Notes from Candice Ransom

“Write At Least One Book”


“Did we drive sixty miles to take a picture of a cat?” my husband asked.

Not really. But it was Saturday of Labor Day weekend, and since Sunday and Monday were already spoken for, work-wise, we had to get out. This was our first day trip since Memorial Day. And where did we wind up? At a produce stand an hour south of where we live. Worse, even this pitiful trip was research-related.

I needed to take notes and photos of a working produce stand for a current project. The accidental cat was the highlight. The farm stand was a disappointment and the fields were already cleared. On the drive down, I noticed the roadside hem of summer-blue chicory has been edged out by fall-yellow tickseed.  Sunflowers nodded in the early morning.


The week before, I planned to go to the produce stand alone, but couldn’t leave my office. It wasn’t work that kept me there, though it should have been. For once I had a week free of housework, yard work, appointments, and most errands. I would hunker down at my computer and pile up pages.

I didn’t.

What did I do all those hours? I surfed the web. I wasted nearly an entire week following blog posts, looking up facts, answering emails, tracking down books, checking Facebook, and, worst of all, thinking up things to buy on eBay.

I was well aware of my distracted state and tried to journal my way out of it. But even as I was writing, I stopped to click back on the Net. I couldn’t finish a sentence.


This week I dug out the small journal I kept as a high school senior, my writing record book. On New Year’s Eve in 1969, I wrote: I hope 1970 will bring me a home in the publishing world, the author of the book I want to write, and a smarter writer.

On January 1, 1970, I got down to brass tacks. I made a list of writing resolutions in addition to the goals for that month. The goals were specific and attainable: Write a story for Highlights. Decide on a definite book [to write] for summer. Finish, polish, and mail “Alexandra’s Secrets.” Some resolutions were more related to—well, growing up.

The entry for January 2 refers to receiving comp copies of an anthology my first poem was published in. I most certainly did get a big head. I turned down being named Class Poet because la-de-da me had been published.


When I read the journal, I was struck by two things. One: What I struggled with at the age of seventeen is still a struggle (“When I write what I feel, in the way I feel like writing—it comes out like trash”). Two: I had so much drive.

In high school I carried a full academic load and a full business load (so I could get a “real” job as a secretary). In my journal I noted that I was devoting another two hours to homework and an hour a night to write. My distraction back then? Television. “If I can learn to tear myself from the T.V. and just listen to it, it might work.”  Yeah, right.

I am not alone in fighting distraction. Lynne Jonell wrote about her own battle.  “On the one side, the writing; on the other, everything else in the world. And the world was winning with its usual one-two punch: fear and distraction.”

Jonell’s solution was to make a mark on a Post-it note whenever she felt the need to quit. After ten marks, she’d take a break, and then get back to work. She writes: “But I did a word count for the day, and divided it by the number of marks I had made, and discovered to my dismay that every thirty-three words, on average, I had fought a serious battle with myself just to stay with it.”

Over the years I’ve dealt with my distraction problems by spending money or over-exercising—yet I still got the work done, just as I did when I was seventeen and writing stories while “listening” to the television. Now we don’t even have television, I’m too poor to shop like I did and too tired to exercise like I used to. But there’s the shiny promise of the Internet just waiting to suck up all my time.

So starting today I’m taking another Internet leave of absence for one month. I’ll store the Internet computer in the garage. My husband will lock up the laptop.

I know I’ll look over at the empty space where the monitor usually stands. My fingers will twitch for the mouse that won’t be there. Every few days, I’ll go to the library, do email and research, and then I’ll walk away from the computer.


I’m hoping for a month of clarity and focus, of reclaiming myself.  And if I’m lucky, I might even write at least one book.



18 thoughts on ““Write At Least One Book””

  1. We’ll miss you online, but of course understand.

    Sending good writing vibes — hope you find the clarity, focus, concentration and peace of mind you seek.

    • It seems I have to do this every year, about this time of year. I’m not sure why, but the only solution–and that is temporary–is to go cold turkey.

      I’ll check in on Alphabet Soup anyway!

  2. I am absolutely convinced that this dance we do around our creative work is part of the process. It feels good to “put your foot down” and make a change. You’re putting aside the internet and it’s distractions for a month, and I’m with you! Now, if I only I could stay away from the shopping for a whole month . . . maybe I just need to follow your lead. Can’t wait to read every word you write.

    • It’s easier to shut down the Internet for a month than to quit shopping. We have to eat, so we go to the grocery store and next door will be Target or on the way will be Goodwill . . .

      I have looked long and hard at this problem. I’ve blamed the Internet (no one is making me turn it on), I’ve blamed my mood disorder (stabilizing meds only do so much, some things I have to take responsibility for on my own), I’ve blamed the “world.” But in truth the fault is within.

      But I know that when I made this decision a few days ago, I slept better that night than I have in a long time.

  3. Here’s to peaceful sleeping and focused writing and meeting the best of that 17 year old who I like very much. I admire you. I feel like I grapple with this more and more, but lack your courage to just take that big break. I will miss you — but do understand — there’s very little that can’t wait a while to be known.

    • Jeannine, you may grapple with this problem, but don’t ever take it to the extreme I do. I admire *you*! And the fact that Lynne Jonell had to make marks on a Post-it tells us we are certainly not alone.

      The big break from the Internet is not that hard, really. What’s hard is *deciding* to do it. When I did this a few years ago, my agent said, “What if I need to get in touch with you?” Well, there’s the phone. Also nothing was pressing–we didn’t even have a book subbed.

      The Internet world has us convinced we are lost without it. That by disconnecting, we’re shoving ourselves out on an ice floe. That we’re going to *miss* something crucial. I look at it as freedom.

      • I’m being forced by an injury (and an upcoming surgery) to take a break from the things I love best. I’ve been meaning to write about that for a while now, and I will, very soon. Meantime, I just wanted to say that I’m with you on the goal to “Write at Least One Book.” Sidelined from gardening, photography, travel and the like for at least four weeks following surgery (near the end of September), I’ll have lots of uninterrupted butt-in-chair time. LOL, the irony. It’s as if someone’s placed their gentle-but-firm hands on my shoulders, said, “Settle your dust, girl. Bloom where you are planted.”

        • I’m so sorry about the injury and the upcoming surgery! That’s one way to “settle your dust” but not recommended. We want it to be our decision. But in a way, I’m being forced, as well. My brain has said, “Enough. You can’t take enough pills to fix this. Fix it yourself.”

          Already I thought about taking pictures but realized I can’t process without the Internet computer. I can still take the pictures but they’ll sit in the camera. And so what? We used to wait forever to fill the roll and send it off. What’s so critical now?

          I wish you rest now, before your surgery. And lots of healing time. I’ll hear from you when you’re ready.

  4. The timing is very interesting to me. I suspect that part of the issue is the changing sunlight. Just last night my sister-in-law noted, as we sat on the screened in porch, “look it is dark already and it’s only eight o’clock.” I, too, have felt the change and know that I must dig the light box out of the closet. Its summer of rest is over and my struggle with the dark is beginning. I used to think it was later in the summer but that is no longer true. Treat yourself to extra sunlight (and add artificial if necessary) and maybe it will help your focus. Looking forward to Oct. when you are back “on-line.”

    • I’ve thought about the light changing, too, Sheilah. I’m very sensitive to light and need lots of it (and total darkness to sleep). My sister and I both have problems with fall and winter, though by winter, the days grow longer and I look forward to spring. Fall is a sad time.

      I bought a light box years ago but my doctor says it’s actually bad for my mood disorder. So I had to send it back. Some things I have to grit my teeth and just get through. I guess that true of everybody!

  5. Oh god! I need to do the same. I’m trying to write and every time I get blocked I tell myself ‘I’ll just sneak a peek on the internet’, thinking that I’ll find inspiration there. No such luck. I should take your lead and have an internet time out too. Catch you on the other side of it.

  6. so you won’t be reading this for a while, but I had to tell you, when you passed that field of sunflowers with the sign, you were about 2 miles from our house…in fact, you very likely passed it! let me know next time!!
    enjoy your ‘break.’ ha!

    • Sharon! Yes, I passed y’all’s farm and told my husband, That’s Sharon Stanley’s farm and he thought I was nuts. Now that I know how close you are to Ashland, Donna and I will be down! You’ve got chickens and I want to see them, and you, of course.

      Back on the Net, but limited, if you read the new post. My new method probably makes me nuttier than ever, but it works!


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