September 1st, 2010

As busy as I want to be

Rosalynn from TNQ/The Literary Type and I often seem to be on the same wavelength, but never more so than in her post on busy-ness. I had always sensed that there is a value judgement inherent in that word, I just couldn’t articulate how. And now R has articulated it for me:

“I’m starting to wonder if, somehow, “busy” has somehow become synonymous with “successful.” As though if you’re not constantly doing something, you must be doing something wrong. And not only should you be “busy,” you should feel obliged to jokingly complain about it, as though, you know, you really wish your life were not so very full and “busy”, but hey, you’re powerless to change it. So many people need so many things from you, all the time.”

What this modern-day concept of the word has basically buried is that everyone is busy–we do things for all the time we are awake. Some of those things are not glamourous or even interesting, but unless you are actually staring at a wall in suspended animation, you are busy–reading, talking, eating, writing. I don’t particularly like to be invited to do something at last minute, even if I ostensibly have “no plans”: the book and/or the video is a plan, too, and reading or watching is as “busy” as a party.

In my opinion.

After reading this post, I thought about a woman who once described to me a book she had thought of writing. I thought she wanted suggestions on how to get started, which I offered. She quickly cut me off, saying, “I know I’m not going to write it. I like to have fun too much.”

At the time, I was mildly insulted–I thought she was making fun of my nerdish lifestyle. But now I think she was incredibly honest. Her priorities are different than mine, and she wasn’t going to be embarrassed about that. Remember those girls you knew in school (everybody knew girls like this) who were regularly “too busy” to come to the movies with an all-female posse, but could always find the time for a male? They weren’t lying; different activities rank differently: once you’re fed and rested and studied and worked, how are you going to slice up the rest of the time?

By my own standards (and certainly by my mother’s), I have a lot on my plate–but it’s my plate and I’m an adult, so I serve myself  (this metaphor is officially over). Shortly after reading that post at TLT, someone I respect remarked how difficult it must be to work full time and write seriously. People say this to me occasionally and it’s a delightful compliment, appealing as it is to my sense of myself as a dramatic martyr to my art. Unfortunately, I’m no kind of martyr; I *like* writing. It is fun to me, which is why I can do it even when I’m tired or I’ve just gotten 4 rejections or that spot on the couch just looks so comfy. (I realize there are some writers can work for long periods on their couchs; I am not one of them).

Cognizant of all this, I made myself say to this woman, “It’s actually fine–I’d rather do it this way than any other way I’ve thought of.” Though it would have been much more fun to throw myself across her desk and murmur, “Oh, how I suffer!”

I could be less busy if I wanted to: I could give up or cut down on the writing, stop watching trashy movies, only read books that relate directly to my work, get a car and stop spending 1.5 hours a day on transit, quit both my writing groups and book club, never do anyone a favour, not host parties, only call my parents every other Sunday, break up with Mark and uninstall Facebook Scramble. And then there’s the matter of this blog…

Everyone who read that did so list thinking certain items were obviously jokes and others would really be good to cut back on. We prioritize on our own systems, and really, it comes down to what we care about. Me, I care about all of the above, and as long as I can, I will keep doing it all. If something comes along and demands more of my time, I’ll reprioritize.

Until then I am like most people, exactly as busy as I want to be.

4 Responses to “As busy as I want to be”

  • Kerry Clare says:

    Or as not busy as you want to be. So that Saturday afternoons picnicking in the park can run as late as you like.

  • Rebecca says:

    A picnic is a plan!! An excellent plan, in my opinion. And a hopeful hostess never schedules anything right after…friends and food are worth savouring! I consider Saturday to have been busy with picnicking!!

  • Amy says:

    This makes me think of people who say they are too busy to cook. They’re not, they just choose to do something else and microwave their food rather than spend an hour at the end of the day making something really nice. Which is my favourite hour of the day, usually!

  • Rebecca says:

    Zactly, Amy. I enjoy cooking so I’ll spend time on it; I do not enjoy sewing or other needlework so I won’t. My friends who enjoy both AND my friends who enjoy neither are all baffled by this.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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