What I had to give up to write
A few months ago I was talking to some friends about my decision not to quit working once I had a child. One of these friends made a different decision last year–intentionally putting down her writing to take care of her daughter in her first year. She told me she knew she couldn’t have written that year. ”But maybe you are superwoman,” she said.
Ha. I am not superwoman. I can’t do everything. In fact, at this point, I’m not doing much of anything, besides taking care of my daughter, keeping my house livable, and writing. But it’s not as if I started giving up things when she was born. I’ve long had a list of things that just aren’t going to happen, because doing them would crowd writing out of my life.
As we’ve been transitioning, I’ve been asking myself this question: what else do I have to give up to write? Because if I fit nothing else in my life, I’m going to fit my family and my writing. And as I prioritize those things first, lots of other things have to go.
So what don’t I do?
I don’t answer my phone. I don’t text. And I don’t return messages often either. People call me 40 times, but I have limited time with my hands and brain free, and that time needs to go into work. So the phone rings. And I ignore it. It’s not that I wouldn’t love to talk to the people who are calling–and I hope that the time will open up in the future–but right now, if I answered my phone every time it rang, I’d get nothing else done. It’s not personal. I’m an equal-opportunity ignorer.
I don’t respond to comments online. I don’t always return emails. I don’t read many blogs. I definitely don’t comment on them. I don’t tweet very often, and I respond to others’ tweets even less. And facebook? Forget it. It’s not that I don’t love you all. But if I spend all that time engaging online, I have nothing left to get work done.
I don’t often attend social events that happen outside my house. We have the space and the good fortune to host a couple weekly social things at home. But I’ve had to drop everything but those things, plus a LAN party every once in a while–also usually at our house. I’d love to go to more things…but I just don’t have the time or energy.
All that means I can’t keep up with as many people as I’d like to, as well as I’d like to. I love my friends. I am blessed to know so many wonderful people…too many to spend as much time with them as I’d like to.
I also can’t read all my friends’ books. The list of unpublished books by friends that I wish I had time to critique is long. The list of published books by friends that I wish I had time to read is longer. I expect these lists to get longer over the years, not shorter. That’s certainly been the trend so far.
And as much as I’d love to, I can’t hold a second job. Medical bills are expensive. Self-employment is precarious. I would love to get a job with a paycheck that I didn’t write myself. But I don’t have room to be a mom and run a business and write, too. If I had to get another job, one of those things would have to go, and let me tell you, it would certainly be the writing. I hope that won’t happen, but time will tell.
I’d love to say I gave up TV, but I don’t really like it, so not watching TV is not a sacrifice. We don’t have Netflix either. I watch one movie a month, or so. I still haven’t given up video games, because that’s what I do when my brain is dead, and for spousal bonding time, so that isn’t something I think it would be healthy to give up.
I’m sure there are more things. But it’s helpful for me to remember that I’m not being lazy when I don’t do all these things. I’m just intentionally choosing something else for my time. And whatever our priorities, we could all probably stand to use our time a little more intentionally.
Excuse me, now. I’m off to go meet a deadline.
Update: I’ve thought of another thing. I also don’t cook everyday. I love to cook. But I don’t have time to prepare each and every meal we eat. So Drew and I cook (often together) once or twice a week. We’ll make a large amount of two or three things that reheat easily, and then we eat that all week. We only make things we love, and we only make each thing once every few months, so we don’t get sick of our meals. Saves lots of time, and helps us eat healthy, too.