I’m selfish with my time. I spend it how I want. It’s my most precious commodity. Be it a second, a day, a week, or a year, time can only be given, and can never be recovered.
I learned to value my time during my tours in combat, especially after I was shot. I was in a pretty high-speed reconnaissance unit, with an amazing group of people, and we were involved in some pretty influential missions. Hollywood would have you believe that war is a daily suck-fest, and every patrol ends in a glorious battle, bullets cracking the air, explosions roiling with fire, casualties all around. If Hollywood offered a truly accurate story, war movies would be a starving genre that people watched after giving up on Billy Mays infomercial reruns. A realistic 2-hour war movie would take 4 hours to rent, and only have about 10 minutes of shoot ’em up action. The rest of the movie would be filled with mind-numbing patrols, repairs on vehicles built by the lowest bidder, card games, and short scenes that would make McGuyver proud. I spent two years in Iraq, performing countless patrols and house raids. I sat on the Iraq/Iran border for weeks, making sure the Iranians didn’t take advantage of the chaos and sneak across. During that time, one of the most common expressions amongst the Joes was, “What a waste…I’m never getting this time back”.
It was an awful sensation—a festering ball of anger, frustration, anxiety, impatience, betrayal… Learning the value of my time had been an extremely difficult lesson.
Much of society seems to have a serious cognitive dissonance when it comes to work—writing isn’t real work; however, the prospect of writing a novel is a marvelous feat that many profess, “I could never do that!” This dissonance could have much to do with the fact that writing is relatively easy. Almost everyone can do it. But one look at social media is all you need to see that not everyone can do it well. Society doesn’t generally care about the extra “o” on “to”, or differentiating “their”, “there”, and “they’re”, and most attempts to correct them are met with exclamations of “grammar nazi!”. When you are asked, “What did you do today?”, be prepared to be met with empty stares and slow nods when you respond with, “Oh Em Gee, my brain is fried. I churned out 20,000 words!” Don’t feel offended or angry when they aren’t enthused or astonished by all your hard work. We all do it, and it’s usually an involuntary reaction. If you don’t believe me, just record yourself when a 4 yo tells you how rough their day was 😉
No one is going to consider our time spent writing as time spent working until we treat it as such. It’s easy to tell people, “I can’t, I’m working” when we’re working for someone else; it’s not so easy to tell someone “I can’t, I’m working” when you work from home. But that’s the perspective that we need to achieve.
“I’m sorry, I can’t. I’m writing.”
Be selfish with your time. It’s your most precious commodity.