4 Ways to Waste Time (and How They Can Help Your Writing!)

Saturday, February 16, 2019
Me, wasting some time in Target.
As I sat here trying to come up with a clever topic for today’s blog post, my mind drifted to a conversation I was having with a co-worker in the office today. We chatted about how we had gotten sucked into the documentary on “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” now playing on Netflix, and then she asked me if I had watched another one on the streaming service that is trending.

“No, but I’ve been wanting to watch that one!” I said. After finding out it was only about 90 minutes long as opposed to the four-hour Ted Bundy show, I then said, “I’ll watch it this weekend and we’ll talk about it next week!”

Yes, my name is Renee and Netflix takes up way too much of my personal time when I should be writing. But in my defense, that Ted Bundy documentary is going to help my writing because part of it wove itself right into the narrative of a young adult novel I’m revising about a stalker. That, my friends, is what we writers like to call double dipping.

In addition to watching Netflix and Amazon Prime, here are three other time wasters, and how I try to use them to improve my writing.

Listening to Podcasts. I consume these like a madwoman, and I’m completely addicted to the true crime ones (shocker). But I mostly listen to downloaded podcasts while I’m out exercising, doing mindless chores around the house, or driving. I tend to gravitate towards podcasts that have a specific formula, such as interviewing a guest on each episode or introducing products in different segments (like the Hungry Girl podcast “Chew the Right Thing"). There’s one I listen to called “Unsolved Murders” where actors act out the featured case, which requires a script to be written ahead of time. I mine these podcasts for topics I can use in short stories or novels, and try to absorb what kind of writing style appeals to the masses the most.

Reading Gossip Magazines. These are also a vice of mine. It didn’t help that my mother-in-law got me a subscription to People for Christmas (thanks, Linda!) People is not a bad magazine to read though, because I get a good mix of celebrity gossip and style, human interest stories, recipes, and there is often an investigative piece thrown in there. But my other loves, like Us Weekly and Life and Style, are not as substantive. The benefits of reading any of these magazines is that I can get a refresher on journalistic writing, how to put together a catchy headline, what types of photos catch the eye, and I often get a sneak peek of upcoming novels I may want to check out.

Target. I don’t think I’m alone in this time waster. I do the majority of the meal planning and cooking in my family, and each weekend I must make a SuperTarget run because it is the most affordable store for me to get all my groceries in one place. But as most of us know, you don’t just zip in and out of Target. If I need a caffeine fix, I’ll pop into the Starbucks and grab a coffee first. Then I have to check off the grocery items on my AnyList app, and scan each item with my Cartwheel app. Then I’ll meander over to the throw pillows, see if there are any new vases I need for my mantle, try on a few pair of shoes that I can’t resist, and the next thing you know, I’ve been away from my precious weekend writing time for three hours! But even though I waste a lot of time in this store, the groceries I buy there end up saving me during the week when I can quickly throw a simple dinner in the Instant Pot or prepare salads ahead of time for lunch. And occasionally I can stock up on some fun office supplies and pick up printer cartridges in the stationery section!

So these are four of my biggest time wasters and the pros I can find within each. I’d love to hear about yours and how they help you with your writing!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company. She is seeking representation for a contemporary young adult novel, Between. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--First of all, I love the phrase in your bio "is seeking representation for a contemporary young adult novel." One year ago, two years ago--could you have said that? I am in awe of all you do.

Secondly, I have another friend who loves podcasts. A couple of years ago she got me listening to S-Town (I'll keep this post clean and not write out what the "S" stands for). It was fascinating. It's real-life prisoners talking about what their existence is like. (Maybe you've already checked it out?)

Watching dark stuff on TV (Ray Donovan, Better Call Saul, OITNB) helps me. I absorb some things like a sponge.

Great post. I think writers use everything they do and see and hear and feel, in order to make their writing richer.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I haven't really gotten into Podcasts. But I have my own time sinks.

Audiobooks - I listen to things I would never read.

Jigsaw puzzles - Something to keep my hands busy while my brain puzzles out a story solution.

Cleaning - Who am I kidding. I hate cleaning.


Nicole Pyles said...

Ah Target, I love Target!

For me, one thing that is my time waster is social media. When I remember I try to use social media to build my following, but in all honesty, I use it to enter contests.

Other things I like to do as a time waster is watch movies (and I use that to pay attention to how the story is built!) and read (my love of YA and middle grade books continues to be strong.)

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux--I never did listen to "STown," because I came onto the podcasting craze after that and "Serial" were both hot. I guess I should probably go back and check those out!

Sue--I hate to clean as well, but if I'm really procrastinating on a deadline, I'll tell myself I need to clean the entire house first so I can "focus without distractions." Or I'll do a whole bunch of batch cooking. It's hilarious.

Nicole--I guess I should have put down social media, too. Especially with the invention of Instagram stories! I could spend an hour each day just watching what shoppers bought on that "TJ Maxx" 50 Challenge or some other fun nonsense.

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