Why Our Time Matters

Why Our Time Matters

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When writers work from home, distractions abound.

We care for our homes and families, chauffeur kids, tackle laundry, prepare meals, and handle the day-to-day affairs that go with the territory.

We also field infringements on our time from outside sources. Those come by way of well-intentioned friends and family who may not realize that while we’re home, we are indeed still working. At writing. Yes—that.

And though we are home, our time still matters.

The truth is if we don’t value our time and treat writing as our career, no one else will either.

Prioritizing our work load isn’t something that always comes naturally. We must be intentional, focused, and goal-oriented. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions.

Life ebbs and flows. Of course, sometimes, unforeseen things upend our schedule. We know we have a problem, though, when we begin to see a pattern—when we allow things that could wait to hijack our day.

For people-pleasers, time management is difficult. We want to be approachable and available, yet we also understand the rigors of working from home. We have X number of hours during the day to get our work done before our families arrive home and our evening routine begins.

Occasionally, we try to juggle it all only to discover we can’t.

Writing is our job. Maybe we don’t yet earn the income from it we’d like. Maybe we’re still pursuing career goals.

Does that mean our work is less meaningful?

I’ll give you an example.

Many years ago, “Sally Sue” used to call me—usually more than once a day. I dreaded those calls that went something like this.

“Hey, Cindy. There’s a great meat sale down at the market. Of course, they tried to cheat me out of some deals, but I got everything worked out. Let me tell you about it.”

“I’m working just now, Sally Sue. Can I call you back when I take a break?”

“Oh, this will just take a minute. Five, tops.”

What do you think happened?

One guess.

Well, of course, those it’ll just take a minute phone calls morphed into thirty-minute commentaries.

And Sally Sue was always in a tizzy. Nothing ever went right. The world was against her.

Her calls left me resentful and deflated. For this see-the-glass-half-full gal, I was thoroughly parched by the time the calls ended.

As much as I wanted to be there for Sally Sue, it became apparent I needed to distance myself from what had become a disturbing pattern.

“Sally Sue, I won’t be available to talk as often,” I announced one day. Subtle hints hadn’t worked and neither had direct cues. It was time to cut to the chase. Tactfully. Truthfully. Lovingly. (Did I mention truthfully?)

“Oh, what do you mean?” The sound of an electric mixer whirred in the background.

I plunged ahead. “My time matters, Sally Sue. I work from home and when you call, that’s time away from work.”

“So, you want me to call in the evenings? I can do that.”

No. That’s not what I wanted at all. Evenings were family time.

“Sally Sue, that won’t work.”

Right then, I nipped this situation in the bud. I regretted not doing it sooner.

I told Sally Sue I’d only be able take calls on Friday afternoons and I could no longer chat beyond the ten-minute mark.

When she pushed the envelope, as I feared she would, I refused to answer her calls other than on Fridays. When ten minutes passed, I ended the conversation. Politely, but firmly.

Her parting line was always: “Wow. I guess you’re serious. Your time really matters, huh?”

Yes. And yes.

Sally Sue’s calls stopped altogether when we moved from the area. I prayed that God would direct her to the friend she so obviously yearned for. One who shared similar interests and attributes.

Since I’m a firm believer that God brings folks together for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, I recognize the time with Sally Sue as a defining point in my writing career.

When I grew serious about managing my time, I began to think in a new way. My craft (my work) no longer took a back seat to other “nobler” professions. I approached my job with a new mindset, having learned a valuable lesson in the process.

There are always times of sacrifice, but self-respect is non-negotiable.

See, here’s the thing—and may I be frank?

  • I may not always answer the phone.
  • I may not answer my door.
  • Dusting may have to wait, as well as clothes-folding, toilet-scrubbing, and errand-running.

And call me a “meanie” BUT

  • I will no longer serve on every committee, join every club, or attend social functions for the sake of “putting in an appearance.”
  • I can’t walk your dog.
  • I don’t do laundry (other than my own).
  • I won’t organize your closets, clean your kitchen, or mow your lawn.
  • I know nothing about stamp-collecting, beekeeping, or turnip-growing.

Because writing is my full-time profession, if I don’t value my time and my career, no one else will. That’s why there are times I must say “No, thank you” and “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to pass.”

Let me encourage you today to get real about your work—whether at a tabletop or a little niche inside your home.

Some folks will understand. Others won’t.

That’s when we love them anyway.

Then we silence our phones and eat chocolate.

While we work. 😊

***

As a writer, how do you handle life’s delicate situations?

Any time-saving tips you care to share?

 

Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. She loves to connect with friends at her online home. “Cindy” also hangs out on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. For love, fun, and encouragement, sign up for her monthly newsletters.

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12 thoughts on “Why Our Time Matters

  1. Oh this resonated with me, because I’m an unpublished writer — having doubts even on my own — let alone denying my time to others. Yes, I have to have the chores done before I sit down to write. And those chores go on and on…. Much to think about here. Thank you.

    • Ohhh…those dreaded chores! I used to be more meticulous than I am now. I’m still a pretty great potty-scrubber, but if one’s in use when I’m in cleaning mode? It may have to wait until another day. And you know what? It just doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things. They all get done…eventually. 🙂

      Now, did my people-pleasing ways change overnight? No. My perspective evolved over years. I knew I’d have to reorient myself to a new way of thinking if I wanted to write. I hope others would say I’m still kind and gracious even though I may have to pass when asked to serve on this and that committee.

  2. Oh, my goodness did this hit home. I have learned to be ruthless about guarding my time. If you do not then who will. Once you realize that writing is your ministry, you realize that when you allow “stuff” to stand between you and that ministry, you realize that you are not answering the call to write that God put in your heart for a reason. I’m sharing this post in the Seekerville Weekend Edition. THANK YOU!

    • Tina, you inspire so many with your writing ministry! And you are so right about guarding our time. Why does it take us so long to realize this? (And yet…I do have to say you are one of the most giving authors – and encouragers – in the industry.)

      Thank you so much for sharing this post in the WE of SEEKERVILLE!

  3. I am an aspiring author of a book I completed over six months ago. My critique group has been very insistent that before I continue my 2nd draft that I do a back story on my main character as they feel I don’t write her inner turmoil and conflicts clear enough to hold the reader’s attention. They said they won’t read anymore until I do this task! Meanwhile, I’ve been put on hold with my writing and feel I can’t continue to write with this pressure. Home is where I work and the distractions abound. I need to find a niche where I can write and ignore the phone as it rings!

    • Hi! Clearly, your critique partners have your best interest at heart and that’s great! The best mentors and critique partners are those who want to see us succeed as badly as we, ourselves, want to. They may practice tough love and nudge us to improve because that’s what this journey requires.

      If you’re feeling pressured at home with various distractions, schedule a few hours of your week at your local library…where silence is golden and Great Aunt Martha can’t call you on a whim. (Hint: Turn off your cell phone.) 😉

      Blessings as you move forward!

  4. Your example with Sally Sue is nearly exactly what I’ve just gone through with someone else only it had escalated to “emergency” driving along with phone or texts. It ended badly once I set a boundary for my writing – because as a pre-pinned writer I’m not a “real” writer, you know! The one good thing about these situations is they toughen us up and also show us a person’a true colours Thank you for this post today. You’ve taken the final sting of hurt out of that situation for me!

    • Laurie, so sorry you experienced that! While boundary-setting may take some getting used to, it’s something I think all writers need to do, regardless what stage we’re at in the journey. It’s a lot easier to define boundaries earlier versus later when nerves are stretched and patience is challenged.

      Gentle {{{HUGS}}}, friend.

  5. Pingback: September Update from My Niche in the Ozarks | AuthorCynthiaHerron.com

  6. Hi Cynthia!

    I learned to value my time when I was a homeschooling mom. You wouldn’t believe – or maybe you would – how many well-meaning people think you can drop everything and help with {fill in the blank} because “you’re at home anyway.” *sigh*

    And I have my own Sally Sue. I’ve told her I don’t answer the phone when I’m working, and she understands that. So she’ll call and leave a message instead. That works well for both of us. 🙂

    You hit the nail on the head, though, when you said, “The truth is if we don’t value our time and treat writing as our career, no one else will either.” We need to take the lead and SHOW others that this thing we do isn’t a hobby, or some scheme to steal time from our families. This is our job.

    I often think what would happen if my husband treated his job like a hobby – – he wouldn’t last long at it, would he? I need to treat my job the same way. It gets first priority during the time I have set aside for it.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Jan, for us people-pleasers, establishing boundaries can be tough. Ultimately, though, we’re better writers for it. Even for writers still on the journey, if we treat our craft as a hobby, that’s exactly how others will see it, too.

      Way to be proactive with your time!

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