Derek Stillwater thrillers, The Devil’s Pitchfork, The Serpent’s Kiss, and The Fallen, as well as several standalone thrillers, including Dirty Deeds, Catfish Guru, and Dancing in the Dark. Born in Flint, Michigan in 1964, he graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in microbiology and public health, which has informed his Derek Stillwater thrillers and other fiction.

1992: The Soviets have fled Afghanistan. Dr. Derek Stillwater, a CIA expert on biological and chemical weapons, is sent into the country to find and identify what the Russians may have left behind—chemical weapons. Teamed with an Army general and an Israeli Mossad agent, the three find themselves caught in a country with no government, torn apart by war, being fought over by ruthless warlords and mujahideen.

Caught between battling warlords and face-to-face with a religious zealot known as the Sheik, it is everything Derek can do to find the evidence of chemical weapons and escape Afghanistan alive.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.


Wendy said...

Love this advice. It's sort of like budgeting, too. You can spend a couple bucks on a drink, a buck on some candy, here a buck, there a buck, everywhere a ... you get the idea. And suddenly you can't account for $20, $40, $100 because you frittered it away.

Time is a precious commodity for writers, especially when all the common wisdom these days says the more books you have out there, the better chance you have of achieving consistent sales.

Even if you choose not to use software to limit your access, using it to monitor so you KNOW how much time you spend -- that's invaluable.

Great advice!

Anonymous said...

I've taken a similar approach when it comes to facebook. Between that damn site and napping, I have no time to write. Obviously, one of them had to go.