April 2008

Getting Cozy with Karen.
                          April Musings

"The count stands at 3,128.."

I've identified a significant time bleeder on my writing life. I didn't realize how significant until I went on vacation for six days in March. I take that back. Major doesn't begin to describe the seriousness of this debilitating attack on my writing success. I was gone 6 days. Six days, for crying out loud!

And what did I find upon my return? Over 3,400 emails in my four email accounts! Now I know I'm not the only one who spends entirely too much time deleting SPAM messages but I hadn't realized how serious my problem had become in recent months until I was forced to deal with those kinds of numbers all at once.

How could it have gotten so out of control without my taking notice?

First, there is a very good reason why I have four email accounts. Two accounts take care of the various writing loops, both business and pleasure, to which I belong as well as any online classes I occasionally take. One account is set up to carry my chapter and writing business. I only think of one as personal, but I conduct writing-related business on that one too. I created each one in response to my expanding need to keep everything straight and "manageable."

Second, when I became my chapter's president in addition to serving as a contest coordinator, I expected my SPAM to increase a little. After all, once a direct link to an email address is placed on a website, you're fair game for the SPAM skimmers. What never gelled in my head was that my one email address was linked several times on the website, which means I get the same email several times. And this doesn't count my personal website which uses the same contact address.

Third, the SPAM problem has exploded over the past couple of years thanks to the fact that it's faceless, hard to control, with little or no punishment [that I can see] beyond the SPAM filters that all the servers provide to manage the deluge. Personally, and considering the number [75-100] of SPAM messages that still make it to my main business account Inbox daily despite these filters, this seems more like the little Dutch boy poking his finger into a 3-foot hole in the dyke.

What did I learn from this experience.that I shouldn't go on any more vacations? Dream on! What I decided to address were my habits and priorities so I could find solutions to this and other related drains on my writing time.

. I could get rid of three email accounts. Chop off the head of the dragon and you kill the dragon, right? But, upon reflection, I know each of my accounts serves an organizational purpose for my writing. [Did I mention my Type-A personality?]
. Thanks to an over-developed sense of duty to chapter business, I regularly flip through the emails my SPAM filter has sidelined on the off chance that one legitimate email will get dumped. In the past three months of such diligence, I've captured exactly one enquiry that wasn't pure junk. Considering the estimated 51,567 [extrapolated over three months from six enlightening days] SPAM messages I've skimmed from January through March, I've decided to save myself that one-plus hour every day and spend it on me. Yes, I may have to apologize if someone slips through the cracks, but they'll understand if they've been on the Internet longer than five minutes.
. Like many others, I'd gotten in the habit of checking my emails several times daily to keep the sheer numbers under control. Letting go of the SPAM filter since my return has allowed me to skim my Inbox more efficiently, however, I will no longer check them more than twice. When I no longer hold positions for my chapter, I'll wean myself down to once a day.
. I'm now also using a digital egg timer to force myself to close each email account more quickly. If I only allow myself 20-30 minutes for each one, I'm forced to skip the jokes and "fun stuff" in favor of the important business I have to take care of. If there's still time for the fun stuff after that's done, great! If not, there's nothing wrong with letting the jokes sit there a while. Humor doesn't have a day job, a shelf life or a deadline.

I hate to think I'm the only one who's allowed these little niggles on my day to accumulate until I was forced to face the fire-breathing dragon gobbling up my little treasures of time. But if this month's message serves as a reminder to examine your day-to-day habits, I can live with my solitude. {g}

In the meantime, I've begun an experiment that actually isn't going to cost me any time. Just for grins, I stopped cleaning my SPAM filter on March 20th on my one main business account. As of today, March 31st-and not counting SPAM that actually reached my Inbox-there are 3,128 SPAM messages. The filter only holds the messages 8 days and the number keeps rising. Wish I could do the math and give you a clearer idea of the numbers I might be seeing after one month of accumulation, but you'll have to wait to see if it levels out. As for me, I'm toddling off to write now.

Will let you know the real numbers next month.if the SPAM filter doesn't have a hernia before then!


What else is happening in my writing world?

Wearing my chapter contest coordinator hat in March, my co-chair and I determined the finalists, notified them, and started the letter-writing process that will lead to our winner announcements in May. Wearing my chapter president hat, I also sent off our Bylaws to RWA for approval. Two major time consumers that are now off my "To Do" list, and that means more writing time in April. Yay!!

If you or your friends, critique partners, or chapter mates are interested in joining us, my next "W" plotting workshop is around the corner. The four-week online course begins April 7th and is sponsored by the great folks at Low Country Romance Writers. FMI, I've got a link to their site on my website, click on NEWS. Or you can go directly to Low Country Romance Writers. I don't have another plotting workshop planned until June so I'm hoping to see lots of faces at Low Country. Please spread the news!

As always, if you'd like to comment on this newsletter or anything else, please feel free to sign into my guest book at the bottom of this HOME page. Looking forward to hearing from you! If you have your own listing on MySpace, I'd love to be friends. You can find me at http://www.myspace.com/authorkarendocter. And, by all means, if you enjoy reading my newsletter each month, please tell your friends. They can sign up for their own copy easily at the bottom of this HOME page.

See you in May if you'd like to Get Cozy with Karen again. In the meantime, feel free to check out the rest of my website at your leisure.

I wish you a month overflowing with creativity and confidence. May you realize all of your dreams!



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