Thursday, March 4, 2010

Time to Step Back, Reevaluate, and Reorganize—Again

Stop the treadmill! I want to get off. Or even just slap it down a notch. But my publisher is wondering where my next manuscript is, my children need help with scouts and a science project (my daughter could use a bath, too, but that might be asking a little too much of me), and if I don’t do laundry my children may have to resort to their dirty clothes basket. (Hey, at least they had root beer floats today—I’m a hero.)

Last I had two major deadlines, including my latest manuscript for my publisher, who has been all kinds of patient. Though I usually write only during the day, this week I spent the better part of three evenings working to finish, mostly after I put the children to bed. Then in order to drag my exhausted body out of bed the next morning, I’d have to tell myself I’d go back to bed after the kids went to school. Actually, I use this tactic often. Of course what I really do is turn on the computer and sit there until they get home again because the magic always kicks in and sleep means nothing after that. Sometimes I remember to eat breakfast before one.

I’d like to say this was a particularly difficult week, but the truth is things have never slowed down in all the thirteen years I’ve been publishing. I find myself increasingly choosing between good and good, instead of bad and good or good and better. Do I help my child with a science project or attend a scout meeting? Do I go to parent/teacher conference or make my deadline? Do I read to my children and help them do their math or do I make a dinner that isn’t leftovers or something popped in the microwave? Do I work on marketing for my new release or do I go out to lunch with friends? Do I feed the dog or wash the sheets? (Truthfully, I haven’t figured out why I even have a dog, except that my kids are just too persuasive.)

A few days ago I had a nightmare. I was at church and Sunday School had just ended, and I realized with horror that it was my turn to give the Women's Relief Society lesson. Well, that was fine because I’d read the material and I could wing it, right? Or I could if I had the page with the notes. Except I'd left the notes home and couldn’t find my van in the parking lot. It wasn’t in the front, in the back, or out in the street. Where was my van? If I wobbled home in my high heels, I’d never make it back to church in time. My heart pounded as I stumbled frantically to and fro, a sense of impending doom pressing down on me until all I could see was darkness. At last I awoke in a sweat, sighing with relief when I realized I was in bed and not in the church parking lot, and though it was indeed my lesson week, I still had plenty of time to finish preparations—after meeting my deadline.

No doubt about it. This was a clear sign that it’s time to step back, reevaluate, and reorganize, because my family and my writing must come before other equally demanding but less important activities. This often involves delegation, but more likely cutting things out all together. Step back, reevaluate, and reorganize. I can't do it all well, but I can do some things well.

In this frame of mind I attended my publisher’s yearly author dinner. Several religious leaders were in attendence and one urged the authors, artists, and musicians to try something new, something creative that was different from what we were currently doing. Not with the intent to work at it professionally, but to expand and to enjoy the reflection it would allow us.

At first I thought, “No problem. All that urban fantasy I’m writing definitely qualifies as something different.” But that was still writing after all, so I began to feel guilty and a little bit, well, stressed. After all, I had my book to finish, a science project pending, numerous issues to attend to in my role as president of LDStorymakers, I hadn’t slept more than four hours in I don’t know how long, I hadn’t yet found entertainment for the ward block party, my relief society lesson wasn’t prepared, and MY BOOK WASN’T finished (that is worth repeating). Yes, my children were well-fed, their homework on track, and they were even reasonably clean, but MY BOOK WASN’T finished. And I was tired.

Then it hit me. Hard. This was the opportunity I’d been awaiting—for months, in fact. This was exactly what I’d needed. In all the mad rush in my life, I haven’t been able to do something I’ve really wanted to do for a long, long time. Yes, it’s creative, and yes, it might make up just a little for all the exercise I’ve been missing lately. No way would I ever do it professionally.You guessed it—I’m going to learn how to belly dance.

Don’t laugh. People like me need permission to do stuff like that. If it’s not for my children, research for my novels (though I could actually use the experience in my writing), a church calling, or for the betterment of mankind, it’s hard to waste time doing it.

Except church leaders had counseled me to, and I’m really excited about it. So excited that I shared the idea with a couple at our table, good friends of ours, and the husband promptly said, in an extremely dignified manner, that to make the challenge more meaningful, next year they should choose several attendees to show what they’d been working on, and did I want to volunteer?

Uh, no. Not a chance.

So what am I going to eliminate from my current schedule in order to work in this new endeavor? I haven’t quite figured that out, but to begin with I have been offered a belly dancing video, which is probably a good place to start, and I own a pair of comfortable sweats.

Life often becomes impossibly full of all the good things we want to accomplish and experience. In order to reach our top goals, the ones we desire most, we must make choices. The best way to get on track is to step back, reevaluate, and reorganize.

What will you eliminate or rearrange in your schedule to make your goals happen?