A New Year's Approach to Email

It felt great to be back in my novel-in-progress this past week and I’m really pleased with the progress I made. I started on Monday with 103 notes to myself [embedded like this in the manuscript] and I dealt with enough of them by Friday that I now have only 20 left – and that’s with having added some new [notes] as I went along!

I think that my new determination to manage my email time (instead of letting it manage me) has been a big help in keeping me focused and getting so much done. This week I allowed myself to look at email once early in the morning and to answer no more than one. I turned off the sound on my computer so I wouldn’t be aware when new emails came in, and didn’t look at email again right after breakfast (as I would have in the past) or at any time during the morning. There were other kinds of interruptions some mornings, but ignoring email till I was ready to break for lunch seemed to really help keep me focused.

One morning I also shifted around a bunch of scenes and sections because I found some errors in the sequence of events that I had to figure out how to fix. That took a while and wasn’t part of the [embedded notes] work, but it was responsible for the addition of some of the new notes. (I suspect that juggling 5 point of view characters, each in his/her own section until I’m ready to stitch them all back together, is what led to the sequencing issue, but it’s really helped me figure out some stuff, so I don’t regret the approach. I just hope I don’t find much more of that kind of thing next week!)

Checking email is like an addiction. I’ve tried in the past to ignore email till the afternoon, and just haven’t been able to do it for more than a day or two. But I’m hopeful that the rewards for my new approach this past week will help motivate me to stick with my resolve to keep it out of what should be my most productive hours for creative endeavours. Wish me luck!

And if you’ve made similar resolutions this year, good luck to you!

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Jill Murray on January 10, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Neat! For years, I have left myself [notes] exactly the same way you do, and I was thinking of implementing precisely that solution for dealing with email addiction. But now what to do about reading blogs instead of editing?

    • kathystinson on January 10, 2009 at 11:10 am

      Yeah, that and checking out the websites of people who comment on your blog. (Yours is pretty impressive!)

  2. Janet Barclay on January 13, 2009 at 1:41 am

    I find it hard not to "just take a peek" when I know new messages have come in, so I have recently changed my email settings to only download messages when I click on Send/Receive so I won't be tempted.

  3. kathystinson on January 14, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    That's a great idea, Janet. I've now changed my settings too.

  4. Heather Smith on January 15, 2009 at 4:18 am

    I hear ya, Kathy! Whenever I come across a troublesome spot in my writing my first instinct is to abandon it and check my email. Sometimes it helps to step away from a tricky paragraph for a while but, more often than not, checking my email sidetracks me from my writing altogether as I start responding to them!

    Oh, and in regards to the "7 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me" post (Number 3) – POOR KEISHA! 🙁

    • kathystinson on January 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

      You are certainly right that it's sometimes a good idea to step away from a sticky spot, Heather, but stepping away for a yoga stretch, a brisk walk, or even just to refill an empty mug, is usually more helpful to me than checking email. Do you have other stepping away tactics that help get you through those tricky paragraphs?

      Keisha thanks you for your sympathy, and is happy to report that she's doing just fine and loves to greet other dogs as much as she always has. Sniff sniff wag wag.

  5. Janet Barclay on January 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

    The downside is that so many more messages come in when I do press "send/receive!"

  6. kathystinson on January 15, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Ah, the perils of being popular! 🙂

  7. Heather Smith on January 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Unfortunately, my only other stepping away tactic involves going to the fridge.

    And I have many tricky paragraphs.

  8. kathystinson on January 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Could be sticky paragragphs, too, I guess, depending what you reach for when you get there. 🙂

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