Sometimes, I just want to write.
Please understand. I love my job. At this moment in my life, I’m able to do the exact thing I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life. I write the novels I’ve always wanted to write, and I publish them the way I want to. As Chief Cat-Herder (today’s my day!) and Manager of Weirdness at Weird Sisters Publishing LLC, I get to do all the things.
I’m a lifelong artist/graphic designer with strong opinions. That’s why I’m really glad that I get to be the Art Director. After more than a decade working in direct marketing, I also have opinions about how the marketing should be handled. Happy for me, I’m in charge of marketing, too. But sometimes I’m not so excited about doing those things at the moment. Sometimes, I just want to write.
Where Does Your Heart Call You?
Perhaps you know what I mean. I hope you’ve found your vocation, or your perfect mode of expression. Maybe it’s a pastime or an art form that uniquely calls to you. Whatever it is, there’s something deeply satisfying about that “perfect fit” thing. Sometimes, for me, that perfect fit is artwork. But most of the time I just want to write.
If you haven’t found your “perfect-fit thing” yet, I wish you good hunting. I am convinced that finding it is part of the essential journey to becoming ourselves – whoever we’re best-suited to be. If you’ve followed my blog for a while or read my books, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a big believer in helping people become their best selves.
On my fictional Rana Station I’ve tried to imagine a world in which the stated objective of the government (if not always the achieved result) is to help everyone to reach their full potential. Pam tells Shady at one point in A Bone to Pick that “Ranans don’t throw people away.” Shady is skeptical (as we all should be), but it’s a worthy aspiration.
Of course, the notion that one can “find oneself” and immediately start embracing their bliss full-time is naïve, exceedingly self-centered, and breathtakingly entitled. We ordinary mortals out here in the real world usually have day jobs that we need to keep. Very few of us are privileged to walk into our dream jobs at the entry level. Even after we’ve been at it for years, we still must try to move from whatever we’re doing now to jobs that “suck less,” whenever we can.
Often we also have families, and sometimes we have family members who need us to help them survive. I’m thinking now of children, elders, disabled siblings, or beloved persons who have fallen ill. Caregiving is too often thankless and unpaid, it’s always demanding, and it can come upon us at any stage in life.
These realities often hold us back from “fully realizing our potential” as we might wish. But in my experience, a “passion in your life” is essential, even if you have to squeeze it in edgewise. This might be a favorite activity, an art form, or other means of self-expression. And it can be a godsend, a fortress, and a refuge when our lives are challenging. Those “squeezed in edgewise” moments can be what keeps us going when life is otherwise bleak. Those were the times when, throughout my life, I called a time-out (even if it was only a brief mental check-out) because “I just want to write.”
What is IMPORTANT
We often feel torn between competing urgencies. Several decades ago I found a helpful way to approach prioritizing activities. Many people have since criticized Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989. But even the dissenters usually seem to agree that his “Matrix of Importance Versus Urgency” can be a valuable tool.
To use it we must first decide what is IMPORTANT. For me, that includes the stuff we absolutely must do, or everything comes crashing down. But it also needs to include your “survival passion.” If the thing that brings color and life into your world isn’t in your IMPORTANT category, something is deeply wrong with your priorities.
But assigning the IMPORTANT label means you also have to assign UNIMPORTANT tasks—and that seems a bit “all-or-nothing” to me (I see “all or nothing” as a dysfunctional mindset and therefore untrustworthy). I prefer to rank things as having greater or lesser importance. Thus, my personal matrix includes ESSENTIAL and IMPORTANT categories. Then again, some things absolutely DO deserve to land in that circular file marked UNIMPORTANT.
Just make sure your “perfect-fit thing” regularly gets its turn to rank as ESSENTIAL, or you’re doing it wrong!
What is URGENT
I freelanced as a graphic designer and direct marketer when my kids were small. They knew if they interrupted Mommy at work with a request, they might be asked, “Is it on fire, bleeding, or dead?” One time a little smart-aleck answered, “No, but it’s about to flood.” Yeah, that got me out of my chair.
My point is that, when it comes to Covey’s guidance on priorities once again, my personal matrix includes a third category. Disasters (or their near-avoidance) merit an URGENT label. In the short term, they can even trump ESSENTIAL. The most ESSENTIAL and IMPORTANT things may not always be things . . . but the most URGENT things are nearly always performance-based.
A looming DEADLINE is a more manageable kind of “urgent” (unless you make a habit of overcommitment and living in denial). You can see them coming, plan for them, and manage them, at least hypothetically. Sometimes they’re boring things, often they’re mundane, but they nip at your attention like a shoal of piranhas. They are urgent in their way, and they definitely need to be done. But for me they exist on a lesser tier of importance than major life-goals. At least, until those DEADLINES become imminent (as is the case with this blog post).
But this part of the matrix has a null-side, too. I’ve noticed that some things just never get done, and no one cares. Anytime I find myself considering or doing something on that end of the spectrum, I’ve got to stop ask myself why.
I Just Want to Write
Since you’re reading this, I made my DEADLINE (after it had nudged its way up into the URGENT category). I’ve heard many writers decry blogging as busywork – and perhaps for them it is. But I’ve been blogging since 2009, and I’ve frequently been glad I did/do. For me, the practice pays ample rewards. That keeps it in my IMPORTANT category, so you can probably count on seeing another post in this space next week.
But sometimes I just want to write (fiction). I used to feel guilty about “taking” time to indulge myself this way. Over the years, however, I’ve discovered that’s not a healthy approach. We each must allow ourselves time to do our “perfect-fit thing,” the thing that gives our souls maximum joy. If we don’t, we’ll eventually gnarl into crabby, miserable beings who live bleak, painful lives.
So, here’s the blog post. I hope it offers you inspiration and additional “permission” (if you need it) to do your “perfect-fit thing” and correctly value it as ESSENTIAL. But as for me, Rana Station calls. I need to go check in with Rex and Shady for a while, because right now I just want to write!
I had a lot of help with the illustrated quotes for this week’s post, and I’m deeply grateful to all of my sources. Here they are in order!
I found the Wendell Berry quote through Brainy Quote, normally a favorite source of illustrated quotes. But this time it had no background image, so I found my own with some help from “stylephotographs” via my 123rf subscription. I needed considerably less help with the “find yourself” quote from Quote Stats and Carlos Wallace. Thank you!
I loved the visuals for the “soul happy” quote-image from Southern Living, which I found via Pinterest, and the “really important” quote from Live Life Happy. My deepest gratitude to both of you! I hope my efforts to put them into a format more compatible with this blog post enhances them, rather than detracting. That same wish applies to the “disasters and blessings” quote from Richard Bach, as originally visualized by Greeting Ideas. Many, many thanks to all!