Saturday, January 14, 2012

Defending Your Time and Saying No

A good friend once asked me if I had been writing much lately.  I admitted that it had been a few weeks.  "Yeah, I can tell," she said.  "You get really cranky when you're not writing."

My friend was right. I do get cranky and it always takes me a day or two to realize why.  Once I realize it and sit down at the keyboard and work on some fiction, it's like a drug washes over me and suddenly all is well with the world once more.  It's like a runner's high.  The endorphin rush.  Working out is the same.  Once I begin moving my body and pumping the muscles, the Earth falls back into alignment.

Like everyone, I usually have a hundred and fifty things going on at once.  My calendar is full and I see no end in sight.  I spend time spinning my wheels as I move toward the next project.  I get frustrated and angry and start snapping at people who've done nothing to deserve my wrath.  The problem is that I've said yes to too many other people and not enough to myself.  That's when it becomes impossible to schedule the writing time or the gym time.  The things that sustain me take a back seat.  Until now.

It's been a crazy week and I knew yesterday was going to be especially demanding, so I decided to be proactive and force myself to sit at the keyboard before anything else.  I was going to write for one hour.  Anything that interrupted me was going to add time to the writing clock.  I was getting my hour in, damn-it.  The phone rang.  I answered, talked to my friend for a few minutes and added the time to the hour.  The dogs needed to go out.  Another ten minutes added.  I'm happy to say that I got my hour in.  An hour and a half to be exact.

An author friend of mine says you have to put writing on your calendar and fiercely defend that time.  She is right.  That hour and a half of "me" time is what got me through the rest of the day. It made what could have been a bad day bearable.

This works for everything.  We all need the "me" time for something that sustains us.  Whether it's writing, or working out, photography, reading, having coffee with a friend, whatever...  Choose your time and defend it!    We don't get extra time later.  We have to use what we have today, wisely.

As I do this, I'll have to say no to other people more.  That's never been easy for me.  I've always been an overachiever.  I'm a nice guy. I want to say yes to everyone.  Not really.  I don't want to say yes to everything, I just haven't had enough practice saying no.  Like at work, whenever I have a meeting, it seems I leave with more on my plate and someone in the meeting ends up with less.  I need to learn how to flip that.   The plate is full, folks.

Saying no takes practice.  I'll get used to it and so will they.  If not, screw 'em.  I'll have a finished novel and I won't have bitten their heads off to get there.  Isn't that for the greater good?

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Best advice anyone ever told me: "Everytime you say no to someone else, you're saying yes to yourself."