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 Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 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."
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 me—for Jill Williamson—I 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.
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.
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: