Often times when someone finds out that I’m a writer, I will hear a comment like “I would love to write a book, but I just don’t have the time.” I hear this from people of all ages, all backgrounds, all circumstances. Typically this leads me to ask, “So, what do you do?”
The answers are typical also – “I have a job,” or “I raise my kids,” or “I go to school.” Now, these are all very legitimate time takers. I have done, or still do, all of these. My response used to be to say something like “When the time is right, you’ll be able to write your book.”
I don’t say that anymore.
I read an article in Writer’s Digest years ago where a very successful romance author was dealing with this same set of comments when she would speak at conferences. She was so tired of the 70+ retired women telling her they just didn’t have time to write that she finally began to respond with something to the effect of (and no, this isn’t exact), “Lady, I have two kids, I travel to conferences like this every three months, and I turn out a book a year. It isn’t that you don’t have time, it’s that you don’t make it a priority.”
Yikes – that’s harsh. And yet, I’m very tempted to begin using the same approach. In all honesty, everyone has excuses for what they can and can’t do in their lives, but what our choices ultimately boil down to are priorities. When you choose one thing as a priority, you can’t then use that as an excuse for something else. I think there is some sort of rule or law about it somewhere, but I can’t identify the source at the moment.
I don’t consider myself a super hero by any stretch of anyone’s imagination (my own or someone else’s). I have certain priorities by which I make decisions and choices in my life. For example: I am number one. That isn’t ego or selfishness, that’s necessity. If I don’t take care of me first, then I’m of absolutely no use to anyone else. It so happens that I have certain mental and physical issues that require extra time and attention in order that I am at my best functionality. I do yoga, I try to go to the gym, I take my medication, and I see a therapist when I start feeling that I need a little extra help. These are my priorities so that I can meet my other priorities.
My husband and children are next. I do whatever I need to do to make sure that I am there to support them, to keep them healthy and reasonably happy (not that I have ultimate control over their mental health, but at least I have a little influence). I love being a wife and a mother, even when my spouse and my kids aren’t all that loveable. That’s part of the package I chose, so it’s part of my priority.
I’m a writer. That is the next most important item on my list. I make certain that I treat this as a priority by making time in my day each day for some aspect of writing. Many times it is time spent at the computer, hammering away at the keyboard, and sometimes it is time spent reading. I make it a priority that some portion of my day is dedicated to this part of my life. I participate in my critique group once a month, and I read their work prior to attending group. This helps me to improve my craft, gives a chance to “talk shop” with others in my field, and gets me together with friends, which is the added bonus.
I am a teacher. In fact, I have two teaching jobs: one at the Arts Institute of Salt Lake (actually, it’s in Draper – go figure), and one with the Institute of Children’s Literature. My jobs provide added financial security for my family, as well as giving me an opportunity to interact with people other than through my blog or my email. My Arts Institute job provides the health insurance for my family, so in a way, it is meeting two priorities.
Everything else in my life falls beneath these things. They are accommodated only after I have taken care of the priorities. And yes, that means I don’t always have time for many things that I would love to do in my life. I would LOVE to be able to go back to singing regularly, but it isn’t a priority to me right now. Yes, I would LOVE spend more time knitting and crocheting, but unless I have a gift to make, this isn’t a priority right now.
I was talking with a coworker recently about the revisions on my book The Deepest Blue which is scheduled for release in Fall ’09. I told her that I knew two sections needed a lot of work, but that I wasn’t worried. I have until January to get the work done.
“How do you do everything?” she asked me.
Jokingly I said, “I just never sleep.”
She thought I was serious.
“Choices,” I said. “Priorities.” I give up a few things here or there because I have to. That’s not to say that it’s easy, or that I like it. But life demands this from us all the time. If you want to write, if you want to be a musician, if you want to be an artist, or a student, or whatever . . . you make choices, you prioritize, and you move forward.
Now, when someone says to me “Someday I want to write a book,” my response is “When it is your priority, you’ll make that choice and make the time for it to happen.”