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Friday, October 17, 2008

Being a selfish writer

I've always been pretty good about managing my writing time. Way I see it, it's my job, so I treat it as such. (We won't get into the part where I'm a bit of a workaholic...) But lately, because of Various and Sundry, those little pests, the writing time has been whittled away. I help out with a contest or agree to speak on a panel and that's around the normal everyday stuff like homework and cooking and laundry and making sure the dogs get fed because if I don't make sure, then we know what happens.

Admittedly, these distractions have been a bit of a welcome relief this summer when things were beyond rough on the writing front. However, I've found myself getting increasingly annoyed by the distractions. I allowed the distractions to take over to the point where they eroded a great deal of my writing time. Time that's always been sacred to me. When I get into a writing groove, I don't like—actually, don't allow—anything to get in my way. Problem is, I haven't been able to get into a groove. And every time it seems like the groove's within my reach, something implodes.

This stops now.

The kids? Are old enough to cope with their homework and hey, isn't that your dad over there in front of his computer? Ask him. He has answers too. The laundry doesn't really need to be folded. Cooking is actually relaxing so that can stay on the list, but I'm teaching the kids how to make simple stuff. The dogs? Okay, well, they're my dogs, so they can stay near the top of the list.

Now-- we get to volunteering. Heh. Riiiiiiiiiight.

As another writer friend of mine said, "Welcome to my year of saying 'no.'"

I'm all for paying it forward. I'm all for helping out. I'm not necessarily going to say no right off the bat. But if it's not convenient for me, then guess what? No. I'm a writer. I want to write. And let's face it, I have a temperament that's ideally suited for writing since I like hunkering down in my cave and spending long stretches of time in my own head.

I think it's important for us, especially those of us who are women, because we find it very difficult to delegate responsibilities or again, as my very wise writer friend says, "We have trouble not being Superwoman." Let's face it—most writers I know, are control freaks to a certain degree. We have this attitude of "You know, it'll just get done faster and right if I just do it myself. Not to mention, many of us are of a generation that's had the notion drummed into us that we can have it all. And we can. But— we have to prioritize and that's where so many of us tend to falter, because we put everyone else at the top before us. We've been taught to be self-sacrificing, that we come last, that selfishness or self-indulgence is bad. (I think this is also a very American thing—what with that whole Puritanical origins and all.) Thing is, about most artistic pursuits, they're inherently selfish. You have to live in your own head and shut out the rest of the world, or at least that part of it that doesn't contribute to the process.

Frankly, I miss that. I miss that late night sensation where it's just me and the story and the characters and we're having our conversations and I'm having to wrangle them back into the story before they take a left turn to Albuquerque. Believe it or not, I miss emerging from that fog to find everything around me covered in a thin layer of dust, faintly surprised that the world has continued to revolve, that the sun has continued to rise, and that the kids can get their own breakfast.

So that's my goal—I'm going to do my best to recapture that.

Welcome to my year of saying no.


Jennifer Echols said...

The laundry doesn't really need to be folded.

Amen, sister.

To kick off your year of saying no, may I suggest NaNoWriMo? I'm doing it for the first time and I could use some company.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Okey doke. Done. I did it in '04 and it really helped kick start things, so here's to another kick start.

And... hey! Wait a second! I didn't say NO!



Danielle Joseph said...

I started off my day today with a big, NO. No, I could not sub at my kids' school today! So I guess I'm on a roll! And I'm going to try NaNoWriMo for the first time this year too. So it will be great to have you guys as company!!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Barb, thanks for writing this. I seem to have gotten myself into a similar pattern so it was good to read this and not feel alone and also to be reminded that sometimes I can just say NO!

Jan Blazanin said...

No is one word that leaves me feeling great for hours--maybe days--after I've said it. Because then I'm free from whatever obligation Yes would have tied me into.

Now if I can learn to tie my rear to the chair so I don't flit to a million other things while I'm supposed to be writing.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

It's amazing how incredibly freeing "no" can be, right?

Good on you, Danielle for having said it, Steph, figure out how to say it, babe-- it's amazing how much better you'll feel and Jan, I'll leave you with the words of wisdom I first heard from a very respected editor:

BICHOK! (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.)