Friday, April 10, 2009

How busy are you?

"I'm sorry. I'm just too busy. Maybe next time."

"I'm so busy, I don't have time to do anything for myself."

"If you want something done, just ask a busy person to do it."

I've been guilty of saying all of the above. But why? One of the benefits of being a freelance writer and novelist is to own my own time rather than lease it to a corporation. I'm not reaping the rewards, and I know I'm not alone.

As a novelist, I live for moments when my wonderful agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, calls to let me know we have an offer on one of the gazillion proposals we have out there in "Publishingland." Last summer, my wish came true. I received a slew of contracts from two different publishers. I was elated. Then reality kicked in, and I had to get to work to meet deadlines.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy to have these opportunities, and I pray that I have more summers just like the last one—with lots of sales. I'm even reaping the rewards, now that most of my books are finished. In fact, I just received author copies of my latest, LOVE FINDS YOU IN TREASURE ISLAND, FLORIDA, this week. But what I need to do is stop adding to my busyness by piling on more things that aren't necessary or I don't enjoy. I'm working hard at keeping my priorities in order: faith, family, and work. However, I also need to take time to relax, regenerate, and refresh. I need more time to exercise so I can stay healthy for my husband, children, granddaughter, and friends. I need to settle down a little earlier at night and read. I need to get 7-8 hours of restful sleep at night. And I need to spend more times with friends, laughing and enjoying all the blessings of our lives.

Some of my Avalon books indirectly deal with frantic characters who need to slow down and find balance in life. You'll see this in A NEW BEGINNING and both of my Hawaii-set "Aloha" books ALOHA REUNION and FOREVER ALOHA. I also have a burned out female detective who quits the police force and visits her uncle in Florida to "find herself" in CORPSE ON THE COURT, written under my maiden name Deborah Tisdale.

Busyness is overrated. It's the act of scurrying around looking like you're accomplishing something but doing nothing the way it should be done.

How busy are you? What are you going to do about it? How do you like to relax or fill the creative well?


Sandie Bricker said...

Debby, this is a very timely topic for me. I'm racing against deadlines that, for the first time in my writing career, I'm worried that I won't be able to meet. And why? Because of the busy-ness I've let creep into every corner of my life. Today especially, on Good Friday, I find myself pondering the idea of the greatest sacrifice of all, the one made for the greater good. And I'm wondering if saying NO every now and then would be a very small version of sacrifice that would accomplish a greater good in my own life.

I loved your blog! It really made me think. Which is not easy to do pre-coffee on a weekday morning.

Ok, right. Any morning at all.


Sandy Cody said...

Debby, you really hit the nail on the head for me. Before I turned on the computer and read your blog, I was making a list of things I needed to do today. By the time I reached the end of the blog, I was asking myself how many of those things are really necessary - and how many of them will contribute to the happiness of my family - or anyone for that matter.

Thank you! My day will be better (and less busy)for having read your blog.

Debby Mayne said...

I thought this might strike a nerve or two. Sandie and Sandy (how cute is that!), maybe we should designate a time each day--make it official, even--and call it our "unbusy hour."

Rhonda Gibson said...

Debby I enjoyed this blog a lot. I've been dealing with too much doing and not enough enjoying too. Last week I took some time just to enjoy the week. It was great! Now if I could just learn to say, "No, I can not do that, I am an author" something Lauraine Snelling taught me, I'd be set! LOL

Cindi Myers said...

This is such a relevant topic. I'm one of those very busy people. And I enjoy having lots to do. But I often fell into the mindset of stressing about all I had to do instead of enjoying what I was doing at the moment.

This year I've been making a really conscious effort to stop and count my blessings, to enjoy the moment, and to be more realistic about my schedule. For instance, today I have a long list of errands to run in town. In the past, I would have gotten up early, frantically written the day's pages, skipped walking the dogs, then raced around running errands, not even stopping for lunch, come home and thrown together dinner and collapsed.

Instead, I wrote extra yesterday (when I had the time.) I'm going to walk the dogs, then set out on my errands, making an effort to appreciate and enjoy each one. I'm going to break for lunch with my husband, and come home to dinner in the crock pot.

Adopting this attitude has really changed my life! I still get a lot done, but I'm much calmer and happier.

G. Miki Hayden said...


I teach some writing classes at Writers Digest online and what I see is how stressed everyone is about time--even in writing a fairly short piece to start. I like the idea though that you don't need a whole long block of time but can take even a minute or two to write a sentence here or there.

Stress is optional, but getting things done is what we have to do.

G. Miki Hayden said...


I teach classes at Writers Digest online school and I know how busy everyone is. I definitely think we need a break during the day--to write or meditate or do our yoga and remember our human function--and not just focus on our function in the world. Great post. G. Miki Hayden

Rhonda said...

Great timing Debby!! I have been dealing with this issue myself in the last few weeks. Last week I took time off for myself and it was great. my problem is I don't say "no" often enough, but Lauraine Snelling says this is what you say, "No, I can not do that... I am a author" You can substitute author for Mother, wife, or anything that you feel is more important to your time. Thank you Lauraine!! LOL
Thank you Debby for reminding me of this.

Tamela Hancock Murray said...

Debby, thanks for the mention! See me blush a most flattering shade of pink.

I know firsthand that you are the epitome of a person who accomplishes a great deal in a short amount of time. I am amazed by the number of worthwhile endeavors you undertake with great success. With this entry, you have shared a secret to your ability to find balance.

When you take time out to breathe, you can return to work refreshed and ready to meet the job at hand. I do my best to stay away from the computer on Sundays, not only because of my Christian faith, but because I need this time to regroup and to spend time with my family.

Kudos to you for a thoughtful entry.

Debby Mayne said...

Rhonda, I think telling people we can't do something because we're authors is a wonderful idea! Sometimes they assume that because we're home, we're available. Not so! This is our job, and it's important.

Debby Mayne said...

Hey, Cindi and Miki! Thanks for stopping by! I've learned quite a bit over the years from both of you, including how to guard my time.

Debby Mayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debby Mayne said...

Tamela, like you, I don't work on Sundays. I think that makes me much more productive during the week because I'm refreshed and more relaxed. Now I just need to find a decent time to stop working at night.

Something else that helps me cut down on my busyness is to not worry about getting all the housework done at once. Instead, I do one or two things a day. By the end of the week, I have the same result.

As I do my housework, I work on my book. The vacuum cleaner drowns out other noises, and I mentally write the next scene. Not that I like to vacuum. I'm just sayin'...

Elisabeth Rose said...

Practicing and teaching Tai Chi for twenty two years has taught me many things but one of the most important is 'being in the moment.' ie not anticipating what's coming next while I'm involved in what's happening now. Now is the only reality.

Daily meditation has trained my mind to let go of rubbish and unproductive stressful thought patterns which are so easily indulged in.

I have two friends who are constantly frantic about their lack of time and stressful lives. Both to my mind over do every task they take on.
They like to be in control of everything. Sometimes we need to let go, say no and allow someone else to take over or leave tasks undone if they're not crucial to health and safety :)

My house is clean but I don't fuss if there's a bit of dust around now and again. I'll get to it when I'm ready.

CatMom said...

Great post Debby! Reading what you (and the others) have written has made me stop and think about how I spend my time. I do stay busy, but now am thinking that sometimes my "busyness" is not very productive. I need to focus on the most important, worthwhile tasks (I love the way you listed priorities: Faith, Family and Work!). Blessings, Patti Jo :)

Debby Mayne said...

You're so right, Elisabeth! If you don't get to the dust in your house one day, it'll still be there the next day. Also, being "in the moment" can prevent us from feeling overwhelmed by everything else we have to do. Whether we pray, meditate, practice Tai Chi, or do anything else that's relaxing, we need to focus on what we're doing and not what we have to do later. We might discover that we really don't have to do a lot of the busy stuff we do.

Sierra Donovan said...

Elisabeth, I think you nailed it with "being in the moment." That's the ONLY time when I don't feel like I'm wasting time -- when I'm totally present where I am, not thinking about anything else. I've tried putting that into practice ... but it only lasted for a couple of traffic lights.

Guess I need to try harder! Or better, employ good old Yoda's advice: "Try NOT! Do or do not. There is no try."

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Debby--you've really touched on what many writers feel. It isn't house cleaning, keeping up the yard, or even running errands that bother me as much as when people say that, oh I'm just a writer and have all the time in the world to work on community volunteer projects. If they only knew. I used to feel guilty about saying, "No." It wasn't until last year, when I was really sick, that I learned the world wouldn't stop if I didn't have the time or engery for something beyond my family and my writing. Enjoyed your post.