One of the many things I've learned over the past few years is the importance of focus. I can get far more accomplished in one solid hour of uninterrupted time than I can in five hours of constant interruptions. I believe this even more of a challenge to writers (and illustrators!) these days than ten years ago, mainly because of the Internet.
Ten years ago, it took longer to get rejection letters for our work because they usually came by snailmail. While this could be frustrating, it also gave us more time to work on a new project while we waited to hear back from an editor. Now...
For many of us, email is another potential source of constant interruption. I don't know about the rest of you, but I used to feel compelled (yes, COMPELLED) to check email constantly, just in case something Important came in that needed an immediate response.
There are many problems with this strategy, and one is that others start expecting you to do this and get antsy if you don't respond right away. Which makes you feel that you need to respond because you know that they know that you know...well, you get the idea. The obvious solution: Don't check email so often. But if you're like me, that's easier said than done. What if it's my agent with a book offer? Or my editor or art director with the feedback I've been waiting for?
My solution: I've started using AwayFind, a service where you can get an alert message when you get emails from certain addresses or with subject headings containing particular words or phrases, avoid getting alerted for group mails and much more. There's a free trial version, but I've signed up for the monthly Pro account and am very happy with it so far; I'm checking email FAR less often.
Another tip: don't answer phone calls when you're in workmode. I figure if it's important, they'll leave a message or send an email.
However, I know this just isn't possible sometimes, especially for parents with young children. Here's a print-ready gift certificate (click image or here for the PDF) that you can use as a gift for a writing parent, or hint strongly to your loved ones that YOU'D like this as a gift:
Happy writing all, and good luck on finding your focus in the coming year.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the illustrator of I'M BORED, a picture book written by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, chosen as a New York Times Notable Children's BOok.
Debbie blogs about writing and illustrating for young people at Inkygirl.com. On Twitter: @inkyelbows.