Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Reading, writing, and reviewing are top priorities in my life. I devote a lot of time to these three things.  There are few things I'd rather do, but they aren't my only priorities.  My husband, my children, and my grandchildren have first claim on my time and attention.  The two days I spend serving in the temple rank among my top priorities as well.  There are also my extended family and a whole raft of temporary priorities such as mopping my kitchen floor, weeding a flower bed, teaching a class, doing the laundry, balancing our checkbooks, visiting teaching, and so on.  I'm no different from other writers.  We have lives to lead that come before our characters' lives. (I've only ever met one writer who can afford a maid.)  But I always come back to reading, writing, and reviewing.

It's important for each individual, not just writers, to discover their priorities.  Writing isn't the only occupation that requires the ability to self-start and to set priorities, but since I'm in the writing business that's what I'm going to talk about.  People who need someone else to wake them up, set their goals, and propel them toward the computer won't accomplish much.  Writers who carve out their own time and predetermine what constitutes a qualified interruption are more likely to succeed than those who spend most of their precious writing time playing. The writer with a story to tell, a determination to get it published, and the ability to determine the priorities that will get him/her to that goal will succeed.
Establishing priorities is much like goal setting.  First it is necessary to decide what matters most.  For most of us, family comes before career, talents, or personal wants.  Next comes needs; you know the routine; food, shelter, safety.  Eventually we get down to things like careers, vocations, talents, and ambitions.  For a writer, this usually means getting published and like so many of life's goals, much of the pleasure is derived from the journey.

Important aspects of making writing a priority are self-discipline, education, reading, and finishing.  Self discipline is important if writing is a true priority.  Facebook and games are fun and the networking can be beneficial, but they can steal a lot of valuable writing time, as can TV.  If, like me, a person can't write until the beds are made and breakfast dishes are done, then do them first and fast.  Eliminate as many distractions as possible as quickly as possible, then get to work.
Education doesn't always mean formal education.  Writers can save themselves a lot of time and disappointment by reading books on writing, following up web sites devoted to writing instruction, and by attending conferences and seminars.  Being part of a critique group can help a writer overcome some major stumbling blocks to becoming an accomplished and published author.
I know several writers who claim they don't have time to read.  Frankly their work shows it.  Reading what others in your genre write can be invaluable to discovering techniques, errors to avoid, and provide insight into why readers buy those writers' books.  Reading in other genres broadens the background a writer brings to his/her own writing.
Finishing is an essential priority.  Writers who allow themselves to be distracted by other book ideas tend to have dozens of partial manuscripts lying around, but no contracts and no books on store shelves.  If a super idea occurs while working on something else, jot down a few notes and shove it in a drawer, then get back to finishing the manuscript at hand.
Modern life is so filled with distractions, information overload, enticing choices, and responsibilities, it can be overwhelming.  Setting priorities eliminates some of life's emotional and physical clutter.
This month for the October Wish List Contest I'd like to hear about your priorities, your stories of how you've set your priorities, and how you stick to them. I'd also like to hear how you handle interruptions to those priorities you've set.


Steph said...

Most of my priorities are the same as yours. Family, Necessities, Work, etc. I don't place a big emphasis on housekeeping (and it shows) but I do place a huge emphasis on letting my kids know how important they are. My goals for the month were simple, review my WIPs, create outlines, jot down ideas and place several things on eBay to finance my way to Storymakers. My "world" was torn upside down when my grandmother wrecked her car and my new "job" became taking care of her instead of writing. As she continues to get better, I am having more time to write. Then my sister called in tears. She is overwhelmed with work so I'm helping out with a few odd jobs for her (cut & paste things). Again my writing is taking a back seat. Then there was an issue with my insurance and while living in SW Wyoming has its perks, it also means driving long distances for anything. I THINK that mess is straightened out. My new goal is to spend an hour helping my sister, tend to the needs of my newborn, my three year old and my 90 year old grandmother and then write for several hours each day. I'm hoping things will again fall into place as colder weather approaches and we aren't spending as much time outside. Good luck with all your projects!

Jennie said...

Steph, your life sounds a lot like mine. A long time ago I decided my lifestyle is to live crisis to crisis. I think you have the right priorities. As important as it is to make time to write, it can't become more important than your family. If you only write fifteen minutes a day, you're a writer, and your time will come, but you only get one shot at being a mom, a sister, and a wife.

Traci Hunter Abramson said...

Great post! So often I have people ask me how I find time to write. I don't find time to write. I schedule time to write. Each morning when I get up before the sun, I remind myself that I love what I do and that success can't come without sacrifice.

I also give myself permission to take time off (often for months at a time) when my family or other priorities need to have my undivided attention. So far, this balancing act seems to be working.

geniel said...

I'm not a writer, first and foremost, I am a daughter of God, then I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. My priorities include the first four then preparing for my callings at church. I have been called as the Cub Scout Wolf Leader and as the Ward Emergency Preparedness Specialist. The first one is easy, the second is more time consuming. I have offered to share my knowledge at the Family Home Evening of members of my Ward. I have to put that as a priority on my Monday evenings. I love this aspect of my calling, meeting and sharing with others. My other priority is spending time with my husband. He travels during the week so the time we spend together on the weekends is very special to me. I occasionally get the opportunity to travel with him but those times are few and far between. He has the calling of Ward Mission Leader so he is gone a lot when he is home so our priorities are sometimes put to the side but that is OK because he is on the Lord's errand. It this case my priority is supporting him in all he does, service to both of us is a high priority.

Chrys said...

I like your line, "(I've only ever met one writer who can afford a maid.) But I always come back to reading, writing, and reviewing." This is really true!

Being single I don't have immediate family responsibilities to tend to, but I do spend time with my family of origin.

No one's time is ever really their own unless you are independently wealthy. I work 30+ hours a week and volunteered 10 hours last month visiting nursing home residents, making sure they stay active and involved in recreation therapy.

One of the ways I force myself to write is by entering contests, blogging, writing letters etc. Participating in a semimonthly writing group helps me to set goals regarding preparing something to be critiqued. Reading others work and providing constructive feedback also sharpens your own creative/technical writing skills. I have also signed up for a novel writing workshop.

An online social network of writers lets you know you're not alone which is nice.

Write on!

Lisa said...

Since I work outside the home I get plenty of opportunity to work over-time and shift my other priorities. I use this quote whenever I have to choose between what matters most to me and working more. "No one ever puts...I wish I had worked more. on their tombstone." As soon as my children give up eating every day I'll be able to work less.

Tarmy said...

This post about priorities really helped me remember that I should have some. In the fog of having three kids, one of which is 3 months old, I get to the end of everyday and wonder what I did with all my time. The hour or more I usually spend reading blogs or skimming random things on the internet is certainly not helpful. And finding that I barely scraped dinner together, the clean laundry sat in the dryer for four days so it's all wrinkly, and all I want to do is get to the next bedtime is discouraging. So I took some time off reading blogs and now that I've visited some again I need to write down some priorities . (But not anywhere my husband can read them because then I'll have to stick to them more often ... Ü ). I'm hoping to have goals of making my home more homelike and eliminate some of the stress by deciding what is important each night for the next day and having a time deadline on that day. It worked for at least two days this week! I also need to put more emphasis on scripture reading and prayer. Then everything else goes better.
Thanks for the invitation to think about my priorities.