I always marvel at people who can have their fingers in ten or more pies and never break a sweat. They make volunteering appear effortless, and they should be applauded for giving so much of their time and expertise. I am not one of them. Does this bother me? Since I’m the type of person where saying no is difficult, yes, it can, but I am learning where to draw the line, and just say NO.
There are always volunteers needed, in particular, with writers. If not enough help is found events such as workshops, conferences, contests, RWA and it’s chapters, critique groups, book reviews, various Yahoo loops would not run smoothly or at all. So when do you finally say no, and how can you do it without feeling guilty for believing you let others down?
Part of being a writer is being able to write. The more time you give to others, the less you have to dedicate to your own work. Once your published, you’ll have even more to add to your plate. Things such as promotion, networking, revisions, and galleys will need your time and attention. They WILL need to be done.
Do you sometimes feel rushed or stressed out about not having enough time to get everything done? You not only have demands of your family, day job, and other outside obligations to meet, but the jobs you volunteered to fulfill that revolve around your writing. Do you wonder where the time goes? Hours can pass, and you’re still checking emails? Or you’re playing catch-up with critiques, or cutting it close to finish judging those entries for the three contests you agreed to judge?
Keep track of what you’re doing with your time. Keep a log or a journal, where you record what you do on a particular day, and how much time you spend on such things as email, critiques, moderating workshops or Yahoo loops, fulfilling your responsibilities as a board member of your chapter, presenting workshops, coordinating or judging contests, and contacting speakers for workshops or conferences. Do this for a week, then look back and see how much time you spent not writing.
If it was email that hogged your time, unsubscribe from those groups where you’re just lurking and not participating. If its critiques, tell your partner or group, instead of doing ten a week, you’ll do three, or how ever many you feel you can handle. Same with contests. Critiques and contest entries take time and effort. The feedback you provide is important, and if you can’t give either the time they deserve, than cut back. Your critique partners or those contest entrants shouldn’t be short-changed just because you felt rushed to get them off your to-do list.
Am I sounding harsh? Maybe. But honestly, if our goal is to help other writers, are we really meeting it by hurrying to do all that needs done? Instead, are we doing them more harm than good? Think about this when you feel the urge to volunteer. Can you REALLY dedicate the time that’s needed?
Force yourself to be more selective when the opportunity to volunteer arises. There are always benefits to offering your time. You can make new friends, find new critique partners, network with editors and agents, promote yourself and your books if you’re published, and if you’re pre-published, you can still get your name out there.
If you’re asked to help out with something, and you honestly don’t feel you can take the time, then just say so. You don’t have to explain why, or apologize, a simple, “I’d love to, but I’m not able to right now” will do just fine. Let the coordinator or organizer know to keep you in mind, and contact you when the next opportunity comes around. You might be able to help out then.
It’s difficult at first, to say no, when you’re so used to saying yes to everyone around you. Once you become more selective and yes, selfish with your time, it becomes easier. It feels wonderful and rewarding to help other writers learn and grow, but when you find your own work suffering as a result, it’s time to make a change. Your time is precious, so treat it like the gem it is.
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