Why Our Time Matters

Why Our Time Matters

Original Image Credit: Pixabay/FreePhotos

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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A Writer’s Life: Waiting for Vizzini

When things go wrong along the writing road, what do you do?

  • When you face writer’s block as formidable as Fezzik (and please, no debate on whether writer’s block exists) …
  • When rejections attack you like a pack of shrieking eels
  • When your plot collapses like Vizzini’s battle of wits with the Dread Pirate Roberts

What’s your go-to plan for getting back on course?

In the much-beloved movie The Princess Bride, Vizzini was the brains, Fezzik the brawn, and Inigo was, well, the swordsman. (Sorry, I couldn’t come up with a “b” word for the guy wielding the sword.) Despite the fact that Plato, Aristotle and Socrates were all morons compared to Vizzini — or so he said — his plan to kidnap and murder Buttercup imploded.

Inigo: bested.

Fezzik: beaten.

Vizzini: plain ol’ dead.

Remember what Inigo did when the plan went south — well, besides drinking himself into a stupor?

He went back to the beginning … and waited for Vizzini.

Smart man, Inigo.

What do you find when you go back to the beginning?

“This is where we got the job, so this is the beginning.”

Inigo may not have been able to see clearly — heck, he couldn’t even stand up straight — but he remembered a fundamental truth: When a plan fails, go back to the beginning.

Are you discouraged? Did that long-anticipated yes turn into an unexpected no? Walk away from it — but don’t abandon who you are. Go back to the beginning and remember your purpose: You are a writer. You have a job to do. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. You get bested. Beaten. A dream dies.

Catch your breath, renew your heart … and then dream a new dream.

Who do you find when you go back to the beginning?

“I … am … waiting … for … Vizzini.”

Inigo was waiting for someone. For better, for worse, Vizzini was Inigo’s leader — the one he followed.

Going back to the beginning, waiting, doesn’t mean wasting time. Did you round the bend in the writing road and hit a dead end? Don’t be too proud to back up, turn around. Go back to the beginning and remember who you are as a writer. Answer this question: What makes your fingers fly across the keyboard? What keeps you up late and drags you out of bed early because you can’t not write this story?

Can’t remember?

Who is your Vizzini? Who first mentored you (maybe mentors you still)?Who helps nurture your dream? Who believes in you when you don’t? Go back to the beginning and ask them to help you remember.

It’s been fun talking about a writer’s life and the Cliffs of Insanity, the Fire Swamp, the Pit of Despair — and now Waiting for Vizzini. Everyone’s comments have made this more than a blog post — it’s become a conversation. So tell me, what lessons have you learned by going back to the beginning? 

*Just for fun, here’s a YouTube clip of Inigo waiting for Vizzini.

Post Author: Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an air force physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She writes contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.

A Writer’s Life: The Waiting Room

Today I’d like to invite you to join me someplace most, if not all, writers are familiar with. Where’s that, you ask?

The Waiting Room.

Oh. My. Word. Your groans probably registered on the Richter scale. Stop it right now and come on in. Yeah, the Waiting Room is crowded. And the magazines are out-of-date. But we’re here to talk, not peruse the 2005 issue of Bowhunter magazine

If you’re a writer, the Waiting Room is unavoidable. Truth is, if you stay the course, you’ll make repeated trips to this room where the hands on the clock never seem to move and you languish forever, wondering when someone will call your name and say, “We’ll see you now.”

Aren’t I just the messenger of all things light and breezy today?

Why, you ask, why the Waiting Room? It’s such a waste of time.

Is it really? 

What can you learn while you wait? (Yes, I know you’d rather get seen and get out of here. But stick with me.)

  1.  Understand attitude is key. If I expect to wait then I avoid the “Woe is me” attitude — or at least succumb to fewer attacks of self-pity. If I get into my appointment on time or — gasp! — early, then I celebrate. Translation: No one is an overnight success. If some author tells you that they were, they’re lying. (You can tell them I said so.)
  2. Come prepared to wait. Do I want to waste time thumbing through magazines I’d never read even if I was stranded on a desert island? Translation: What are you doing while you wait for “the call”? Are you counting time or making time count by revising your manuscript, attending conferences, connecting with other writers — maybe even encouraging other writers?
  3. Realize everyone hates waiting. Medical professionals hate being behind schedule as much as you hate waiting. Translation: Editors wait too. And agents. And publishers. (Side note: Please, no comments with “waiting for my doctor” horror stories.  Not the point of this post. If you really need to vent, email me at beth@bethvogt.com. I’m married to a doctor. I can take it.)

Time for me to sit back and see what y’all have to say about time spent in the Waiting Room. Tell me how you handle waiting for feedback from your critique group. Or from your agent. Or for the “sign here and would you like an advance with that?” phone call. How do you make waiting worthwhile?

 

*Photo credit: That’s me and my daughter. In my husband’s waiting room. With a copy of author Jody Hedlund’s latest release, The Doctor’s Lady. The sleeping pose is for the sake of the column — not a statement on Jody’s writing. I loved reading The Doctor’s Lady!

Post Author: Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an air force physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She writes contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.

A Writer’s Life: The Pit of Despair

Whenever I watch The Princess Bride, I skip the Pit of Despair segments. Popcorn, anyone? Maybe rewind to the Fire Swamp?

Sure, the Albino with the needs-to-cough-up-a-hairball voice is a bit of comedic relief before discovering our hero Westley is in the Pit of Despair. His future? Torture — attached to a life-sucking machine. His only escape? Death.

Am I the only one who skips these scenes?

As writers, there are days we are trapped in our personal Pit of Despair, without even a somewhat friendly Albino nearby. Life — our passion — is being sucked out of us, bit by bit.

What does Westley’s trip to the Pit teach us? Consider two truths:

  1. Truth # 1: Enemies get you into the Pit.
  2.  Truth # 2: Friends get you out of the Pit.

What about those enemies?
Inconceivable, isn’t it, how both success and failure dump us in the Pit.

When you succeed as a writer — land an agent, sign a contract — you think: Other people have expectations for me. What if I fail? Overloading yourself with the real or imaginary expectations of others tumble you into the Pit faster than the Dread Pirate Roberts can scale the Cliffs of Insanity.

And then there’s the slippery slope of failure: never attaining your goals, never quite grasping whatever spells “victory” for you. The root problem is the same: expectations. Fear you won’t meet others’ expectations or disappointment in yourself for not fulfilling your own. The bigger question? How do you navigate both success and failure?

At last! It’s time for the friends.
Westley didn’t rescue himself. The heroes? Fezzik and Inigo, who found a “mostly dead” Westley in the Pit. But that didn’t stop his friends from hauling his body out to go looking for a miracle.

When you can’t see the faintest hope of a miracle for the forest of despair surrounding your writing dreams, who searches for you? When you no longer believe in yourself, in your story, who believes in it for you? And — perhaps even more importantly — who do you go looking for when they’ve been dragged off into the Pit of Despair?

We’ve peered over the Cliffs of Insanity, survived the Fire Swamp, and now find ourselves at the Pit of Despair. Which have you found to be the greater enemy: success or failure? How have friends rescued you? Like Miracle Max, I believe it takes a miracle sometimes for changes to happen … so if you have any of those to share, please do!

For Fun: The Princess Bride 25th Anniversary cast reunion

Post Author: Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an air force physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She writes contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.