The Writer’s Desk: 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.)

This week 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 Relief Society lesson. Well, that was fine because I’d read the conference talk in the Ensign and I could wing it, right? Or I could if I had the Ensign with the notes I’d jotted in the margins. Except I 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. President Eyring, Elder Scott, and Elder Oaks were also in attendance, and President Eyring and Elder Scott spoke briefly to us. During his speech, Elder Scott 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. Elder Scott knew 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 Elder Scott told 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 Elder Scott’s 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 each of you eliminate or rearrange in your schedules to make your goals happen? What are those goals?

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9 Responses to The Writer’s Desk: Time to Step Back, Reevaluate, and Reorganize—Again

  1. Moriah Jovan says:

    [quote]I’m going to learn how to belly dance.[/quote]

    Belly dancing is DA BOMB!!! But you really should go with a live instructor so you can start training your muscles with the nuances right from the start.

    I’m excited FOR you.

  2. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Oh, Rachel. I hear you.

    Even though it may seem lonely at the top (President of LDS Storymakers, for one thing), you really are not alone. If you figure it out, those of us who are with you in our own ways are hoping you will tell us in your next blog post.

    And if belly dancing doesn’t work for you, can you set up a stationary bike with a reading stand, perhaps?

  3. Annette Lyon says:

    What a great idea! I’ve always loved Elder Scott, now I have one more reason to. (And at the next LDStorymakers conference, you KNOW I’m going to corner you and insist you show me some moves!) :D

  4. Suze says:

    Wow Rachel, you’ve got guts! I wish you luck in your endeavor. I think I’m going to take a stab at building furniture….and hopefully burn a few calories while I’m doing it. ;)

  5. Darlene says:

    I think you need to post a picture.

  6. jendoop says:

    Although I’m not furiously writing to finish a book I understand your feelings. I struggle with doing things that aren’t "productive". This is something I learned the hard way- crash and burn. I think these creative endeavors free us spiritually, to realize that life is made to be enjoyable. Somehow our time is lengthened when we do "non-productive" creative things.

    So where can I get one of those cool belly dancing wraps with the sequins and bells?

  7. sharper924 says:

    My daughter and I took belly dancing lessons a few years ago. It was great exercise and lots of fun as well as cultural and creative. I didn’t want to perform in front of an audience, but it was a good experience to go to the classes and wear the hip belts and cholis and temporarily lose myself in another world. I’m excited for you!

  8. I don’t know where you can get the cool costumes, but the woman giving me the video has one she’s never warn and offered it to me, too. Hmm.

    I agree that the point of doing something creative that is different from what we do daily does free us and helps us focus better on our regular "jobs." I remember about seven years ago sitting down to the sewing machine with no pattern and only basic sewing skills learned in the dark ages of high school and making my children long black capes from silky material someone had given me. It was enjoyable, and by the fourth or fifth one, I actually got the hang of it. The next day I went back to writing, completely refreshed. My children are older now and don’t play with them every day, but those capes still come out every Halloween, and though they aren’t perfect, they’re beautiful to all of us.

  9. Moriah Jovan says:

    [b]I don’t know where you can get the cool costumes…[/b]

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