I Don’t Have Time: Setting Priorities
Time seems to be something that is rather slippery. It is also the first thing people ask me about when they find out I am a writer. “How do you have the time?” Other people who aspire to be authors will tell me, “I wish I could be a writer, I just don’t have the time.” I often find myself running out of time before ever getting to work on the projects I promised myself I would do, especially my writing.
But we all have the same number of hours per day. We each get 24 hours. I spend eight of mine asleep. And since today is my day off from work, I should still have 16 hours to do everything I wanted to do… right? I woke up with that intention. But, I’d already slept in an extra hour. Than I spent another hour laying in bed wondering why I didn’t get out of bed. I spent another two and half hours tinkering with Plasma Frequency‘s website, which was a projects I planned to leave alone for today. I spent another few minutes thinking about lunch, and now I am finally sitting down to write this blog post. I’m only about four hours behind schedule.
Now that I am typing I finally feel like I am getting something done. But really, I had a lot more planned to do today. I was supposed to write a lot more in my current work in progress and I was supposed to get some time to do a little more reading. But in two hours from now I get the kids from school. After that it is snack time, homework time, dinner time, and then I can relax. No wait, next I have a sports league board meeting to attend. Once I get home from that I have to get the kids to bed and go to bed myself. I have a 5 am shift at work tomorrow.
What was supposed to be a day of writing, maybe even 5,000 more words written in my next novel, is actually going to wind up being little more than a blog post day. Where did all the time go? It went right out the widow with a lack of priorities.
When I was at WorldCon, I really wanted to be like these folks I saw on panels. I wanted to speak, teach, and help other writers. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that this year. What I was able to do was listen. And when I really heard what people were saying, I learned. One thing that really spoke to me came from a panel that I ducked into while waiting for the next one to start. Unfortunately I don’t know the name of it, or who to give credit to. But the speaker said, that you had to set priorities if you wanted to be successful as a writer. And writing had to be a top priority. Family should come first, keeping a roof over your head and meals on the table had to be next, and third you needed to focus on what you wanted.
I am paraphrasing, and again I apologize that I can’t figure out who said this. But it really spoke to me. I’ve spent my recent years trying so hard to be so successful at something, that I am not being successful at anything. In recent years I have tried two runs for City Council, I volunteered for a sports league’s board or directors, started a magazine company, published two novels, took a trip to Texas, got a promotion at work, started two other novels, and took on coaching a soccer team. This is just some of what I am doing. And all of it means that I am trying to do too much.
Now, let me factor in that lazy time. You know the time I check Facebook and Twitter every ten minutes. Or the time I spend just sitting on the couch watching TV that I don’t even really care about. The aimless internet browsing for no real reason. Or the time I spend just plain sitting on my ass doing nothing.
So I decided to set my priorities in order. It is time I consider what I really want in life. I want a family that loves and supports me, which I have. And I want to contribute real value to the science fiction and fantasy community. My goal is to write quality fiction, and publish quality magazines.
My first priority has to be my family. There is only so much time any of us has on this planet and I don’t want to remain forever locked away from my family either. So I’ve committed to try to get out to more family vacations. When I went to WorldCon, that was the first vacation my family had together since my wife and I had our honeymoon. Ten years of no vacations made things rough.
My second priority is to keep my family fed, clothed, and sheltered. Right now, that means I need the day job. It pays for those vacations I mentioned above, but it also pays to keep the lights on and the roof over our heads. So for the time being working a “real” job is a priority.
My third priority to become a successful contributor to the writing community, namely in science fiction and fantasy. I do that through two methods. I publish short fiction through Plasma Frequency and I write my own books.
Everything else is not that important. I enjoy volunteering with the sports league, but I don’t think I will coach after this season. The time I have to volunteer will be spent on the board of directors. Facebook and Twitter are important to my writing, but not more important than writing itself. I will continue to do my best to blog weekly, this is after all writing. But the aimless TV watching for no reason (I’m not giving up Sharks hockey) will have to stop. Reading is an important part of writing, so I think I can squeeze that in where it fits. I can read while I wait to pick up the kids. Or while they are doing their homework.
I also intent to buy a laptop or tablet I can write on. Right now I do all my writing on a desktop and that limits the time I have to do it. Hopefully getting more portable will help. But I don’t know when I will be able to do that.
All and all, priorities have to be set in order to succeed. Will I always stick to this plan? No. But if I try I know I can be very successful. It just takes time and hard work, and I am prepared to dedicate both to my goals.