My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome LJ Cohen to talk about how the power of Ninja Time Wasting relates to Derelict.
If you ask my family, they will tell you I have several superpowers. One is to fight parking tickets. But that is another story for another time (and in case you’re interested, I eventually won. Because I was right and also more stubborn than our city hall). Another is to adopt strays. This includes animals as well as people. But that’s also not relevant to my creative process. No, the superpower I want to talk about today is one that, unfortunately, hampers more than helps my creativity.
I can appear to be busy and productive even as I waste time. I am a stealth ninja at wasting time.
This dubious superpower was first noticed and named by my graduate school roommate. And it took her almost a full year to fully comprehend the extent to which I can fritter away massive quantities of time, only to enter into panicked productivity mode at the eleventh hour. When she used to think I got a ton of stuff done, she envied me. Then she pitied me. She even tried to help, but my abilities were too strong.
How I ever got through college successfully when I wasn’t even consciously aware of this prodigious talent is a mystery, only partially explained by all-nighters and liberal doses of black tea.
When I began writing novels ten years ago, I had found the kryptonite to my superpower: I simply had no time to waste. I was running a 30-hour a week private physical therapy practice and parenting two school-aged children while my husband was working 12+ hour days. My writing time was limited to 30 minute lunch hours and moments waiting in doctor’s offices or at the pick-up line at school. Sometimes, I could squeeze a few words from my fried brain between the instant my kids got to sleep and when I collapsed from exhaustion.
In the five year period between starting my first novel and stepping away from my PT practice, I wrote five novels. Yes, a novel a year, shoehorned into the tight corners of my busy life.
But then, everything changed. Circumstances were such that I needed to leave my job and it gave me the opportunity to write full time.
Oh! The glorious possibilities!
(Or so I thought.)
Without the kryptonite of too-damned-much-to-do, and having the terrible enabling of the computer and high speed internet access, my superpower roared back with a vengeance. Now I could waste time better! stronger! and faster! I was the bionic woman of time-wasting!
This will show you just how strong my time-wasting ability is: In the next five years – the five years in which I was able to write full time – I was able to complete . . . wait for it . . . five novels.
Doing the advanced mathematical calculations . . . that makes a novel a year.
Only now, I completely look as if I’m engrossed in intense authoring all the time. I have a dedicated office, an ergonomic set up, with both a sitting and a standing desk, and all the resources and implements of writing-ness an author might need or want at my fingertips. Man, I look good while I’m time-killing.
My ability to time-waste got so bad during the writing of Derelict that it took me some time to realize that I was doing it. *I* even thought I was writing, and I had to take drastic measures: locking out my browser from targeted websites, using a kitchen timer for writing sprints, and ultimately, committing to drafting this story in public, posting a chapter a week on Wattpad until it was finished.
Do I wish I had more helpful superpowers? Yes and no. Sure, it would be nice to be able to walk through walls, or shape-shift, or see the future, but I know who I am and what I am capable of. And that is probably the best superpower of them all.
LJ Cohen practices her ninja-time-wasting skills in the Boston area where the last stray she picked up was a Jack Russell Terrier mix with issues. She also throws pots, but never when she’s angry. Derelict is her third novel. While appearing to write the next book, LJ can be found on Google Plus and Twitter, or her blog.
Derelict: When Rosalen Maldonado tinkers with the derelict freighter, she’s just hoping to prove she deserves a scholarship to University. She certainly doesn’t count on waking the ship’s damaged AI or having three stowaways, Micah Rotherwood and brothers Jem and Barre Durbin, along for the ride. They all have their private reasons for hiding aboard and lives they are seeking to escape, but if the accidental crew can’t work together and learn to trust each other, they’ll die together, victims of a computer that doesn’t realize the war ended decades before any of them were even born.