There's a site out there called AJATT, which I'm sure most other Japanese speakers & language enthusiasts found much faster than I did. It is a really fascinating site, not just for the webmaster's approach or his success but for his overall viewpoint. A lot of what he says can be applied to life in general, not just language studies.
AJATT means All Japanese, All The Time.
No, really. It is what it says. Nothing more, nothing less. All Japanese all the time.
Basically, it means this: throw away your movies. Delete your music collection. Donate your books to Goodwill. Erase everything that is English about your environment and replace it with Japanese. Get a futon; sleep on the floor. Shop at Japanese markets. Eat Japanese food. Eat everything with chopsticks. Watch Japanese news. Have kanji posters. Put your OS in Japanese mode (and try your damnedest not to delete your harddrive on accident). It means immersion, no matter where in the world you are.
And you know? It's brilliant in theory, but so difficult to practice. Imagine my situation: I share a one-bedroom apartment with KM Ruiz & two cats. I work 5 days a week at Starbucks, and 2 nights a week at a kitchen in a bar. How the hell am I supposed to cut English out of my life? I can't throw out KM's five bookshelves, I can't give up conversing with KM, I can't ignore my baristas or customers, and I can't tune out the TV or blare only Japanese rock from our skullcandy speakers. My apartment is set up in a way where immersion would mean getting what I want (language skills) at the cost of everything I have.
I'm not the only one who's balked at his advice and approach. The owner of the site, "Khatzumoto", answers this dilemma with a more-or-less "Yes, I know what I'm asking you to give up, but you're the ones asking what to do to have my success. You asked, I answered." His success is basically his journey from zero to fluent in Japanese in a jaw-dropping 18 months. How do we argue with that? We can't.
He doesn't ever say the path is easy, nor does he say it will be easily accepted by our peers. He says to forget about the situations we can't control (job, family, etc) and focus on what we can (journey to work, lunch breaks, afternoons and early mornings, etc). If we can't commit 100%, then we at least have to commit 100% of the time we can control.
It's brilliant. It's fascinating. It makes perfect sense, and I want it.
But even still, I fall short. Facebook? Twitter? These things I can give up and ignore in my free time. But my books? I won't stop writing those. I can't. Even if my work-in-progress was the only thing standing between me and fluency, I'd keep chugging away. I'd prolong that final stretch to my goal so I could eat my cake AND my mochi at the same time.
So what's a girl to do?
Well, here's a start. I'm going to finally identify writing as a job. Instead of having 2 jobs, I'll have 3. Writing will have designated work times, same as everything else. Then I can't feel guilty about my Japanese interfering with my writing or vice versa. Writing will have its place, and Japanese will dominate everything else. I'll try this for a little while and see how it goes.