Nov 27 2011

The Art of Focus

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I’ve been a bit out of my element lately. Instead of spending time outdoors photographing the southeastern Arizona landscape (or … ahem … working on my novel), I’ve been in the kitchen, surrounded by bags of flour, Tupperware containers of sugar, chocolate chips, toffee bits, butter, cookie cutters …

The majority of my cookie cutters are made by Wilton. Click to enlarge.

I know… Cry me a river, Melissa. You’re surrounded by sweets! And you have the time to bake. Waaah. I hear you … no complaining going on here. In fact, I was delighted to realize that my baking endeavors provided some interesting insights about myself, and even about my writing habits.

All you need for your holiday sugar cookies: sprinkles, paintbrushes, icing coloring … patience, focus, lack of interruption, dedication, tough feet, a sturdy back …

And, of course, you need icing (and great-grandma Reatha’s Texasware bowl … and her KitchenAid mixer that is still functioning after all these years).

Naked Santa heads and partially iced snowflakes, houses, and gingerbread boys.

What I learned over my years of baking euphoria is that sugar cookies – just like all the good things in life – require patience and focus. A LOT of both. Oh – and did I mention hard work? Every time the cats came out to harass me in the kitchen, I had to shoo them away (too many times to count). Then I had to dig back in and refocus on the project at hand. Not an easy task for me since I was continually being pulled out of the ‘zone.’

The finished product was the culmination of one day of rolling dough and baking, and another two days of decorating. Yes, I become a bit obsessive about perfecting the decorations. Click to enlarge.

The sweet reward at the end of three days, however, made the labor of love all worthwhile … that first bite into a cookie that is almost too pretty to eat. The compliments of my husband’s brothers (three of four from out-of-town for Thanksgiving). The satisfaction of knowing that taking my time resulted in something of artistic value. The joy of doing something I love.

For Writers: My cookie-baking experience confirmed a suspicion about my own personality that had been growing since the first day of my social media hiatus at the beginning of November …

You see, on day one of my hiatus, I experienced the following:

  • A clear, uninterrupted focus on the task at hand (WIP)
  • A feeling of ease, knowing that it was okay if I didn’t respond to Tweets, read blogs, and if I didn’t post a blog for the first time in one-and-a-half years
  • An adrenaline rush as I buckled down and reacquainted myself with my characters

And each day, those feelings and that focus grew exponentially. So, naturally, I spent a portion of my two-week hiatus analyzing myself. Why? Why is it that I have an inability to transition between social media tasks and fiction writing when I am juggling both simultaneously? Surely I should be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes on Twitter per day, and a half hour reading blogs, then focus the rest of my time on my fiction. Right?

Any normal, disciplined person could (I have counted myself as both normal and disciplined in the past). I do this with other tasks all the time. So why is this so difficult?

When I stepped back to analyze myself, however, I realized a few things:

  1. I have always experienced the same difficulties toggling between freelance and fiction – esp. flittering back and forth on the same day. For me, this equation = lack of productivity.
  2. I have always been a writer who cannot focus on writing if the TV is on, or if music is playing.
  3. Even in undergrad, I was the kind of student who needed complete silence so that I could focus on my studies.

Hmm… My growing suspicion was being confirmed: As a writer (and a cookie decorator), I operate best as a single-tasker, void of interruption. I don’t do well when pulled out of the zone in either endeavor. Can I multi-task with the best of them in other areas of my life? Yep. But is it most productive for me as a writer? Not so much.

wonderful article about single-tasking on Liz Massey’s Creative Liberty blog quotes author Leo Babauta:

“Imagine … a single-tasking life. Imagine waking and going for a run, as if running were all you do. Nothing else is on your mind but the run, and you do it to the very best of your abilities. Then you eat, enjoying every flavorful bite of your fresh breakfast of whole, unprocessed foods. You read a novel, as if nothing else in the world existed. You do your work, one task at a time, each task done with full focus and dedication. You spend time with loved ones, as if nothing else existed … This is a life lived fully in the moment, with a dedication to doing the best you can in anything you do — whether that’s a work project or making green tea.”

Imagine writing your novel as if nothing else in the world existed…

What I realized after my hiatus is that Twitter and blogs … they are my TV or radio of distraction. That’s just who I am and how I operate. I need that complete silence. Social media pulls me from my creative flow, from the zone of creativity that I must cocoon myself in if I want to write well, write with passion, and write to completion.

Fortunately I am not alone. Author Kimberly Brock (The River Witch ~ May 2012) says, “Blogging and social media sort of throw my brain into a different gear, and then it’s very difficult to get back to the creative efforts.”

Yes! Yes, Kimberly! I agree. For me, fiction and social media require two very different mindsets (in the same way that my freelance and fiction do). To illustrate this point: during the first few days of my hiatus, I felt that I had to condition my mind to not wonder what messages I was getting, what blog posts I was missing, or what was going on with my social media friends. Look at all the distraction that was going on in my head while I was trying to focus on fiction. I do believe there is a ‘social’ mindset and a ‘writing’ mindset. At least for me… And I need to separate them occasionally.

So what my hiatus ultimately taught me is that, to achieve the kind of focus necessary in my creative endeavors, I need to take more scheduled breaks similar to my hiatus – away from social media.

I’ve made such wonderful connections that I would never, ever want to walk away completely (and, let’s be honest: it gets lonely when you isolate). But my hiatus taught me that what’s best for me, personally, is to spend focused amounts of time on my WIP, and focused amounts of time with social media.

What about you? Do you experience the same tug-and-pull of social media? Do you mind when authors and writers go ‘’off-grid” for a while and pop back in? How do you manage?

**You might find Liz’s single-tasking audio meditation helpful as well.


57 Responses to “The Art of Focus”

  • avatar Shary Says:

    I’m horrible at multi-tasking. Even knowing that I have other tasks to accomplish later can distract me. My solution is to make lists. My friends laugh when they see how detailed they are, but it’s the only way I can get anything done.
    Love the cookies!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I’m a huge fan of lists, too, Shary. In fact, I had a Thanksgiving timeline list of when to put certain dishes in the over, turkey in fryer, etc. and my husband’s family razzed me to NO end ;-).

  • avatar Liz @ Creative Liberty Says:

    Thanks so much for the kind mention of my post and meditation, Melissa! I hope your readers find them useful!

    Those are the most beautiful home-baked cookies I have ever seen!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thank YOU, Liz. I think your blog is fabulously helpful and I really want to master many of the concepts you’ve tuned me in to re: flow/focus, and single-tasking. It all makes SO much sense – especially for writers!

  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Oh, those cookies are gorgeous! I fail to see any evidence of a lack of focus on those babies, however–that takes incredible concentration, dear!

    This post hits home especially for me tonight as I’m back in front of my computer after several days off the grid for the holiday. I will admit, I thought the break would do me good but I will also admit, it was hard! I don’t think I truly appreciated how much I had come to depend on and look forward to my contacts with my dear friends. (But just because out of sight, doesnt mean out of mind: as I commented on Julia’s blog, I was at a wetlands park in FL and taking pictures of the most beautiful shore birds and I kept thinking: “Boy, I can’t wait to post these pics to my birding buddies!!”)

    Hope your holiday was warm and bright, my dear!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I share your conundrum. While the social media breaks are good, it is VERY difficult being away from friends; this is my only hesitation about taking extended ‘breaks’ – missing out on everyone’s exciting news and everyday banter. The friendships I have made on Twitter have been so important to my development as a writer – and so, so motivational.

    My holiday was wonderful; hope yours was too!

  • avatar K Says:

    Discovering what is best for your individuality is huge. Overtasking can cause stress and distractions for me. Sounds like you are similar. Happy medium is a good place to be. I hope to finally arrive at that place one day. Your yummalicious cookies were definitely art.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    The weird thing about me is that in my freelance business, I always thrive when I’m ultra busy. In fact, I’ve always been that way in general: much more productive when I am juggling many tasks. But with fiction writing and social media, it’s different somehow. Maybe because fiction writing requires so much concentration and focus with all of its many moving parts?

  • avatar Leah Says:

    Wow, that article looks great. I have the same problem, in that it’s hard for me to switch from freelance and social media to my own writing (fiction or non-fiction). It does take a switch to go from one to the other. I haven’t quite figured out the best way for this yet. I’ll keep thinking. And Melissa, your cookies look AMAZING! They are beautiful. I’m so impressed!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Glad it’s not just me who has a hard time switching between writing projects and social media. Like you, I’m STILL trying to figure out what works best for me. If you haven’t read the article, you should. It’s fab!

  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    I’m like you in that I need total silence to write. In fact, even when I’m working on my freelance writing, I rarely listen to music, or when I do, it’s instrumental. A few years ago when I was working on the first draft of my book, I’d often write to music, but now I just can’t take the noise.

    I LOVE the idea of single-tasking, of truly giving 100% of ourselves to one moment and one action. I have to force myself into that mode when writing fiction, and it’s definitely become harder over the years because of social media. At the same time, I love the community and education that have resulted from social media in my life, so I agree that what we really need is a strict separation of each.

    What worries me the most about social media, though, isn’t that it distracts from my writing time (though that is a valid concern). What I worry more about is that it takes away from my sense of wonder. Before smart phones and Twitter, I daydreamed a lot more. I spent minutes standing in a line people-watching and observing interactions around me. I held still for longer moments, thinking and giving those thoughts time to go on tangents and make discoveries that informed my writing. That’s what I’m on a mission on to get back this coming year: my time and maybe more importantly my imagination.

    Welcome back, by the way! I missed your insightful posts 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    I have the same conundrum with social media: loving it for the community and education, but it pulling me from the art of single-tasking. But you bring up SUCH an interesting point about social media’s impact on your ability to “hold still for longer moments.” I told my husband I honestly think that social media has changed my brain in some ways – making me feel like I have ADHD as my mind races from one snippet of info to another, one blog post to another, one article to another, from one social media ‘task’ to another. It’s very unsettling for me, perhaps because I’m a bit older than some of you young pups who grew up in environments filled with loads of technical and social stimulation in small, short bursts. Not sure if that’s it, but I sure do agree that when I turn social media off, I feel much less neurotic and become much more calm, more relaxed, more focused.

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    I don’t need total silence to write–when I’m in “the zone” absolutely anything could be happening around me and I wouldn’t notice…. BUT I am very very distractible on the road TO the zone. So, that’s when I’m really in danger of going on Twitter “just for a minute” and ending up spending 40 minutes that feels like 5. It reminds me so much of watching television: if it’s on, then I watch and if I watch I am both lulled (“the TV trance”) yet vaguely annoyed that I’m allowing myself to be distracted. I so agree with Natalia that social media takes the place of daydreaming and observation for me.

    On the other hand, if I’m not on Twitter, I miss my friends and the writing community (for the first time in my writing career I have a group of writing friends, it’s WONDERFUL!). The downside is the frustration I feel at the end of the day when I haven’t made as much progress on my WIP as I’d liked to have made. This is definitely something I’m still working out, Melissa — such a huge issue!

    p.s. One thing that is NOT an issue is those cookies! You have inspired me here and on Twitter to make more Christmas cookies. (And the decorating I rarely have very much patience for so I am looking forward to that as an exercise in patience!) And my family thanks you in advance 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    I guess that’s my problem … I’m so distracted on my road to the zone that I never get to the zone. And I agree 100% about missing the community of writers when you do have to sign off – as well as the frustration when you’ve whittled away a whole day on social media sites, instead of your WIP. Surely researchers have done studies on the psychological and social impact of this kind of behavior? See my comment above to Natalia about it causing ADHD symptoms for me ;-). Good luck with the cookies!

  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    I am so glad you enjoyed your break, Melissa; those sugar cookies alone would be worth your time off! I agree that social media greatly distracts from our creative endeavors. One of the best things for me was my trip to the UK when I couldn’t really access the Internet, then when we first moved to our new house we HAD no internet for almost a month! Rather than feeling like I was out of the loop during these times, I felt so carefree and energized! Besides Mondays (my catch-up day), I love the liberation of pulling the plug on social media after responding to emails and loading tweets. I hope your euphoric experience continues; those sugar cookies should help! 😉

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Carefree and energized! Yes, that’s a good way to describe how I felt. I like your method of social media one day a week, but still feel I need to be completely “on” or “off” in even larger chunks of time. Maybe I’m not disciplined enough to do what you’ve done (I’ve tried, but inevitably get sucked back in on Tuesday, and Wed. and Thurs…).

  • avatar Shari Lopatin Says:

    Melissa, first off, LOVE your holiday cookies! You have a talent and gift for decorating them. 🙂 To answer your question, you experienced what I did when my home was broken into and my computer stolen. I was offline for nearly a month, and I discovered many of the same revelations you did. I definitely do not mind when my online connections go offline for a bit. I think your true followers will remain. Here’s what I’d suggest, though. Let everyone know, so they don’t think you just stop caring (i.e. “Taking my social media hiatus! Be back in 3-4 weeks. No blogs during this time, but please stay tuned.”). As a full-time employed writer for a company, who is also doing some consulting for a friend’s firm, AND trying to work on my WIP, I may have to take my own hiatus very soon. Should I do this, I plan on posting a blog, a FB message, and a tweet about my absence. But I think taking time away is very, very helpful, and really allows you to focus on what’s most important at the time.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks for the cookie compliments and your support. Love your advice about a quick, “I’m on hiatus” shout out occasionally. Let me know how your social media break goes.

  • avatar Country Wife Says:

    Those sugar cookies look wonderfully tasty! I too find I work better under controlled settings. My dogs barking as a tractor drives by the window? Out of my control, and can throw me off a loop. This is a post I will be chewing on throughout the day. Thank you, and have a great day!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    So refreshing to know it’s not just me who’s thrown off course when the pets distract. For me, its two Bengal cats racing after one another through the house. Or birds outside the window that I have to grab my camera to photograph.

  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    Beautiful cookies! Making and decorating sugar cookies is a holiday tradition for me. And I agree with everything you said about concentration and time management. I need silence to write too – both auditory and visual (i.e. no Twitter on in the background). I’m still working on what social media/writing schedule works best for me, but I totally understand when other writers go AWOL for a while.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    You must share your sugar cookie pics w/ me on Twitter! True – there must be NO Twitter in the background when I’m working on fiction, but I think I need to take it to a further extreme: no Twitter and blog distractions at all for extended periods of focus on the WIP (maybe 2-3 week chunks). I’ve tried to do social media just on certain days, or only for certain hours per day, and seem to be pulled too much by the differing mindset/worry required of focusing on both. I know … I’m a nut case!

  • avatar Girl Parker Says:

    Hi Melissa!! I really agree with feeling torn. I just moved my blog and I almost didn’t do it at all, thinking I might just shut it down. Why was my blog getting 10x more writing time than my WIP? So, I’ve decided to shift my focus back to where it should be, and only post on my blog once in a while. I enjoy blogging, but I dream of being a writer – imagine that! =)

    I did miss you while you were off the grid. However, I was rooting for you!!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I’d have been SO sad to see you shut your blog down, but I GET IT. (And I love the new look of your blog). I would support you any way you wanted to approach it and can obviously empathize with the “why is my blog getting 10xs more writing time than my WIP” question … only you could add social media, blog reading, and commenting to my list of distractors as well. Posting on blog once in awhile… I like it. Am pretty much doing the same thing as you. If we really want to follow the dream of publishing, it will only get done if we have completed novels…

  • avatar Mahesh Raj Mohan Says:

    Welcome back, MCF! I relate to what you, and many others here, wrote. I can multitask when working on freelance writing projects, but I cannot when I’m freelance editing or working on my own fiction. I often do what Julia does … 5 minutes becomes 40! So the fact that you took a break makes total sense. When I’m working on fiction, I only have my word processor up. I leave my Blackberry in another room!

    I have about five or six blogs on feedly, so I check and see what’s new and comment accordingly. It certainly takes time, but the community-building and also making sure that the blogger knows s/he is not alone, makes it worth it. In November, I have written more in the a.m. and then commented or tweeted in the afternoon.

    The cookies look awesome, and thanks for putting into words what most of us think about!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks for the warm welcome back! Your comment about the importance of being present on other peoples’ blogs is part of the stress I feel with social media … I KNOW how important it is to reciprocate and build community, but I feel a lot of guilt when I simply can’t do it; and the more followers you get, the less time you have to devote that quality time to each person. Hence the dilemma about which I write… and my solution of fading in and out. I’ve tried a split day of x number of Twitter hours, then x number of fiction, and I can’t seem to transition well between the two.

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    Mahesh Raj Mohan Reply:

    I totally know where you’re coming from, in regard to comment reciprocation. I kind of decided to follow just about a half dozen or so people, because, as you said, if there’s too many, it’s hard to keep up! I think it just comes down to your comfort level and what you can contribute. I’ve read that time is a writer’s most precious resource; so by focusing on your WIP, you made the right choice.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Wow. Thanks for your support. You made my night!

  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    Welcome back, Melissa. I have missed your posts. But at the same time, as one of your writing friends, I was happy you were honoring and nurturing that side of yourself. Seeing another writer ‘taking their writing seriously’ is inspiring to others…so thanks for that.
    Your cookies are so beautiful…each is a little work of art. I’m not at all sure I could even destroy one by biting it. Well…okay that’s a lie…I love sugar cookies, so I’d totally nom nom nom them. LOL! But they are lovely!
    I do find that Twitter and blogging was taking up too much of my writing space and time, so I had to cut back. I do love all the awesome writer friends I’ve made and am doing my best to keep and nurture those friendships, but the writing has to come first, or it will never come at all. Fact.
    I am tryng to only ‘go to Twitter’ during times when I am not writing. And for posting blog posts, only when I feel like it, no schedule anymore. I notice several of my favorite blogs are not on any kind of schedule. I am subscribed, so I know when they post and go enjoy them then. Hopefully others will allow me that leeway.
    I agree with Natalia’s point about not having time to dream when we keep ourselves too occupied with social media. Dreaming is so important to writers. Without that free time to let our minds wander where they will the well dries up.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Said so well: “The writing has to come first or it will never come at all. Fact.” Yes … it’s been reassuring to read from others that they share the same struggles and support the same kind of social media trimming. I like your and Lori’s suggestion above of only posting blogs when you feel like it. I am OK when others do that, myself. In fact, it gives me a bit of a break from reading ;-). I agree with you and Natalia, too, about the well drying up if we lose our sense of wonder and our TIME to wander.

  • avatar Nina B Says:

    What a wonderful conversation. The post obviously hit a nerve for all of us who talk to each other online all the time through our blogs and on Twitter, yet we are, like a few said, rooting for each other too in our “real” goals of finishing a work of fiction and getting it published. I suppose in one it’s a good problem to have, right? We’ve all done the blog and Twitter “thing” almost too well . . . dare I say, cart before the horse. I guess that’s what I feel about me for sure, that I’ve got a nice online presence, but to what end?

    Now with the baby in my arms a good part of the day, even writing one post a week is a challenge. And I have to ask myself the same thing as Girl Parker above: Why is my blog getting so much more attention from me than the fiction? I seem to moving further away from finishing a manuscript than getting closer. Not good.

    I’m like you . . . single focus would work best and seems like a dream. But I ENJOY the social media stuff so much. I feel like a petulant child when I even imagine giving it up.

    Lots to think about. Only the best posts inspire the kind of comments you’ve received today. Bravo!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I agree with you 100%, Nina, about the cart before the horse. Like Lori (Girl Parker) above, I spent a year with misaligned priorities – i.e. putting platform building above finishing the manuscript. Why is it so easy to do, when intellectually you KNOW it is not a wise plan, or a plan at all…?

    Yet at the same time, I suffer the same petulant child syndrome you mention at the thought of giving up any of the fabulously supportive writing friends I have made (thank YOU for your support as well). Maybe at some point, we’ll figure this out!

  • avatar Katie Pickard Fawcett Says:

    Great looking cookies! I work best when I completely separate my real writing (manuscripts) from my busy work (email, blogs, twitter, facebook), so I tend to do one block in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Lunch/errands in the middle is a natural stopping place. I like music when I work, but only instrumental music. If I hear words, I get distracted. No TV, of course. Also, I do some of my best thinking/writing in my head when I walk, so sometimes a nice walk between the busy work and the real writing also works and gets things started before I get back to the desk.
    A little analyzing doesn’t hurt. Thanks for the post!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I’ve tried the block in the a.m. and block in the afternoon routine and just don’t seem to be able to do it – not for lack of discipline, but for a lack of my brain gears switching to different mindsets. I think I’m an all or nothing kind of gal… I do agree with you that exercise time (for me, it’s running) is prime real estate for the generation of ideas! Thanks for stopping by.

  • avatar Sara Grambusch Says:

    You’re back! And inside…with COOKIES?! It sounds like you learned a lot during your desert hiatus. Single-tasking (I can’t believe we have to call it that because no one does it anymore) is something of utmost value. I think it’s the best way to do anything, but it’s not always possible and sometimes it bores me. I LOVE the feeling of multi-tasking, being busy and juggling a few things at once even though sometimes I feel guilty for not giving everything my complete attention. I suppose a little bit of both is how you say…ah yes…balanced 🙂 Nice to have you back Melissa.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by, Sara. I agree that multitasking can be invigorating (and I’m very good at it with household stuff, paying bills, etc). And, yes, I do have to occasionally stop by your blog and send you some cheery rainbows.

  • avatar Erika Robuck Says:

    I love that quote from Leo Babauta and I love this post.

    I ebb and flow with social media. Rather than declare whether or not I’m around, I try to drift in and out as I see fit. I’ve gone up to four days off of social media (wow, four whole days, maybe they have a ribbon for that)and felt calm and refreshed. Other times, I feel a little pull from the Twitterverse if I’m only gone for a day. It seems cyclical, so I just roll with it.

    Overall, I’m grateful for it, because I tend to tire after about two hours of direct work with my manuscript. I get very intensely into the time period and lose myself, so Twitter and other social media help me transition. I certainly waste a fair amount of time on it, though.

    I did have a bit of a social media overload crisis last month and cut Google +, Klout, and several others out of my online life. I felt like I wasn’t engaging in meaningful interaction anywhere. Just devoting time to Twitter and Facebook has lightened the burden and returned my time using social media to what it was when I first began: a good, nurturing way to connect with other writers and pub people.

    Thanks for this post, Melissa, and it’s always a pleasure to interact with you.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks for your compliments. I think they DO have the “Four Day Sans Social Media Award.” Ha ha. And I really wish I could drift in and out for shorter periods. But for me to truly remove the nag that Twitter gives me – that I’m NEVER caught up, not responding enough, not DOING enough – I have to cleanse myself of social media for longer periods (I’ve learned).

    But, like you, I’m also very grateful for Twitter and the truly positive things it offers, as you say: a good, nurturing way to connect with other writers/pub peeps. It’s all about balance – and different techniques for different writers, I guess.

  • avatar V.V. Denman Says:

    Wow. This is so me. But I think I’m in denial. I multi-task the rest of my life at full speed so that I can have a couple hours to work on my novel. But when I finally get there, I’m far to wound up to be productive.

    I love the quote from Leo Babauta. I think I’ll print that out and read it hourly. Just as a reminder. 🙂

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    V.V. Denman Reply:

    Beautiful cookies, by the way. Much too pretty to eat!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Oh BOY do I hear you about being so wound up by the time you make it to novel that it’s hard to focus. Ha – I need to print that quote and read it hourly as well! We can do it, V.V. We can.

    Cookies… ah, after the first bite, you get over their prettiness.

  • avatar Stephanie Alexander Says:

    Hi!! I just love how you’ve taken the time to a) get on that fiction and b) maybe more importantly, examine your own habits and how they lead to productivity (or not). The only way to learn how you operate best is through self-reflection– in relationships, work, with family…all of it! Kudos to you for finding your strengths and weaknesses and going with it!
    xo

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thank you, Stephanie. Your support means a lot.

  • avatar Linda Anselmi Says:

    You really struck a chord with me on this post Melissa! I have struggled to get this balance right, but it always seems to need adjusting. I know I can’t do it all at the same time and do it to the level I like. So somedays I am less a writer than I like, and yet when I do get to be a writer, I like my writing more and feel it is more creative as a result.

    Beautiful cookies.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Said so well, Linda… Maybe I’ll also always be adjusting this equation, too.You said so succinctly what I was trying to convey: how difficult it is to do it all at the same time AT THE LEVEL you like. Yes!

  • avatar Tom Honea Says:

    the best advice i have seen, and that i will pass on is, NEVER do your writing on the same computer that you use for FaceBook and Twitter, etc. … preferably locate them in differnt parts of the house/office.
    … i am only somewhat successful with this bit of self-discipline!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I agree with this advice and practice it (esp. devoting a different computer in different spaces to social media vs. fiction). Hence my writing studio on wheels! Sometimes I cheat or am too lazy to heat up the camper, which, of course, defeats the purpose of separate work spaces for separate functions. As noted above with Linda, it’s a work in progress and in need of continual adjusting.

  • avatar Beth Hoffman Says:

    Ahhhh … your post speaks to me in so many ways! Only recently have I trained myself to check in on social media during certain times of the day. And I try to be disciplined about it, because if I’m not, my writing suffers and then I stay up too late at night trying to make up for it!

    As always, I just love your photographs. Those cookies look divine!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Interesting to hear you say that your writing suffers when you aren’t as disciplined about social media. Indeed, I have found that to be the case. Thanks for sharing, Beth. Can’t wait to get my hands on your next NY Times bestseller!

  • avatar Shelli Johnson Says:

    Hi Melissa!

    I love this post! Why? Because I’m new to the social media game & have found the same issues ~ that I have a hard time focusing and writing my novel when I’m doing social media all the time. I’m currently experimenting to figure out what works best for me (every other day, weekends off, etc.).

    I can relate to your difficulty with writing freelance & then writing fiction. Two different animals. I’m pretty much out of the writing freelance game for the very same reason ~ I found it hard to do freelance all day & then write fiction in the evenings. I do something completely unrelated to fiction writing as my day job now & am much happier and more productive as a novelist.

    On a side note, your cookies are lovely & you really should think about going into business. 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    Thanks for the support, Shelli. So refreshing to know I’m not the only one STILL experimenting w/ social media schedules (after more than a year, I’d have thought I would have figured it out).

    There’s a lot to be said about having a non-writing occupation when you want to pursue fiction. After writing all day for clients, I find it difficult to switch gears and maintain momentum.

    Your cookie-baking business idea makes me smile. I actually entertained the idea last year. Maybe I need to consider the same kind of switch you did with your day job? 🙂

  • avatar Christine Grote Says:

    Your cookies are gorgeous. How do you eat them? Your words are insightful and helpful. We’re all trying to figure out this blast of technology we’re living in from cameras on cell-phones to scheduling time to watch all the TV shows we’ve scheduled to be recorded. We’ll figure it out.

    How to allocate time to twitter and keep your writing going is a great example. I know I have a tendency to slip down that slope. Making a plan and disciplining myself to stick with it, is the answer, I think. (Although I wouldn’t know because I haven’t gotten as far along as you in figuring it out.)

    Isn’t it wonderful to drop everything and devote your full attention to a single occupation? Food for the soul.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh trust me … they’re easy to eat because they’re yummy! But none of my Thanksgiving guests would eat them!

    It is a pure gift to be able to devote my full attention to a single task, even as rarely as it happens! Here’s to controlling the slippery slope.

  • avatar craftygreenpoet Says:

    Excellent article (and wonderful looking cookies!). Until recently i mostly wrote haiku or other short form poetry, which I could work on in bite sized chunks away from the computer and type them up later. No issue about the social media distraction while writing.

    Then I did NaNoWriMo. Most of the people I knew doing NaNoWriMo are on Facebook so i kept popping in there to keep up with things andshare notes. That was probably too distracting and something I will avoid when I’m doing further work on the novel that came out of NaNo (I’m not a big FB fan anyway). Twitter was more complicated, I am always popping in to Twitter and during NaNo I found it a hugely creative and inspiring source of ideas for my novel, while at the same time being annoyed at myself for being pulled into it so much. While i continue research for my novel I’ll be keeping up with Twitter but when I’m doing my final polishing of the work, perhaps its something I should avoid.

    I finished NaNo a few days ahead of schedule so my social media activity wasn’t damaging in that sense!

    PS I found your blog via DazyDayWriter.

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    Melissa Reply:

    So nice to know that you’re finding a balance with social media (and it sounds like with less of a struggle than I personally experience). Congratulations on the NaNo accomplishment .. and ahead of time. That’s something to be very proud of!

  • avatar Fear of Writing Says:

    Wow, your cookies are truly a work of art – a visual feast for the kid inside of me. And I LOVE your great-grandma Reatha’s Texasware bowl and KitchenAid mixer. What absolute treasures!

    I’m very like you in the way you’ve described your need for focus. And for silence – I can’t write when music or the TV is playing. (I even have to wear headphones and listen to ocean sounds in the coffeeshop or the conversations kill my connection to what I’m writing.)

    I’m a misfit when it comes to social media. I kind of dive in once in a while and take a peck at it. But it’s never really taken hold with me the way it has with most of my friends. There are advantages and disadvantages to being a misfit. I sometimes wish I was better at social media. But if I was, there would have to be trade-offs.

    What you discovered while you were on hiatus is so valuable and everything you wrote was helpful to read and ponder. I’m still trying to figure out how to make it all work.

    Thanks for such a meaty post! (feels weird saying that when the post was about cookies ;~)

    ~ Milli

  • avatar Tracy Mangold Says:

    Yes yes yes and more yes. I think that is a big part of my problem -well that and a 4 year old who is running around asking questions all the time and wanting my attention – for good reason! It’s hard! I walk away from Facebook every once in a while and feel sooo good when I do. I can’t completely tear away as it is my one connection I’ve had to people I lost touch with and don’t want to again. But I’m one of those who gets distracted easily when too much is going on. I can’t have complete silence though or I go bonkers. I need white noise when I work. Not a lot – just a little. As for the hiatus, I completely understand. We missed you though! 😀