July 23, 2010

Just do it!

When I put out a call for guest bloggers and mentioned the topic, Jeffe responded immediately. But it came with a warning. "I'm of the militant, 'make the time' school," she said. I thought that sounded great, 'cause I for one could use a kick in the rear every once in a while. And I love honest, no nonsense people.


Jeffe is a prolific and diverse writer. Her large body of work includes essays and poetry, science fiction, fantasy and erotica. She has won numerous awards, and her work has been featured in several anthologies. Her latest piece, Petals and Thorns (it falls in the last category, just so you know), launched earlier this month. And, she completed a novel and sent the manuscript to an interested agent this week! Fingers crossed for you, girl!


You can learn more about Jeffe's writing here. In the meantime, she has a very strong message to share about pursuing your passion, "Just do it!"


So, I’m the third in Elizabeth’s guest-blog series on finding the time for your passions in the tumult of a busy life.




I warned her straight out that I’m militant on this topic. Ericka and Jenn both offered terrific strategies for dealing with life going awry and how to adjust for that. I’m warning you now that I’m not about balance. I’m about priorities. I’m going to tell you something different: you owe it to your passion to make everything else adjust to that.

No, really. I mean it.

For me it’s writing, so I’m going to speak to that, but I think any art or discipline will be the same in principle.

When I first started writing, I worked a full-time job in Environmental Consulting (still do), had two young stepchildren and studied and taught martial arts in the evenings. So, my first caveat is, no, I never did the baby/toddler thing and I have no idea how any of you manage to do anything besides that. I won’t even touch that. But I will tell you the main thing I learned:

You will never, ever find time to write.

It simply doesn’t happen because there is always something else that needs doing. There will always be plenty of people ready to have you help them with their stuff instead and, as women, we respond to that. (If there are men reading this, I’m assuming you’re nurturing types, so same goes.)

If you want time to write, you must make it.

Not just make the time, but carve it out of nothing and defend it with all the ferocity in your heart. You have to get mean about it, even, which isn’t easy. But if you’re not willing to carve out that 30 minutes or one hour or two hours every day and build a wall around with razor wire on top, everything else in your life will eat it up.

I don’t know why this is, but it’s true.

More, you have to go the extra step and make that time more important than anything else. Yes, that’s what I said: more important than anything else. Because if it isn’t, then all the things that are more important will turn out to be everything and they will devour it without regret.

This is what I’ve learned over fifteen years of writing. If you make that chunk of writing time sacred, it will get done. And then you will have all the rest of the hours of every day to devote to all of your other duties and devotions.

It won’t be easy, especially at first. You might have to get mean. You might hear yourself saying things like “I know it looks like I’m just staring at the computer screen, but until x o’clock, I cannot help you find your blue shirt, feed you, staunch your bleeding wound, etc.

So, yes, okay, sometimes there will be emergencies. But when you create your sacred writing time and build the wall around it, pick a time when someone else can deal with the blood. Or when the potential bleeders are sleeping and thus less likely to get themselves into trouble.

Ursula Hegi, in her terrific book Intrusions, talks about her youngest child lying outside her office, breathing under the door. She learned to ignore it.

I do believe there should be balance in life, but I’m not sure it’s easy to achieve. I also believe that passion isn’t about balance. If you have a real passion, then it’s about a burning desire to do something.

So do it. Make the time and fight for it.

12 comments:

  1. I want to scoff at this and say, "Easier said than done." I want to throw out my I Have A Toddler card. But deep down? Deep down I know you are right. Why? Because I have learned it for myself.

    I have committed myself to writing. I carve out time when I can (goal is one hour a day). For me, that time is when my "potential bleeder" has gone to bed. And I do protect it - vehemently. Hubby wants to talk about the latest Apple product? Not now, honey. Toddler wakes up? He's in charge of getting her back down. That is MY time! Now I have to focus on making that time more productive. I tend to spend most of it online, not writing.

    My weekends are writing and social media-free. Weekends are family time. Period. Writing comes during the week.

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  2. Jeffe: I knew there was a reason I loved you!

    Just do it. Just Write.

    Awesome post and so true.

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  3. Thanks Elizabeth and Kelly! Maybe that's what a passion demands - that we fight for it? Sure seems to be what's required!

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  4. This is great advice. Thank you for that.

    And you brought up Ursula Hegi. All the more reason to listen :)

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  5. Hi Jeffe!

    I agree that balance is an ideal but passion is where it's really at. I make time every day to write and promote. My twin sons have grown up knowing Mom works, too, even if it's at her computer. The door is shut or I put my hand up when I'm writing and they interrupt. They've learned not to interupt.

    Emergencies do arise. Last year, I struggled with a torn SI joint and bulging disc. I figured out a way to type while lying down. If anything, writing saved my sanity.

    If we want to be successful, published authors, we must commit to doing exactly what you're preaching. The more we succeed, the more our families and friends will support us. :)

    Great post! And have fun at the class reunion.

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  6. This is a great post and in general I do agree with it. I have toddlers and work and house and other work and yes all the things that mean no time. But the only time I genuinely, GENUINELY had no time to write was when I had a newborn. I would have wrecked myself and made life no fun for the baby to boot. So yes, in general, find the time, but nothing comes before your health and your sanity. Not even writing.

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  7. Wow, what a fantastic post. I'm a newbie at all this, but I agree -- in order to be successful (at anything, but especially writing, which is such an internally motivated and intangible journey), you have to set aside time to MAKE that success for yourself, and stick to it, because no one else will make that success for you.

    I honestly cannot comprehend how those of you with families and children manage to find time to write and become successful. I find it staggering and utterly admirable. As a full-time graduate student and part-time library assistant, I have a heavy workload sometimes, and maintaining that as well as *trying* for a social life is bad enough. But add a spouse and/or kids on top of that? The mind reels. Seriously, a shoutout and most sincere kudos to those of you who do that.

    Carving out sacred time and guarding it as you would your own child or your most sacred possession or your dearest friend seems to be the trick to Getting It Done. I'm beginning to realize that and put it into practice, and I can definitely see growth in my writing because of it.

    Thank you for such a great and powerful post, Jeffe (and thank you, Elizabeth, for your blog). I think everyone needs to read this, and often. I'm certainly saving it for later, to remind me when I need it. :)

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  8. I love how much you are all connecting w/Jeffe's post!

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  9. You are very strict, but I like it. Because you are right. Thanks, ladies!

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  10. Thanks Stacey! I just love Ursula Hegi, too. Intrusions is a great meditation on distractions from writing, think.

    Misty - You're right on and it sounds like you've taught your sons well! Passion requires sacrifice, no matter how you slice it.

    Claire K - I think you're right: there are absolutely times when life prohibits something like writing. But I think at those times, then you let it go. You don't think about "finding time to write" because that just can't be part of your life right then. Then it becomes a choice.

    Thanks Claire! I'm flattered this is something you want to revisit. It's not at all an easy transition to make, but it has to happen if you're serious about succeeding.

    Yes, Elizabeth - I *am* very strict! And you'll learn to LOVE it! ;-)

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  11. YES! YES! I just added a short story and short movie to my blog (http://thechinproject.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/the-sad-man-episode-one-and-two/) that I started four months ago while my wife was in labor (after the epidural of course!). The story was literally eeked out word by word, and the video second by second in between diaper changes, rocking, bouncing, and tending to Lori, three cats, a dog, and trying to maintain and improve a 100 year old house.

    I'll add a few things:

    Sometimes the "I shoulds" have to be put aside. For example, that mulch pile that you 'should' spread isn't that important next to the all- holy manuscript.

    The negative time away from the computer or the pen is "work" too. There's no reason why you can't be working through a tough section or mentally revising while jogging around the block with a fussy baby.

    Not sure how I got to this page, but thanks for posting.

    Keep Going

    Ryan Chin

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  12. Ryan - I so agree. Often making this time is about revising the "I shoulds." And yes, manual chores can be great thinking time. Good luck to you!

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