Sunday, December 1, 2013

Must, Want To, and Should

As the holiday season approaches and I receive requests for more and more things (shopping, parties, extra work, and so on), I begin to get overwhelmed by it all. At first I toss another ball into the air, fill up another blank spot on the calendar, and make a note to myself.  But very soon, the air is thick with balls, the calendar has no more empty squares, and I've run out of note paper.

You have to say no sometimes. But when? And what to say no to?  Well, it occurred to me that there are really 3 categories of things: those we MUST do, those we WANT TO do, and those we SHOULD do.

The MUST do's: attending work parties, buying gifts for Mom and Dad, making a visit to the grandparents.

The WANT TO do's: attending a new movie, buying gifts for friends, arranging a trip to Disneyland.

The SHOULD do's: attending a relative's party way out in the Valley, buying a gift for the boss, visiting a friend's new baby.

Sometimes they overlap - you may want to do the same thing you should do, like visiting that friend's new baby, for example - and sometimes they are at utter odds with each other, like when that relative's party is at the exact same time as the only day the museum is holding its free exhibits that you really want to go to.

So where do you begin? Do you start with the MUST's? Or the WANT TO's? Are you a SHOULD do person?  I know plenty of people who start and end with what they WANT TO do and have no care for anything society or family/friends may tell them they SHOULD or MUST do.  That takes courage to disregard others' opinions as well as a healthy ego that says "My WANTS come first."

Me? I start with the MUST do items and then go to the WANT TO. I am independent enough to ignore what I SHOULD do but let's be honest, I often run out of time and money just completing the MUST items on my calendar/list/inbox. I rarely get to the WANT TO's!

This is the way I plan to approach my gift-giving, party-attending, subbing requests, and so on this month. If it's not a MUST, then it ain't getting done.

But what about writing? Well, I think you can apply these categories to writing as well.  As writers, we all feel we MUST write, that is not in doubt, but whenever I feel like I SHOULD write - whether it's on a particular day or at a particular time or about a specific subject or theme - then my writing ends up terrible. That's happened when I tried following a trend I wasn't crazy about or chasing an editor who kind of liked a book I submitted but wanted to go in a different direction, or even when I wasn't finding anything to write about at all. Each time I did the SHOULD rather than the WANT TO, my work suffered.

I have to find the WANT TO in every SHOULD in order to do it. Otherwise I will resent every ounce of energy I am spending on it.  Life is too short for SHOULD.