Saturday, September 5, 2009

Extra Commitments and Explaining Writing to Non-Writers

Studio Window--Guy Pene du Bois I’m the Queen of taking on too much.  It’s never my idea, mind you, but because I’m known as a volunteer (school, Scouting), people come to me with ideas on more ways for me to volunteer.

They know the school is my soft spot.  Just about anything they ask for me to help with at the elementary or middle school, I’m going to do. I’ve read stories, talked to classes, sent in supplies, given parties, assisted with the writing programs, passed out waters during field day, watched the class for the teacher while they attended special events…the list goes on.

I’m also a Brownie Scout leader for my daughter’s troop.  I was asked, in person, to take that commitment on.  I started with it last fall.

In the middle of the commitment to the troop, I got an extra book deal.

I continued going to mandatory trainings, meetings, camping trips, and troop events.

The upside (and there’s always an upside) is that I was spending a lot of one on one time with my daughter.

The downside was that I really didn’t have the time to do all this.  And I hated the district meetings with a passion (I’m not a meeting person. I spend the time wondering if all the information couldn’t just be emailed.  Or why they didn’t set up a Yahoo Group for us to get the information.)

I decided I would give the Brownie Scout coordinator (who’d recruited me) a year’s notice. That next fall I wouldn’t be able to continue this commitment.

It didn’t go as planned. :)  The coordinator is a very determined woman.  She said, “Maybe play it by ear?  After all, you’ll have turned in your two books by next fall.”

“But then,” I explained, trying not to sound like a big-shot, “I have another book to turn in.  November 1, 2010.  And I’ll be promoting three other books.”  At this point, I felt like banging my head against a wall.

I’ll admit I’m a black and white kind of person.  I like to do a Good Job and there are no compromises. But then the Brownie coordinator gave me an out.  She certainly knows me.  “No meetings… don’t have to go to any of the district meetings.  Only attend the events you want to.  That’s all I need.”

It ended up that that worked for me. She modified what I needed to do to make it manageable for me. 

But I did learn from our exchange:

Non-writers don’t understand the process.  They understand the amount of work that goes into writing a book, but they don’t understand the promoting.  They don’t understand that you’re either writing a book, revising a book, promoting a book, or trying to sell someone on a new series…or doing all of those things simultaneously.

If you try to explain this process to a non-writer, you sound like you’re exaggerating.  Or bragging.

Best just to say the writing is consuming all of your time.  They may understand that better than the other stuff you’re doing.

If you’re in a time-sucking commitment, see if the parameters of the commitment can be adjusted before you drop it altogether. It’s a very tough time to find volunteers right now….many former volunteers have had to return to the workforce.

When you’re asked to take on a new commitment (even if they ask you face to face), tell them you have to sleep on it and will email them back.  I can write beautifully, but I’m awful on the phone.  I can elegantly explain why I can’t take on a new commitment via email where I’d somehow end up taking it on if I’m on the phone with the person.

So far this fall I’ve  scaled back on one commitment and avoided another.  I’d like to take on a lot of volunteer work, but right now I’m more limited, time-wise, in what I can handle.  This is the year I’m more cognizant in realizing when I’m getting in over my head.