All on the Same Fuse

The power just went out. No surprise. We’re getting into that chilly time of year, and my husband and I both work from home. Unfortunately, both of our offices, and the space heaters that we’ve squeezed into them to make them liveable, are on the same fuse.

I had a few minutes to stare at my blank monitor while Kind Husband went down to the basement to flip the fuse back on, and in those minutes, I remembered something that I just read.

“The number reason books don’t get finished is this: writers say yes to other things.” (Heather Sellers, Chapter after Chapter)

This time of year, in particular, that’s a problem for me. I’ve been a raving volunteeraholic since my teen years. (Mandatory 40 hours of community service? Please. I used to whip that off in a month.) I hate saying no.

And it’s hard to say no — after all, other than a minimal supply teaching schedule, I work from home. I’m here. My schedule is flexible. No one is beating down my door, asking for those manuscripts I’ve got lying around in various stages of non-market-readiness. So it’s really easy to push the writing aside and make time for other things.

Terry Fox Run committee? Sure. I’m a cancer survivor, and I want to help. SCC meeting? Yeah, I really should be involved in my daughter’s school. Yearbook committee? Girl Guides? It’s so, so easy to say yes, and so easy to watch the minutes disappear. Heck, I even find ways to do extra volunteer work for writing-related organizations — isn’t that kind of like writing?

But here comes the transparently obvious metaphor. All those things run on the same fuse, and so does writing. And — as a recent power outage will attest — they can’t all happen at once.

Writing takes not only time, but mindshare. And for me at least, mindshare doesn’t come easily. (Limited real estate? I hope not.) If I’m going to write, I need to focus on the writing. And that means treating it like a job, and making it clear that writing time is not up for grabs.

I’m working on it. When approached about the yearbook committee yesterday, I didn’t say yes. I didn’t quite manage a complete ‘no’, either, but… I’m working on it.

Any of you more focused, resolved individuals out there feel like sharing some strategies? I’d love to hear them!

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3 Responses to All on the Same Fuse

  1. Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that I devote far more time to others than I do to myself and my writing! My husband and hairy children are the priority. Next come extended family and friends. I also house/dog/cat/plant-sit for anyone in need. I bake for elderly neighbours. I shop with and for those in my building who find it difficult to do so on their own… and the list goes on. Add this to being– at times– stubbornly independent and something of a neat/tidy freak when it comes to my home, it makes sense that not much writing is being produced.

    In order to shift my focus, I’ve blocked off times in my day planner like appointments. I’ve vowed not to break these appointments with myself any more than I’d cancel a visit to the dentist if I had a toothache– painful analogy, but I think it works!

    Mindspace is invaluable to me. I have begun to take what I do more seriously than I ever have. If I hope others to do so also, I need to treat what I do with the same level of professionalism I would if I had any other type of job and reported to a boss or the public or a group of shareholders.

    Ultimately I anticipate the next stage for me to be an experiment in finding a balance between a comfortable level of professionalism and the flexibility required to find the gems in my creative spirit without the effort being forced.

    It is comforting to know that I am not alone in the struggle.


  2. Your “same fuse” analogy is very good, Erin. Also the concept of “mindshare”. Both will help me, I think, in my ongoing struggle to carve out that oh-so-precious space in the fuse box for writing.

    • Erin Thomas says:

      Thank you, Kathy! I’m not doing so well right now with the carving out space–Sarah’s off school for a couple of weeks, so my “fuse” is all used up on other things. 😉 But we’re having fun, and I know I’ll be back to my writing soon. I hope your work is going well!

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