Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Writing and Other Priorities

by Janis Patterson
I try to write every day. Not because some writing guru or bestselling writer says it’s the only way to write or because it’s the ‘technique du jour’ or because it is reputed to guarantee sales or because of any other fanciful explanation. I try to write every day because the more I write, the more books I finish and (hopefully!) the more money I make.
Some things, however, supersede sales, and yes, even money. Not many, I will admit, but family tops the list. I can always catch up on my word count. The book will still be finished if I fall a little behind. The world will not end, no matter what an editor might say, if I miss a deadline.
Now I’m not talking about taking a nephew to a soccer game or going to lunch with an aunt… those are ordinary everyday things that should be scheduled around your work, just as if you worked in an office or in a factory. Just imagine telling your boss you had to leave because you had to chauffeur a kid to a game! It is just the same if you write – nothing changes just because you’re the boss. You work for yourself just as surely as if you worked for a multi-national corporation, and you should have the same attitude towards work. You are both boss and employee.
One of my favorite sayings is that when you work for yourself you might work 23 hours a day, but at least you get to choose which 23!
There are times, though, when all the rules go out the window. Family need trumps career every time. My beloved sister-in-law has gone into the hospital for a total knee replacement. She is a widow – my brother passed away almost a decade ago – and her children all live more than a fair distance away. I’m almost through with a book – two weeks dedicated work will get it finished, with a half-finished one and a completed one waiting to grow cold for editing in the to-be-done queue, but at the moment they’re off the table. My sis-in-law needed someone to drive her to the hospital at zero-dark-thirty in the morning, and I was not going to let her go into surgery alone. No, I didn’t go into the operating theatre, fascinating as it would have been – I stayed in the waiting room. I firmly believe, however, that no one should awake from anesthesia alone.
So – two days without writing. My career will survive, and if it doesn’t, my family is more important. I can catch up, though, and with a clear conscience. Besides, I firmly believe that 90% of writing is done between the ears – the keyboarding part is mainly mechanical – and I can think anywhere. At least, I could try, if my fellow denizens of the surgical waiting room would not keep the TV at a level somewhere between foghorn and earthquake!
 My sister-in-law will go directly to rehab after a couple of days in the hospital, and when she eventually comes home her children will have taken time off from work and traveled down in turn to stay with her until she’s strong enough to return to her regular life. Plus, I’m just a phone call away.
If she wants to go to a soccer game, though, she’s going to have to drive herself. Because I am a very stern boss, I’ll be working.


Unknown said...

Hi Janis! What an inspiring article. Thanks for addressing this.

I know what you mean--family takes priority, and we can always catch up.

I remember having to spend the day in the hospital because of my mother, and another day because of my father. I ended up writing during the hours of sitting there. Otherwise I would have gone crazy with worry! (Both surgeries went well, btw.)

Anonymous said...

You are so right. If I could go back and tell my younger self anything it would be Put Family First. I love how you show the difference between what that really means and how we sometimes confuse it with those moments you need to schedule around. I hope her surgery goes well.
Thank you for this post!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

With you 100%, Janis. Family needs always come first with me as well. I also try to write every day, preferably early in the morning. But I never begrudge taking care of whoever and whatever else needs attention.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Well said, Janis. We have certain obligations that trump writing, and family is number one on the list.

Lois K. said...

Janis, to have both family and career works in the long run. I've managed for 28 yrs and 70 plus bestsellers. It's a lot easier now, than when I started as a single mother of 3 with a full-time job and 2 major publishers. For one thing, iPads/computers can be hauled out of purses to take notes on stories, etc. during breaks and waiting periods. (I used notepads) Waiting rooms are great story-catchers. Also dictation helps to catch and hold ideas. So all is possible and the stories are there, waiting. :) Cait London

Anonymous said...

it sounds as if you have your priorities right. After suddenly being laid off and having lots of time, I find myself taking it easy. However, I still start writing right after breakfast. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to spend more time on e-mails because my editor might have finished marking the changes she wants. Since I didn't get one from her, I need to stop reading e-mails and get busy.
Carolyn Rae Williamson
Romancing the Gold, coming soon from Noble Romance

Carole Price said...

I love the "between the ears thinking." I do that a lot. When I'm driving, hiking, chores at home. I can't concentrate if my desk is messy, so I clear that away then write, do research, etc.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I agree with you. When the chips are down, family and friends are what matter and even the writing career can become meaningless. It's important to remember this when the marketing and promotion tend to take over. The muse will return when these other needs subside.

Earl Staggs said...

Excellent, Susan. A happy life is a matter of setting your priorities in the right order. Loved ones first, everything else second.

Morgan Mandel said...

Time for me to write!