Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Time Sinks by Julianne Lee (Giveaway)

I’ve heard it said that as we get older, time goes faster. Each year seems shorter than the last. I thought about that once, and wondered, if that’s true, then how come I’m not dead yet?

I teach at a writers’ workshop each spring in Louisville, KY, and one of my favorite subjects to speak on is writers’ block. I don’t think I’ve ever had a real block. When a deadline looms, somehow the writing gets done. As they say, it’s a simple matter of Butt In Chair. You sit down and think up stuff. Even if it amounts to opening a vein, you do it and worry later if you’re making a mess.

However, block or not, I’ve noticed that having time for writing is more of an issue than it used to be. Back in the dim time, before I began writing for publication, I spent every spare minute at the keyboard. But that was back when the keyboard belonged to a cheap manual typewriter. It wasn’t attached to a computer that offered games, or even worse an Internet of chat rooms and bulletin boards.

It began with Minesweep. You know, that game that comes with every PC. You click on squares and hope there’s no mine beneath it. It was supposed to teach people how to use a mouse with dexterity. I spent hour after hour clicking on squares and exploding mines, and wouldn’t quit until I won a game. I got pretty good at winning, and once nailed the expert level in 182 seconds.
Then came bulletin boards. Back when the only people who had access to the Internet were government employees and college students, ISPs were closed systems that were like small communities. People discussed their favorite subjects, and developed friendships with other people they never would have known if not for the computer. At one point during this time I became so wrapped up in discussing the merits of various television shows, that I frequently found myself at mid-afternoon and still in my pajamas. Even I realized this wasn’t good. I made myself start skimming some posts and refrained from blurting every thought. Now there are so many social networks, and so many people posting on them, that skimming is about all one can ever do any more.

Having matured in the area of computer socializing, I was still not safe. Computer and video games became more sophisticated. I remember Atari’s Pong. Minesweep and Solitaire were sophisticated by comparison. The Nintendo 64 gave us the James Bond adventure Goldeneye, which caught my attention for a while. But shoot’em-ups wear thin on me after a while and I lost interest in beating that game.

But then they invented The Sims. Oh, dear. It’s like playing with the world’s greatest dollhouse. Sims 1 was nice, but mostly for building and decorating the houses. At one point I had about 6,500 custom objects in the game, some of which I made myself. Hours and hours of learning and manipulating the files behind the game. I still got the writing done.

Then here came Sims 2. The Sims had lives. They were born, lived, and died. They left progeny, who also grew up, went to college, had families, and also died. They had genetics that eerily mimicked human inheritance. More than playing with a dollhouse, it was like watching an ant farm. Except the ants had personalities. Their lives were stories. Some of my Sims could trace their ancestry back to the very first family in town. They cheated on their spouses, took jobs and lost them, went broke, got rich. Some had brilliant careers, some struggled to get by. I was so fascinated by this that I had to make a rule that I wouldn’t load The Sims until I’d finished the writing for the day.

I don’t dare buy Sims 3.
Six months ago I stopped playing The Sims, having discovered Farmville. I never thought this would be a time sink. I figured it was no big deal and I would just log on once a day to harvest and plant. Ha! These days I’ve almost beaten the game and am logging on only once a day, but for a while it was as bad as The Sims.

Computers aren’t the only time sink, though. A couple of years ago I took up quilting by hand so I would have something to do with the rest of my brain while watching television. I love the hand-sewing (no machines for me, thank you), and now find myself watching a lot more television than I used to. I’ve had to limit myself to only two or three hours a night, and even then if I’m on deadline I’ll forgo that.

Cats will suck the time out of my day, too. Until a few weeks ago, my favorite cat Silas would run to climb onto my lap the instant my butt hit the desk chair. I learned to type with him draped over my arm, but work goes very slowly that way, particularly once my arm was asleep. Silas is gone now, but the other cats are moving in. Sometimes I just have to tell them, “No, I’m busy.”

But the worst time sink of all, the one I am most diligent about not letting it interfere with my writing schedule, is housework. Nope, can’t let the dusting and vacuuming keep me from my real work.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Julianne Lee is the author of Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Queen Mary Tudor
About the Book: A new novel of sixteent-century royalty from the author of A Question of Guilt

Her name was Mary Tudor. First of the Tudor queens, she has gone down in history as Bloody Mary. But does she deserve her vicious reputation?

She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, and half-sister to Edward VI and Elizabeth I. Mary Tudor's life began as the sweetly innocent, pampered princess of Wales-until the age of eleven when the father she adored cast aside the mother she worshipped and declared Mary a bastard. Only after years of exile did Mary finally rise to the throne alongside the man who, aside from her father, was her greatest love-and her greatest betrayer.

Told by Mary herself and the people around her, this grand-scale novel takes us back to the glittering court of sixteenth-century England, and tells the tragic story of a fascinating, largely misunderstood woman who withstood the treachery and passion around her only to become one of England's most vilified queens.

If you are interested in winning a copy of this book, leave a comment with your number one time sink, and a valid email address. US only as this will be shipped straight from the publisher. I'll draw a winner December 31st!


Sherrie Petersen said...

The internet is a big time sinks for me. I can hop from link to link for hours :)

clenna said...

I would love to read this book.

Spending time on the computer is my big time sink. I have to work hard not to get on or I could literally spend the whole day on it and not realize it!

clenna at aol dot com

Stacie said...

My biggest time sink is Facebook..namely Scrabble on Facebook. I have several games going at once and I could play words all day long! Anyway, I was able to pull myself away long enough to read this! :)

Sue said...

I really hate to admit this. Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook. It's funny how a one minute game suddenly turns into thirty minutes gone...
Thanks for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I miss the old version of Tetris I had on my computer. Very time-sinky, but I was a champion Tetris goddess with that game, and no other versions of the game have every measured up...

Jodie said...

Diner Dash and it's many better reincarnations get me (so lucky, I was about to sign up for Farmville but now I know it will steal my time) but if I don't buy them I can only play them free for an hour or so.

Anonymous said...

I laughed when I read this post --- it's so true! :) My biggest time sink is facebook -- there's always something to see, a note to send, a game to play, etc etc etc. I have to declare "no internet time" in order to get stuff done!
Thanks for the giveaway chance - this book is on my to-read list! -beth :) drbethnolan@Hotmail.com

Jenny Girl said...

Oh I have many time sinks: my personal book blog and those of my friends (not a bad thing, just lose track of time); knitting and Ravelry (the knitting community's super site); and television, because I am fiercely loyal to some shows.

Your book sounds quite interesting. I have always empathized with Mary because of her crazy father and growing up without many stable relationships and love.

redheadkate said...

Hate to say it but reading. I can get so caught up in a book that I let everything else slide.

kate AT sweetpotatoes DOT com

Beth F said...

I don't even want to know about new games. I'm always amazed at how much time can go buy -- I put an audiobook in my ears and then start playing a game.... 3 hours later: ARGHHHHH.

Anita Yancey said...

My biggest time sink is my computer. When I get on the internet, I just can't seem to get off. There is just to much out there in cyber space to lure us. I think I am going to have to set time limits for myself. Please enter me. Thanks!


a real librarian said...

I spend some time on Facebook, but a lot more of my time is spent reading...well, when I'm not working! Thanks for the giveaway!!


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