Thursday, August 9, 2007

Making Time - Put Your Foot Down

"If you really want to write, you find the time."

That's bullshit.

I know you've heard that little adage - one of the many "Golden Rules" of writing tauted by every once-published has-been and best-sellers that pay others to ghost-write their books. There is a nugget of truth to it, but there is also a lot of cynicism and snobbery.

My neighbor has three kids - one of whom is only 8 months old and the other two are 12 and 9. Her car is broken down and she has had to ask me for a ride to basically everywhere over the past several weeks. Now, normally I wouldn't mind this, and I have certainly helped her as much as I can, but she also has no phone. I am on dial-up right now until they figure out why my new DSL service isn't working, so in the past month or so, no matter what I am doing, I have had to literally drop what I am doing at least once every day or two to go and take her and her family somewhere they just absolutely have to go - like swimming or to a local fastfood place because she just doesn't feel like cooking - and, worse, I have had to stop what I am doing at least a zillion times while she or her 12 year old borrows my phone for "just a minute."

This can be devastating to a writer. Unlike some other jobs, the creative arts are not the kind of job you can just stop in mid-course and pick right back up where you left off. And while it is true that you cannot sit around, waiting for inspiration to strike, it is a fallacy that you can just "create" inspiration on the fly - furthermore, I do not suggest even trying! What happens when you try to "slodge-through" just to "get something on paper" is that you wind-up losing precious time churning out mediocrity that you slosh in edits anyway.

My suggestion is a simple one: take the phone off the hook, set your e-mail to "Vacation" mode, and put a sign on your door that says, "Do Not Disturb." Mine is a little Garfield door hanger I got when I was a kid and it is still in good shape. And don't be afraid to get a little angry and bless someone out when they refuse to pay attention to these unmistakable signs; as I've said before, if you are serious about what you do, you will soon come to realize that many others are not.

You should just take them aside - as politely as you can - when you need to and say, "Would you want me calling you at work 10-15 times a day, asking you to just leave your office and run me somewhere? Would you like it if I constantly showed up in the middle of one of your boardmeetings and threw a small fit because you can't talk to me about my day?

Writing - and really any creative job - is just as real a job as any other, even though it has its own quirks and ways of doing things that others might not understand. And if they cannot appreciate that and accept that what you are doing is a legitimate endeavor, then you should show them the same respect when it comes to their insistence that giving them a ride to the store isn't really important!

Maybe others don't feel that what you are doing is a "real job" or that important," but before you let them convince you of that, you need to decide just how important it is to you. And if you find that it really is important to you, you need to put your foot down and let them know - in no uncertain terms - that this is what you do and you demand to be shown some respect for it.

And if they want to consider you conceited or foolish, then all you can do is put them out of your mind for now and push forward. Once you are at a place where you feel you have more time to discuss things, you can try to engage them in a more civil manner and hopefully explain to them just what all is involved in your career and why it is so hard for you to be at their beckon call! Otherwise, let them go.

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