I went to the Public Library Association Conference for the first time this year. There were lots of great sessions with great information, and great speakers talking about the greatness of libraries. I heard Sally Yates speak so passionately about the ideals of this country, I wanted to run out and vote. Hasan Minhaj was funny, yet eloquent, about the need for E Pluribus Unum--Out of Many, One.
And yet, it was Elizabeth Gilbert who addressed my immediate need. I will try to embed her speech here. It's buried under a bunch of "GO, PUBLIC LIBRARIES!" cheerleading, but fast-forward to minute 00:29:10 if you can.
Here's the meat of the talk: She was telling the tale of being a young woman, trying to get advice from a possibly-reluctant mentor about how to get her writing kick-started, and the mentor asked her the following question (PAY ATTENTION HERE--IT'S IMPORTANT):
"What are you willing to give up in order to have the life you keep pretending you want?"
Of course, her back arched in defense, as she countered with, "I have no time, I have 3 jobs, I have a boyfriend, I have (list more stuff here)."
MENTOR: "Everyone has 3 jobs, or has had, or will have. What's your favorite TV show?"
MENTOR: "Must be nice to have time for TV. What magazines do you read?"
E.G: "Atlantic, the New Yorker..."
MENTOR: "Sounds like fun. What about authors you read? Oh, you have time to read others' books but no time to write your own?"
Color me slapped.
I immediately found a corner and wrote how I would spend my perfect day. There were no distractions in it. There was meditation and stretching, riding my horse, writing, walking the dogs.*
And I began to see things I will have to sacrifice for this life.
1. Meals and the TV. I tend to get my lunch/dinner and sit in front of the TV, to "relax" while I eat. Somehow I think of this as multi-tasking. It's not. Two things happen: One is, I get absorbed in a show that does not affect my life in any way and is a time-suck. Two, after I eat, I fall asleep. Our furniture is too comfy. This madness must stop.
Meals will now be consumed at the proper table. Period.
2. Reading materials. I don't read magazines, but I do read books, and I try to read my friends' books because that's how you support one another. I love you all, I do, and I will continue to buy your books, but for the moment, I need to read OTHER books. Books on writing, certainly. And, don't take this the wrong way, but I need to read (or re-read) above my writing abilities. Seriously, I consider my friends some of the finest writers out there, and at this particular moment, I need to read the Masters, the Gods and Goddesses of Writing. As in sports, I need to play above my level, to make me reach higher.
I'll be back, I swear. But I've got to up my game.
3. Other commitments. This will take some time, but I need to set a plan in motion to let go of my other "jobs." One of those jobs is my column. Yes, I'm writing. Every week, I set aside the novel I'm working feverishly on in order to write 600 words about my life, my family, and my town. I've realized I shouldn't do it forever.
This year, I'm spending far more time as a library trustee than in years past. I'm committed to seeing our project through, to ensuring we have a strong and vibrant board. And I need to look at how many terms I am willing to do this, when each hour spent is an hour I'm not writing.
It looks harsh in black-and-white. Perhaps it is. The bottom line is that there are lots of books I want to write, and I have a finite number of years. Time to get 'er done.
What are you willing to give up?
*Okay, truth is, I mostly hate walking the dogs--they go different directions at different speeds and stop at every tree/bush/light pole. But I WANT to LOVE walking my dogs, so it's in my perfect day.