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!