Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Too Busy To Write?


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I missed you all. A big thanks to Roseanna White for stepping in and blogging in my absence. I needed a break. As I often do in life, I took on too much, and was drowning.

Why do people do that? I think it comes from several places. Being responsible. Volunteering to help when help is needed, especially when the need is important. It could be necessities, like health or car troubles. Many have the desire to accomplish many things. The joy we get when we help others. Being people pleasers. Plus, there is this idea that the busier we are, the more important we are. And sometimes, we just don't know how to say, "No." Every offer that comes our way seems important. So we try to do it all. And we burn out.

I'm living in the burnout zone right now. A couple things have eased off, so that's helping, but I'm still in too deep. This requires a new way of thinking. A new way of making choices. It's not going to be easy to re-train myself. But I must. If I don't make some changes, I'm going to lose my mind!

And then there is writing. If I'm too busy to eat and even breathe, where does that leave time for creativity? When do I write? I schedule it in. And I sit in the chair and force myself. But the joy is gone. It's desperately hard work. And a large part of that is that I have a deadline looming and I'm too busy to think, so I'm not giving my brain access to daydreaming time. I've crammed too much in, and there is no time to think. The writing suffers. It becomes stressful. It's hard to even fit it in.




Here's the thing: We have to learn to choose. Madeleine L'Engle said, "It is the ability to choose which makes us human." We should be saying, "No" a lot more and being picky about what we say, "Yes" too. We need to choose how we want to spend our lives.

Most of us chose to start writing. The reasons varied, but when we started typing out words on a computer, we made a choice. And that's awesome. The problem is, there are too many options in life. So much is interesting. We want to do it all.

And then there are the things we HAVE to do. Eat. Sleep.

The things we SHOULD do: Work. Pay the bills. Study. Exercise.

The "must deal with" things that crop up here and there: Go to the doctor/dentist. Fix the car. Mow the lawn. Clean the house.

And none of that is the stuff we might actually WANT to do. Watch Doctor Who. Read Pride and Prejudice for the tenth time. Go to Disneyland.

When life rises up and threatens our writing time, how do we defend it?

Well, as Greg McKeown said in his book Essentialism"If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."

So, we must choose, we must prioritize, and we must learn to say, "No."

Choose
Most of you have already chosen to write. That's great. But this choice needs to be more than a one-time decision. Each time you sit down to the computer, it's a choice. And if the day goes by and you didn't write a single word, that was a choice too. It's not wrong to have days go by without writing. But if you have a writing goal and want to succeed, at some point you're going to have to choose to write regularly.

For mefor Jill WilliamsonI have chosen to write and make a career of it. It's a high priority on my life list and my number one work priority. Everything else work-related should come after writing.


Prioritize
What are your life goals? Write them down, then rank them. Where does writing fit in? If it's at the top, then you need to treat writing like it's at the top. If it's near the bottom, then writing is more of a hobby, and that's okay. You shouldn't give more time and effort to a hobby or something that's a ways down on your list of priorities. So, decide what your priorities are and where writing fits, and that will help you prioritize how you spend your time.

I've been around a little while, and I've learned something about myself. I'm obsessed with Story. My own. My parent's. Other people's. My characters'. Story is a theme word in my life. It's my One Thing. I'm all about Story. I want to write stories, tell stories, teach people how to write stories, and write my own life story. Knowing that helps me weed out opportunities that might come my way. I can ask myself, "Will this opportunity help me further my cause of Story?" A lot of times I can easily see a yes or no.

That doesn't mean I can never do things that aren't about story. I served as a mentor on my son's robotics team. That has nothing to do with Story. But it has to do with my son. And my family is prioritized before work in my life, so I made that choice.


Say "No"
When opportunities come your way, don't ever answer yes immediately. If you must respond, say, "Let me check my calendar and get back to you." That will give you the time to pause and think about each opportunity. Measure it against your life priority list. As I mentioned above, knowing that my writing career is about Story, helps me decide.

Here are some quotes from the book Essentialism that might help you learn to say, "No."

"Protect the asset." (Hint: the asset is you! If you always say yes, you will run out of energy at some point.)

"If you're too busy to think, you're too busy. Period."

"Sometimes what you don't do is just as important as what you do."

"'No' is a complete sentence." -Ann Lamott

"If it's not a definite "yes" the answer should be "no."

"Fewer things done better."

"Which problem do I want?" (Choose the problems you want to have and say "no" to things you'd rather not deal with.)

How are you doing? Are you too busy to write? Too busy in general? What are some things you can say "No" to that will free up time in your life for writing? 

Do you have a One Thing that you're all about, like I'm about Story? What's your One Thing? Share in the comments.

Also, if you're still thinking about the Realm Makers writing conference, I've got a $50 off coupon for you right here:


38 comments:

  1. Love this post.. my life is so overwhelming right now for reasons I have no control over... but my choosing to write is HELPING me get through it. And I am thinking I'll be at that conference this year ;D

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    1. I so understand overwhelming, Keturah! I'm glad writing is a help. And I hope to see you this summer! :-)

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  2. I'd love to go to Realm Makers but it's not happening this year. By next year I hope to have money saved up, and a book ready to pitch (scary thought), and probably one of the most important things, propose the idea to my family several months ahead of time so they can get used to the idea. I've never gone anywhere by myself before, so it will be a big step --- but, as I keep reminding myself, a big step toward being a real live authour.

    Right now I'm a junior in college, in the last third of the semester, with several big projects on hand, and how is Holy Week next week already??? But I must admit I don't have to fight as hard for writing time this semester, because most of my classes have a lot of writing involved, whether it's papers for Philosophy, or short stories for workshops. The new difficulty, one I'm still not used to, is that all the writing I'm doing, I'm doing to order. Other people are telling me what to write and how long it has to be. For a writer who usually doesn't plan, and whose word counts tend to run away with her, that takes getting used to.

    https://ofdreamsandswords.wordpress.com

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    1. It is a big step to travel away from home for the first time. Good idea letting your family warm up to the idea, Sophia. It's amazing that you have found time to write while in college. I am amazed. Good job, you! Yes, those assignments aren't always as creative as you'd like, but they are excellent practice. Life is filled with seasons, and college is college! LOL But you already see how fast it's going by. Soon you'll be in a different season and writing will look different as well.

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  3. I've been feeling a little overwhelmed. I get stuck in my writing and just call it a day. STRESS overload. Some things are really important and I can't change them. Plus, it's getting closer to the end of the school year, so I'm like overloaded to projects that I'm doing. It's so hard to fit writing in. I just write when I feel there is a "creative" time for me. If I see that there's a little space to fit my writing in, then I try and do it. It's not always that easy. :\

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    1. That is really smart. School has to come first, you guys. And you don't have to feel bad or apologize for it. And school is A LOT of work. My son is only in 9th grade and I am SHOCKED at the homework he has in his SMT magnet program. It's more than I had in college. So writing when the creative urge strikes you is SO WISE! Keep at it. You're doing great. And know that "It's not easy" is perfectly normal when you're trying to squeeze writing in. Methinks I should write a post on Deep Work...

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    2. Thank you! I know, school is gettin' harder. :)
      Yes, please do a post about that! That would be super helpful. :)

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  4. I probably should be writing, but I don't. I'm not sure why. I think it takes mental strength to sit down, and say, "I'm going to write this." I also need to start my beginning of a first draft which for some reason I can't seem to do. I thought I could and that it would be easy. Nope.
    I. Just. Need. To. Write. And it's not working. :(
    Any tips for pounding out some words?

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    1. I read books, and somehow, it gives me so many ideas. I have the same problem a lot of times, and I feel like I have to force myself to actually write. Maybe if you just start fixing some of your other WIPs, then you might get some ideas on what more to write. I do that sometimes. I hope this answers your question. :) *and helps*
      Also, acting your scene out helps. You just say things that you would say to the character and write it down in a notebook. That helps me. :)

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    2. Thanks! I think I'll end up locking myself in my room and acting it out (I may or may not be too good at that). I'll also work on my WIP.... I haven't done that for a while.
      Thanks again!

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    3. It doesn't matter if your good at it. *Plus your in private so it's a win, win either way. :)*
      No problem, just wanna pass on the help. :)
      NOTE: Make sure the notebook is in arms reach. You don't want to forget the perfect bits and pieces of what you acted out. *Learned this the hard way*

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    4. Acting out the scene is a great idea. I love that! I tend to daydream my way through difficult scenes while I'm driving or doing dishes or something mundane. The key is finding a way to excite myself about the difficult scene. If you hate the idea of writing it, then you need to figure out why. What is boring or daunting about the task? And what might make it more fun?

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    5. I got the idea from a blog, and It really works. I love acting and I love writing, so it's a win win either way. :)
      YES! When I'm taking a car ride or just going on a trip, I get SO many great ideas. :)
      If it really excites me, then it's not bad at all to write it. Hmm, good ideas! Thanks Mrs. Williamson.

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  5. Thank you so much for this amazing post!!!!!! <3
    I feel like LHE with the school year ending. We've been super busy with that. But I have come to the decision that writing is not my career.
    I LOVE WRITING, don't get me wrong, but school is more important to me. I've had dreams since I was little to become a Geologist or an Artist, and I'm going to have STUDY to succeed in either.
    Writing is more like a hobby. Who knows! Maybe I'll actually finish a book someday, but there are things a little more important to me that I need to work for.
    Okay. That is not to say that I'm going to stop writing. In fact, I may never stop. But I'm going to pace myself and give myself time to do other things.
    Thanks again for the post!!!

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    1. That is fabulous, GJE! Aren't priorities amazing? They really help give you permission about where to draw healthy boundaries around your investments of time and education and practice, etc. I'm so glad you know what you want to do and what writing means to you. That is so great. And writing is a fabulous hobby too. :-)

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  6. I think college is an eternal burn out zone. I'm working on so much and feeling overwhelmed half the time. For some reason I decided I could do two careers (theater and writing) but it's a hard thing. I don't want to delegate writing to only the summer but I often lack the energy and focus to do anything. On the upside, I am mashing my two things together and trying my hand at playwrighting. I think I just need to learn to value my time better and spend less of it wasting away. We will see where that takes me.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Bethany. Yeah, your teen and college years are about discovering who you are and what you want to do with your life. And while that process continues throughout life, it's important to let yourself try other things. Because how else will you know?

      I'll add that I've struggled to be about two major writing genres. I write fantasy and I write nonfiction writing craft books and blog that too. And it's really hard to say, "Today I'm going to write" when I also have to blog. It takes two different parts of my brain. And to really do my best fiction writing, I need to be immersed. So it's when I can't get immersed into the fiction because I'm so busy that I'm grabbing an hour here and there, it's just plain hard. I'm embarking upon a new trial season in which I'm going to try and have a month of nonficiton, then three months of fiction. I'll still have to have that hour a couple days a week in which I schedule posts and reply to comments, but I'm hoping that if I've written the posts in advance, everything else will be easier and my nonfiction won't continually derail my fiction. I don't know it it will work, but I'm hopeful. It's good to try new things to see what works and what doesn't.

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    2. New things are good when you can get the courage up! I definitely value writing over theater. I chose to major in theater over writing because I thought that if I went to college I should choose the thing I would have less chance of getting a job in without a degree (theater teaching, etc). I could have just not gone to college and focused on my writing, my first love, but I felt a call to come here, at least for now. I need to put writing first, though. I really do.

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  7. I absolutely love Essentialism. Reading that has really empowered me to organize my priorities and stand by them. You'll get through this season, Jill!

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    1. Yeah, I think I'm going to have to read it again and again. LOL

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  8. Ah, Realm Makers... Cue the angelic chorus. It sounds really fun, but it's very far from home. Perhaps I can work out a way to attend, though, assuming I survive this school year.
    Thank you for this post, Mrs. Williamson! And good luck on your new writing plan!

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  9. Bless this post. This is exactly what I needed today. I AM too busy, and that quote about being too busy to think hit me right in the noggin. Thanks for sharing, Jill. I think it's way too easy for me to forget that I have choices--both when things seem overwhelming and when I need to take responsibility and admit to myself that I CHOSE not to do something I should've done.

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    1. I'm glad it was what you needed, Amanda. :-)

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  10. For me school has to come first, but most of my other time is spent on writing and reading. Thankfully we're nearly done with school and I'll have more time to write. Mercy, I need to be writing right now! 😱

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    1. Good, Zane! School should come first, but summer is coming... :-)

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  11. I just started a new job that leaves next to no time for writing. It's really depressing because this job is one I enjoy and it uses my college degree, but I want to be published and eventually have that as a career. So now I am at a crossroads: push writing off indefinitely or seek out a completely different job.

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    1. Ugh. I feel for you. That's a hard decision. :\

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    2. If you love your job, treasure that! The reality is, most authors are bi-vocational for a long time. I would be if not for my husband, and I have 18 books published. There is no guarantee that writing will pay your bills, and everyone has or will have bills to pay. So enjoy that job you love and look for ways to fit in writing. If you get to the point where you're making enough writing, then you can drop that other job and go full-time. But you've got to eat, right? It really doesn't matter what job you have to pay those bills, and if you like it, that's amazing. Lots of people have to work whatever job comes along and they're miserable, but they do it because it's a paycheck.

      There are seasons in life for everything. And I have dear friends who are multi-published who also work full-time jobs. They don't get to write as much. They have to learn to pace themselves more slowly and they schedule in writing time before or after work each day. Routine helps.

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  12. I have such a hard time prioritizing things, but at the same time, I realize how important it is. I end up spending all my time being torn about what matters most instead and not actually coming to peace about it. Bleah.

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    1. It can be so hard! I totally relate. It might help you to practice choosing between two things. Try to start small. Ice cream one or two. (It's always tempting to get both, but practice choosing!) You might also go by seasons. Choose one thing for a quarter or half a year and give it your all. Then switch and choose the other thing you love. See if switching will help you be able to do both. It might not. But as I said above, there are seasons in life, and there is no reason you cannot choose one thing now and then, in a few years, choose another.

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  13. OK. I needed this post!! I'm so glad that I followed this blog a couple days ago because if I hadn't, I probably wouldn't of read it. ;)

    I like how you said to make a list of what's a priority. I don't think I'm going to make writing a job yet but I don't really want it a hobby either. I think I need to say "No" more often and not think that I have to do something just because someone asks me.

    - Lilly Shyree (alillyingodsgarden.blogspot.com)

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    1. I'm so glad you're here, Lilly! Welcome. :-) Yes, it helps to know where writing falls on your priority list. And once you have that list, you should be able to say no easier, since you'll have the list to remind you what you're all about.

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  14. Thank you for this post, Jill!
    I've really been struggling with priorities lately as I have a hard time saying "no" to people. I really want writing to be a priority in my life as I love story and story has played such a huge role in my life!
    However, I have found that I've said "yes" to too many commitments: some of them short-term, some of them long-term. What do you do when you've committed to too many things and have reached the point where you don't even have time to think?

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    1. You have two choices. You can 1) Stick with your commitments until they end, then say no the next time around. Or you can 2) Politely back out. Say, "I'm sorry, but I need to give you two weeks' notice on this. I'm overwhelmed right now. I took on too many things, and something has to go. Thanks for understanding." It might be difficult and you might ruffle some feathers, but in the long run, you will be happier and healthier too. Good luck, Megan! <3

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    2. I should probably take some time to list out everything I do and start going through and prioritizing! Then I can figure out what I value most and try to either fulfill my commitments and say no next time around or politely back out as you said. Thank you so much for the advice!

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