A Question of Priorities
In January I read a great post called “The Truth About Finding Time to Write” where Jennifer Blanchard has several practical links about time management. She also makes an excellent point: time is not an elusive creature you can look for under a rock …
Time Hiding Out
… or in some obscure cranny you never noticed before. Time isn’t something you find. Time is something you have to make.
Unless you’re in school and some marvelous teacher requires you to write something creative, don’t expect anyone other than you and maybe some supportive, kind friend to say “Write that story! Write it now!”
I wrote about why I write, and it’s true! But. Wanting to write, believing in writing is still not enough to get me to take the time to do it. Before I started this blog, I carefully blocked out several hours a day on my new calendar for writing time. And I’ve ignored every single one of those blocks. Why?
“What is WRONG with me?!”
That’s the question I’ve been exploring.
CREED OF BEHAVIOR – a scientific observation
Why do I do anything? How do I set my priorities? I decided to get scientific and simply observe my actions – trying not to judge! If I’m not writing what AM I doing? Mind you, I set the rules here. I make the decisions (I’m my own boss) and I’m busy, busy, busy.
According to my actions, this is what’s most important to me:
I ALWAYS (every or almost every day):
Charlie -- a happy dog
Walk my dog, write my “morning pages” (a kind of journal from “The Artist’s Way”), read and respond to emails, plan, shop for food, cook dinner, volunteer for the Threshold Singers, play Sudoku, connect with friends and family, and read
I OFTEN (but probably not every day):
Do chores, chauffeur, act as household secretary (make appointments, etc.) and financial guru (pay bills, etc.).
Exercise (wii-fit!), knit, watch a movie or TV show, do a project, host a critique group, play with art, work on my blog, write fiction, garden.
Look how low on the list my writing is! Wow. Why isn’t writing more important to me? For a while this observation made me depressed. I used to be a writer. Now, I don’t know – do I even care any more?
Well, yeah. I do. Duh. So… again – why does so much take priority over my writing?
I came up with my Creed of Behavior – I was taught some of this by my parents, some by my sisters, some by life. Whether it’s “right” or not, I don’t even care at this point. It’s how I live. These are the rules that guide my actions without my even thinking about them.
1) Uphold my commitments to others
2) Not burden others
3) Serve to make the world (however large or small) a better place
4) Put myself in the other person’s shoes
5) Nurture myself.
This explains everything. The more categories an action can fit into, the more likely I am to do it! No wonder I spend so much time on relationships – that fits every category! And I spend so much time on Sudoku
because it’s short and takes zero energy and it’s like a little bit of
a little bit of Mathilda-nurturing
I can squeeze in (and so I squeeze it in and squeeze it in and soon it’s taken up more time than I want to admit to).
Writing has lousy standing for me because in my gut I don’t feel it fits all my categories:
1) I don’t commit to others with my writing – just to myself, and I don’t count (sad, but true); 2) Here’s an irony – I feel like asking others (like the publishing world) to read my work is burdening them! In addition, I burden my family and (ack!) 3) the world because choosing to write is choosing not to do something else that would better serve others. 4) This one is complicated. I do put myself in others’ shoes when I write: such is character development! But if we’re not talking character, putting myself in another’s shoes means that I see myself as someone who is really, really lucky to have the opportunity to write. The pressure of this blessing is enormous.
“You’d better take advantage of your opportunity, girlie girl!”
Scary. That’s a mean person whose shoes I just stepped into.
My conclusion is that, really, 5) I’m only writing to nurture myself. The thing is, other activities also nurture me: chocolate, Sudoku, crosswords, trashy romance novels, lunch with friends, theater, family time. These activities are easy to fall into. They don’t require set-up. They don’t require commitment or (often) brain power. They feel thoroughly indulgent, whereas writing feels like an endeavor, like a promise to the universe (see # 4 above). Don’t I already have enough commitments?
Can this change? I think I’m stuck with my creed, but I have a strategy to manipulate within it:
1) Nurture an audience for my writing through this blog. At some point I’ll figure out how to allow comments on the posts, and induce some of you to subscribe to my words! Then I’ll feel like I have a public who depends on me. 2) Heck, reading the blog is voluntary! No burdens there! 3) Maybe if I help just one other person, or someone finds something that resonates within them… if I can cast a light on the wonder of all of this humanity stuff, that serves my deepest sense of purpose. 4) I thumb my nose at mean Mathilda! 5) and yeah, it’s all about me.
In the meantime, I’m seriously dying to hear if anyone else has a Creed of Behavior they’ve figured out.