Why Texting Blows

textingI admit it; I hate texting. Sure, sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Like when my kid’s bus is late coming home from a track meet. Or my daughter can’t remember if she’s supposed to keep the wood stove burning while I’m out. Or when my other daughter is in another country.

But most of the time, it’s just a pain in the ass. I hate trying to have long, meaningful conversations on my phone. Maybe it’s my sausage fingers, but I find it incredibly annoying to type out long messages on my little keyboard.

Even worse, I have to pause whatever I’m doing IRL so I can go back and forth with someone about something that would be much easier to discuss via email or on the phone.

Okay, I never have time to talk on the phone, either.

But still. I’m trying to live more in the moment, and that’s hard to do when I have to keep looking at my phone. Can we impose some kind of limit on texting conversations? Say, nothing that requires more than a two-line response? Nothing that we wouldn’t have time to stop and discuss in the middle of making dinner? Nothing we can’t talk about while grocery shopping?

Really this is just a roundabout way to apologize to all the people I owe text messages. I’m sorry. I want to reply in a meaningful way. I want to exchange thoughts and ideas. All of which means I keep putting off my reply, waiting for a time when I can sit down with my itty-bitty keyboard and poke away at the touch keys with my big sausage fingers in an attempt to give your text message a thoughtful reply.

I’ll try to respond soon. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you get a one-sentence response.

Better yet, try sending me an email.


Life Writing

History of an Email

Like most people, I get a lot of emails every day.

Like… a lot, a lot.

Some of them are spam and some of them are sale notifications and some of them are requests for interviews and advice. Some of them are from my agent or editors.

And the truth is, I’m not as good about answering them as I used to be. When I first sold the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy in 2007, I had a big gap between projects. Prophecy (book one) had some revisions, but the second book in the trilogy wasn’t due for a whole year, and I was prohibited from selling another YA project for the duration of my contract with Little Brown, which meant until 2011. I was still a single parent. Still busy. But I wasn’t up against multiple deadlines, lined up like planes on a tarmac, gunning for their turn.

Times have changed. I’ve worked on seven contracted projects in the past year alone (not all of which have been announced) plus juggled multiple editing projects for my freelance editing business while running a household with four kids alone. It’s required an almost-militant devotion to schedule. And since I do receive emails from many of you — some of which take me a very, very long time to answer — I wanted to explain.

First thing every morning (I get up at 6am on school days) I open up my computer and stare forlornly at my Inbox. I start by deleting obvious Spam, sales I can’t afford to shop, and other miscellany that just isn’t important to me at the moment. Then I look at what’s left. If there are quick and easy questions to answer, I tackle them right away just to feel like I’m making some prgress.

But then I’m left with the other stuff. Offers to attend conferences (which require me to look at a calendar and plot out the next 6-12 months in my head), requests for interviews, favors from writerly friends (most of which require more emails sent to editors or agent, or at the very least, lengthy replies on my part), questions from my editors, updates from my agent.

To be honest, I just can’t get to them all. And I know what you’re probably thinking; it only takes a minute to send an email. I know you’re probably thinking it because that’s what I used to think when someone took a long time to get back to me. But here’s the thing, my writing schedule — the only thing holding my life together right now — is non-negotiable. It has to be. So when I go up to my office promptly at 9am, 3:30pm, or 7pm (the start of my usual writing blocks), I know that I have a finite time to work, usually an hour or two. And if I open one email, the temptation is to keep clearing my Inbox. I’ve already eaten into my writing time anyway, right? Or maybe the reply is more lengthy than I anticipated, and all of a sudden, my one hour writing block is down to half an hour. I’ve lost between 500-1,000 words in that half hour. It might not seem like a lot, but if I lose 1,000 words every day for a month, I lose 30,000 words, which tacks an additional 2-4 weeks onto any project.

And that’s just something I can’t afford at this point in time. Especially when none of this accounts for the “soft” tasks of writing — website upkeep, research, reading, etc.

So I’ve developed a hard and fast rule; I do what I can while I’m having my morning tea. But when it’s time to write, it’s time to write. Not tweet. Not post on Facebook. Not even answer emails. It’s hard. It’s meant forgoing the level of social networking that was once routine. It’s meant blogging less. It’s meant an Inbox that constantly hovers around 30 emails (when I’m as on top of it as I can be). It’s sometimes even meant losing touch with people I care about for longer periods than I would like. It is tempting to “take five” minutes and clear my Inbox a bit. But I’ve learned the hard way that it adds up. Which is why I activate Freedom right when I get to my office and get down to business.

All of which makes this one long-ass apology. If I owe you an email, I’m sorry. It’s not that I don’t care or that I’m ignoring you. I’m doing my best.

And writing always has to come first.