oblige |əˈblīj|verb [ with obj. and infinitive ]make (someone) legally or morally bound to an action or course of action: 1) Karolyn feels obliged to take care of her family first. 2) Social media experts say writers are obliged to blog on a regular basis.
Where do a writer’s obligations lie? To WRITING!
Okay, so we can’t ignore our family and friends completely, nor personal hygiene, sleep, and the occasional meal, but treating one’s writing time (or personal time, like meditating or exercising) like an office job is vital for success. That might be easy for a writer who’s “made it,” one who has paychecks coming in with enough zeros to make a difference to her household. But what about the writer who has yet to be validated by a paycheck? Or one who has sold a few articles but still has trouble justifying her time away from friends and family? Does the issue lie with the writer? Or with her family and friends?
It’s an equal matter of respect: respecting one’s self, and demanding the same respect from others. If writing (or painting or volunteering) is important to you, you must think of it as a job (“The check’s in the mail.”), and tell your loved ones that they, too, need to treat it as such. It’s the “Fake it till you make it” concept.
My son-in-law is one of those techie brainiacs that makes the rest of us go glassy-eyed when he describes his latest project. He’s “made it.” Like me, he works from home in a dedicated office. Unlike me, he’s able and confident enough to say, “All right, good to see all of you, but I’m going back to work.” And he does. He shuts the door and works. I haven’t quite gotten to that point. Everyday I struggle against answering the phone, running household errands, planning events for my family. And blogging. I feel guilty when I blog, and guiltier when I don’t blog. Argh!
Years ago, when I had an art gallery, I learned a lesson, that I need to remind myself of occasionally. If, when you’re working, you feel guilty for not being at home, and when you’re at home, your mind is at work, then you’re failing at both obligations. The best solution is to be fully engaged with your task at hand. “Efficient at work, efficient at home,” as I said in an essay I wrote a couple years ago.
So, as a reminder, here’s my pep talk to myself; you are welcome to eavesdrop.
You, yeah, you: Go get your dream! You deserve it! For all these years you’ve taken care of others, and now it’s your turn. Set your boundaries as if you had to clock in and work under the scrutiny of a demanding boss. Turn off your phone and email. Schedule appointments and run errands “after work.” You want to see your hardback novel on the front table at Barnes & Noble, so write. Rewrite. Get advice, then rewrite again. Do not stop. Do not give up. You will succeed. Everyone who loves you wants you to succeed, so they will understand. Trust that. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you, too. It’s okay to put yourself first!
Whew, thanks. I feel much better now, but hey, I really have to get back to writing. Drop me a line if you have any more suggestions on setting boundaries and goals.