Six impossible things

Fessing up

Last Saturday there was a meeting of the local Mythopoeic Society, at which they planned to discuss Thirteenth Child. They very kindly asked me to attend, and spent considerable time arranging to have the meeting on a date when I was sure I could make it.

And I spaced it.

I have a list of excuses as long as your arm, and I feel guilty as all get-out, and I apologize profusely to anyone who went expecting me to be there. But that’s not what I want to talk about at the moment.

What I want to talk about is the underlying problem, which is this:  I should never have accepted in the first place.

I like seeing fans, and I like talking about my books and finding out what other people think of them. But right now, I have way too much going on in my life to be taking on any more obligations. I knew this. I’ve been turning down most out-of-town gigs for a good three years now, ever since Mom’s Alzheimers made it necessary for me to start taking over the family finances. I’ve been warning everyone I did accept that I might have to cancel at the last minute. But…

But this was a local event. I know quite a few of the members, and I was looking forward to seeing them. I’ve been to meetings before, when they were discussing some of my other titles, and it was fun and interesting and intelligent. It was only about a 20 minute drive from my house. They promised me tea. I told myself I could use the break (and I could). I told myself it would get me pumped up to write more and faster on the sequel that’s due in June. And, again, it was local – and I haven’t been turning down local events, because they don’t take that much time out of my schedule and I don’t have to pack and travel and blah blah.

In short, I made excuses to accept, because I really wanted to do this.

But a big part of managing one’s writing career is, well, managing it. Which means pacing oneself. Which means not succumbing to tempting offers if they are going to add more stress to an already-stressed-out full-up schedule.

The trouble is that at first glance, my schedule doesn’t look so bad. Minicon is coming up this weekend; there’s tax day and a dentist appointment and my Dad’s 90th birthday coming up in April, 4th Street Fantasy Con in June and Convergence in July (all of which are local). I have to spend a weekend moving furniture and packing up china from the summer house that my Dad is selling. Oh, and take the cats for their annual vet visit in May.

In short, the calendar isn’t empty, but it isn’t crowded with obligations and events. It looks as if I could fit in a couple more appearances, maybe even an out-of-town gig. And I hate telling people “no.” But…

But tax day involves getting information for ten different entities for my Dad (thanks to a bunch of complicated estate planning that my mother and grandmother did). I have a book to write (and do ongoing research for). I’m managing my mother’s estate for the forseeable future, as well as needing to work with my father and the lawyer on what changes need to be made to his estate plan. The family business got caught in the financial meltdown and recession, so we’re all spending time planning how to keep it afloat until business picks up again (and there are lawyer meetings for that, too). I have a couple of students I’m committed to mentoring this spring. I have writer friends who need plot-noodling (and I can’t very well back out, because it’s a trade – I help them, they help me). And of course there’s all the usual life-maintenance stuff, along with the running-my-own-business (i.e., the writing office work) stuff.

Taken one thing at a time, none of it is unusually difficult or impossible to get done. Take it all together, and I have no business adding on anything more, even if it’s just a couple of hours (and I’d take that much time just going to a movie, if I ever went to movies).

Yet I still do. Because I find it really, really hard to turn down things I want to do, even when I know I should.

I’m not saying this because I want people to stop asking me to do things, or in order to complain about my busy schedule. I’m offering it as an object lesson, a cautionary tale. Overscheduling is easy to do, and surprisingly hard to get out of.

And I’m still really, really sorry about Saturday.

5 Comments
  1. Sorry you’re having such a rough time. The problem with being on the wrong side of the pond is that I can only offer long-distance sympathy.

  2. During my first year of Graduate School, I felt like I got nailed time and time again for being slightly late, or slightly forgetful– you know, slightly flaky. But I did try, and I apologized a lot– but I also got really, really discouraged.

    Then I heard this truly lovely story about how one of my professors was accidentally an entire year late for a conference once, and that sort of pulled things back in to perspective for me. I mean, lovely in the sense that for me it made him human and yet not less intelligent or kind or respect-able.

    (Also, I had several funerals that year and a couple of close calls on loved ones, and looking back I have come to the conclusion that grieving takes up more brain space than I had given it credit for.)

    • green knight – Thanks.

      SA.Cox – It is oddly comforting to know that no matter how badly one has done, someone else has managed to do worse. And yeah, the amount of brain space all this stuff takes up is really quite astonishing, especially since one doesn’t seem to notice consciously except in retrospect. On any given day in the past year, I figured I was in tough shape last week, but today is just fine. Took me a while to spot the logic flaw in that one.

  3. Don’t think of it as “turning down nice folks”. Think of it as “giving your PR slots to hungry new writers”. Does wonders for the guilt thing…

    ;-), L.

  4. ” tax day involves getting information for ten different entities” My sympathies on that one–my father’s taxes only involved eight. (I was my mother’s executor, too, but he had the dementia.) At least I wasn’t trying to do creative work at the same time. ; )

Questions regarding foreign rights, film/tv subrights, and other business matters should be directed to Pat’s agent Ginger Clark, Curtis-Brown, Ltd., 10 Astor Place, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10003, gc@cbltd.com

Books

Appearances