Holed Up or Hold Up?

A while back, I got to thinking about why I have such a tough time just sitting down to write. I have lots of ideas for books floating around my head. And because I work from home, I have the privilege of creating my own schedule. So, what’s the hold up?

I’m an extrovert.

Does that mean extroverts don’t write? Of course not. Some are very prolific. However, they must have more self-discipline than I do.

Yes, introverts can get distracted too, but I’m sure they can avoid Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads more easily than I can. There are people there, people I can connect with, encourage, learn from.

Is this a bad thing?


Can it be a distraction?


So I must buckle down, open a Word document, and get typing. I also find it helps if I set a goal (i.e.: five pages and then I can check Facebook). I also find it helpful to set self-imposed deadlines.

So here is a brief, completely non-scientific questionnaire to help you decide when and where it would be best for you to write.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? If you’re not sure, think of it this way: When you are interacting in person with others, do you feel increasingly drained or increasingly energized? Although introverts may be at the top of their game when the evening begins, when it comes to a close, they will be glad for some alone time. Even if extroverts would rather curl up and have a nap before the festivities start, they will likely be among the last to leave, feeling more energized than ever.

Are you more productive in a solitary environment or with people around? This can go either way for both introverts and extroverts. As an extrovert, if I stay away from social media, I am much more productive without others around. I love the stimulation of a coffee shop, but I would rather pay attention to the patrons’ comings and goings than to my work.

Similarly, do you prefer an office with a door or a desk in the middle of the action? I was working on the main floor of our home, the TV in the next room. As you can imagine, I found it very distracting, especially when I could see said television from my chair. Because of better Internet connectivity, I am now doing my work from our second storey landing. It is actually a good compromise for me. I hear the traffic, the TV downstairs, and my daughter’s guinea pigs squeaking in the loft. These sounds remind me of the people and things I love without diverting too much of my attention.

Speaking of auditory stimulation, do you prefer to work in silence, with coffee shop chatter surrounding you, or humming along to your favourite music? As I mentioned, I work best on my own. I do fine working in silence or with instrumental music. I find the lyrics distract me and I end up singing along rather than focusing on my writing.

Do you like a clutter free work environment or one overflowing with personal items? A number of Christmases ago my amazing husband bought me several pieces from the Who Ville Department 52 collection and set it up on the shelf above my computer. I stood there, mouth agape. When I could finally speak, I repeated time and time again, “What did you do?” (In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a big fan of the original The Grinch Who Stole Christmas—and many other things Seuss.) While I love a workspace that captures what I love and who I am, I enjoy a workspace that is clean and organized, though that is often not my reality.

As an extrovert who loves to connect with people in person and on the Web, I must be careful to take times to be holed up and avoid the hold up.

How about you? When and where are you most productive?

20140612-DSC_6779Steph Beth Nickel is the coauthor of former Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. She is also a freelance writer and editor and a labour doula. Steph is an active member of The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. (Photo by Sarah Grace Photography)

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  1. Ruth Snyder says:

    Your post put a smile on my face. It sounds like we are a lot alike. I’ve found I get more writing done when I use my iPad instead of my computer. I still have access to Facebook and other distractions, but the notifications don’t flash across my screen and I have to actually get out of my writing app to see what’s new.

    1. Steph Nickel says:

      Sounds like a plan to me, Ruth. If I only had an iPad. I think I’ll be more disciplined now that I know I’m perfectly happy to be “unplugged.” I’ll have to wait and see. 🙂

  2. Tracy Krauss says:

    I appreciate your list. it is interesting that people don’t always fit neatly into one category or the other. We all need to figure out what works best for us in order to stay productive. (Without becoming recluses!)

    1. Steph Nickel says:

      Thanks, Tracy. Even as an extrovert, the more I stay holded up, the less inclined I am to be out and about. Kinda weird! Instead of referring to it as “balance,” I think of this kind of thing as “tension,” the good kind (as in a tightrope walker’s rope) rather than the stress-inducing kind.

  3. Bobbi Junior says:

    Even as an introvert, I find that if I keep clicking between e-mail and facebook, I can procrastinate for an incredibly long time! Why? I have no idea.

    For me, all I have to do is START. Then I’m off and running. For some reason, getting past that mental inertia is the hardest part. Perhaps I should just log out of the internet when it’s time to write. Thanks for the nudge. Steph. I’ll try that.

    1. Steph Nickel says:

      As I was journaling this week, Bobbi, I recommitted to keep on plugging even when I feel unmotivated and uninspired. I figure God can redirect me if I’m heading in the wrong direction. It’s less likely that He’ll propel me forward if I curl up on the couch and watch Netflix for extended periods. 🙂

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