Sunday, October 3, 2010

What Would You Do-OO-OO...

by Sophie


It's early on a Sunday morning as I sit working on this post. I've been at the desk since before six a.m., and I'll be here until the kids are up, when I'll make pancakes (chocolate chips for Junior, none for T-wa). Maybe church - we used to go every other week, but I've had to decline more often than I'd like in recent weeks, ever since The Terrible Deadlines slid into place with a deafening "thunk," sealing my fate until December 1 when I'll be turning in two books.

This is not the life I envisioned when I decided, at the age of eleven, to become a writer. It's not even the life I expected when I sold my first book two and a half years ago. It's more demanding, more time-sucking, and more inconvenient. It is also in turns lonely, terrifying, infuriating and frustrating. And it doesn't pay very well.

But I love it. I love writing! I love it so much that I am willing to give up many, many things to be able to do it. Sewing, gardening, shopping - all in the past. Television, evenings out, weekend getaways - no time. Friendships with non-writers - much diminished. The luxuries and baubles I might be able to afford if I had a "real" job - mere fantasy.

To be honest, I spend very little time bemoaning the tradeoffs. When compared to the joy I get from my job, the things I've sacrificed seem very insignificant indeed.

I have a theory about sacrifice: humans are not very good at it. I think we are loathe to give things up that we truly cherish. We'll do it for our children, for the people we love; but "shoulds" and "ought to's" and concepts like altruism and the greater good are not enough, in general, to get us to do so. You know the TV commercial for Klondike Bars? The jingle that asks you "what would you do-oo-oo?" I think the answer is, we'll do anything that isn't terribly inconvenient or painful to us.

Generally we sacrifice things we won't really miss. If I'm really honest, the things I gave up to write full time are not things of extraordinary value to me. Some are more important than others, of course - I really miss the reflective, selfish time I used to spend on my hobbies, for instance. But if something was truly important to me, I didn't give it up even for my writing.

For instance, I don't say no to my kids. I won't give up pancake time or shopping with Junior or watching South Park with T-wa. I don't go too long between visits to my favorite bar. And there are a few luxuries - wine, chocolate, stationery, makeup - that still find their way into my shopping cart.

I'm leery of people who like to talk about their own sacrifices. I don't think, in general, that they've given up any more than the rest of us; they've made choices with outcomes, which serve them in ways that are not always immediately apparent. We all want and need to be appreciated, but sometimes people learn to get that need met by playing "poor me"... the world doesn't need any more martyrs.

In the end sacrifices are just choices. We have limited resources and abundant desires. Allocating the former and managing the latter are the chores of adulthood. My lifelong dream was to be a writer, but it wasn't until I gave up a few of the obstacles and barriers that I had the freedom to pursue it.


Gigi Pandian said...

I'm in awe of the deadlines you've taken on this year, and I never had any doubt you'd meet them head on and succeed. I feel like you're so successful with the sacrifices you're making because you DON'T feel sorry for yourself; you realize these are choices, and set a great example for the rest of us ;)

Rachael Herron said...

"But if something was truly important to me, I didn't give it up even for my writing."
Yes. I want to be able to say that. A very good reminder.

Sophie Littlefield said...

thanks guys. it's hard to set boundaries, isn't it? - especially when you must listen only to your own voice - because this is one task no one else can tell you how to do...

Adrienne Miller said...

I'm all for the No Medals For Martyrs campaign.

Martha Flynn said...

Oh man, what wouldn't I do for a Klondike bar. Or an Its Its. Or a s'more. Mmmmmmmmm.

A. J. Larrieu said...

Sophie, I love this post. I aspire to have one tenth of your wisdom. "We have limited resources and abundant desires. Allocating the former and managing the latter are the chores of adulthood." So true.

I love to cook. I have wonderful memories of cooking family meals with my mom when I was only ten. Pre-writing, I made dinner almost every night, trying out new recipes. I subscribed to multiple cooking magazines. Now, I exclusively eat pre-packaged salads and trail mix while sitting in front of my computer and typing. Choices!

Lisa Hughey said...

Perfectly brilliant last paragraph. It's amazing how much happier I am after 'sacrificing' other things in order to have daily dedicated writing time. :)