I will admit that I am a procrastinator of epic proportions. Unfortunately, while I know this about myself, it doesn't change my tendency to put things off until the last minute. Take this blog for example. Last night, as I was pondering what to talk about today, my instant messenger popped up and my uber-awesome critique partner's picture flashed on my screen. I was quickly distracted--as I always am when my IM pops up--but at the same time thrilled. You see, Joan Swan and I chat at least every day. Sometimes more. (Usually more.) I bitch at her about my characters and plot, stress over never getting everything done that needs to get done, grumble about my kids being too loud or the puppy who ate my favorite pair of heels. She reassures me I'm not a total loser, that somehow I'll figure out what needs to be done and do it, that my kids aren't really Gremlins who need to avoid water, that Zappos can solve my shoe problem, and that tomorrow will be a better day. (If you hear Scarlett O'Hara in the background, you're not alone. Isn't Joan great?) Then we switch topics and brainstorm her latest proposal or come up with character names or laugh about something one of our heroes has said or done and life returns to some semblance of balance. And the next day we do it all again (though sometimes we switch roles and I'm the one telling her she's not a major loser, though not often.) It's a routine that works for us. It's a routine my husband rolls his eyes at and doesn't understand. It's a routine I know I couldn't write without.
Ask any writer and they'll tell you writing is a solitary endeavor. Growing up, I was never one who enjoyed group projects because I prefer to work alone. (I also like to be in charge but that's a topic for a different blog!) That preference could explain why I became a teacher (a job you often do alone) and why, when I left teaching, I took up writing. For a writer, though, the hours spent all alone can lead to feelings of either a) inferiority in all things writing related ("Man, everything I write sucks!") or b) delusions of grandeur ("I am so freakin good...this is the next best seller!) Both of which can be dangerous to the muse. But in today's technology enhanced world, that isolation is becoming obsolete. Not only do we now have instant messaging, we have Skype and Twitter and Facebook and email. If I'm feeling alone (or depressed or big headed) or without a single clue as to what to blog about, all I have to do is log on and there are suddenly hundreds of someones out there to connect with and ask. How and when and if I want to make those connections is all I need to decide.
Of course, it's not always about connecting with just anyone. When you're in need of an uplift, it has to be the right one. Another author friend I connect with daily has written for Harlequin for years. Alice Sharpe and I met through our local writer's group and instantly clicked. When we're both under deadline--like now--we challenge each other to timed writing segments and check in on each other's progress. (During these check-ins I often point out she has it easier because she only has to write 280 pgs vs my 400+. She reminds me I have it easier because I can toss in a god-induced earthquake when my characters are surrounded by bad guys while she's stuck on a ranch in Wyoming in the middle of winter with a serial killer.) No matter where our IM conversations lead (and sometimes they go in very strange directions), I know at the end of our chat I'll feel better about where I am in my book, even if I've only advanced two pages for the day. And I know it's the same for Alice. She told me a while back that our IM conversations reinvigorated her love for the job. When you've been doing this as long as she has (40+ books into her career), it's easy to get caught up worrying about how your publisher is treating you and if you're getting what other authors are getting and what your numbers are doing. The isolation that comes with writing can make it easy to lose sight as to why we became authors in the first place...so we could excite and inspire and entertain all through the written word.
Procrastination isn't something I'm encouraging others to take up, but last night it reminded me how important my writing pals are to me. I'm confident I could write without talking to them each and every day, but would I be as productive? Would I work out plot problems as quickly? Would I have half as much fun? I know the answer to all of those questions is no. Even when Joan's giving me blog topic ideas like "How about a procrastination crossword puzzle?" (lotta help, Joan) or Alice is stressing over the end of her career (she's sure every book is the end of her career), I appreciate every word my writing buddies say (or type). And I love the fact technology has brought us all so close, regardless of how far apart we may truly be, I feel like I have my best friends right there in the room with me when I need them most.
Not everyone is a writer with the same crazy needs and neuroses writers have, but in our busy jobs and lives, it's easy for each of us to feel disconnected. What do you do to stay connected to friends or family?