Friday, August 24, 2012

Writing Books and Maintaining Friendships



by Linda Rodriguez

I have become a terrible friend. I spend all my time writing books, taking care of the business of books (research, tours, conferences, accounting, and correspondence with editors, agents, publicists, and fans), and promoting my books (blogs, guest blogs, interviews, signings and readings, Facebook, Twitter, email newsletters, etc.). There’s little time left over even for my family and my own physical and spiritual needs.

Making time for a friend involves carving a hunk out of an already over-committed day, and the problem is that I have a lot of friends. They’re wonderful people with whom I love to spend a leisurely lunch or afternoon coffee/tea break while engaged in delightful, intelligent conversation. I’m lucky if I can manage this with one of them every few months. So I have many friends I only “see” on Facebook. This is one thing with friends I love who live far away. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with them when we know we’ll only see each other once a year at some conference. It’s quite another kettle of fish with friends who live in the same town.

I’ve been thinking about this situation lately—and my thoughts have not been happy ones. I miss my friends, and I hate responding to an invitation to get together with a list of three possible dates four months in the future. I worry that the message that sends is not at all the one I want to send, that they will incorrectly feel I don’t value their friendships. As for a spontaneous “Mary’s in town for two days, so let’s have lunch with her and catch up,” I’m almost never in a position to join in.

This situation all came to a head for me recently. A friend sent me a chain email that talked about a sister who would never spontaneously go to lunch and had recently died without ever going to lunch with her sister. (I wonder why they chose to send that email to me?) Right after that, I received an email from one of my oldest friends to tell me she’d had surgery and was laid up at home in bed, going stir-crazy. My first thought was, “I should drive out there and visit with her.” This friend lives on the other side of town out in the country, entailing an hour-long highway drive there and and another hour-long highway drive back. That visit would eat up an entire afternoon, so my first thought was immediately followed by a list of the things I have to do, many of which have imminent deadlines. “I’ll send her a card and some flowers to wish her a quick recovery and finish some of these urgent tasks,” was my next thought. “I’ll visit her later when I have time.” As if I would ever have an open afternoon to go see her without creating it!

That quick dismissal of my friend’s situation in order to get back to the always-present workload left me wondering what was wrong with me? When had I become the kind of person who would begrudge a few hours to visit a friend at home alone on bed rest? If a wonderful professional opportunity suddenly presented itself, and I needed to make major adjustments to my schedule to accommodate it, I knew I would. Why not for an old, dear friend?

I sat down and made a list of all the good friends I’ve had to put off for lunch or other meetings. I decided I had to do something about this. I’m trying to build a whole new career with my books, and it’s demanding and time-consuming, as it is for any small businessperson. But I don’t want to ignore my friends. So I made up a schedule that allows me to meet someone for lunch every week. I’m going to work my way through my list of friends that way. It means finding some other time to do some critical tasks. They’re also important and can’t be skipped. It won’t be easy, at all. But I know the kind of person I am, the kind of person I long ago decided to be, a person to whom people are more important than things. If my career takes a little longer to get going, at least I won’t have achieved it at the cost of becoming someone different from who I truly am.

And yes, dear reader, I’ll be slow responding to your comments today because I’m spending the afternoon taking lunch to my dear friend who’s recuperating from surgery, and we’ll be making bad jokes and laughing hysterically at them.

11 comments:

  1. Linda, what a wonderful blog. A wake-up call for all of us. Enjoy today with all the bad jokes and the laugher than enriches the soul --

    Marian

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  2. Thanks, Evelyn. And I kinda like your spelling error. Maybe we all sometimes need to be that "laugher that enriches the soul." :-)

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  3. Great post. I saw that chainmail also, and it made me reprioritize. See you one day soon!

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  4. However busy we get, we must make time for ourselves. Maybe the laundry can wait, the kitchen may not be spotless,that e-mail can wait. What's the point of being successful if you don't enjoy your life?

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  5. Denise, I don't send chain emails on, but after that one had such an effect on me, I did. And yes, we need to get together soon!

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  6. Kat, you're so right. And I think of articles I've read reporting studies that show people with active friendships age better and have fewer cognitive problems.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. How right you are, Linda. I'm not good about it at all. I do have one friend that I try to go out to lunch with and a movie a few times a year. We always go pick movies her more sophisticated friends aren't interested in like: Twilight series, Harry Potter, Avatar, etc. One lunch we shared 21 pieces of sushi. (I like sushi, but it was all different kinds, some weren't as good as others.)

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  8. This was a great post! Made me evaluate what I find most important. I find I prioritize my writing over most things in my life, mainly because I enjoy it so much. I have to remind myself not to solely focus on it or my friends will abandon me. One day I might look up from the computer screen wanting to take a break and find no one around to join me.

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  9. Marilyn, happy birthday!

    I tend to be very focused, and that's good for writing. I dive into my book's world and live there. It's not so great for a balanced life. One of my big challenges right now is how to work at the writing life to be successful without having it become my entire world.

    And I love the idea of your friend you can go enjoy fun movies that don't necessarily meet other friends' standards. I think we have different friends for different reasons and maybe for different parts of ourselves.

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  10. ksmill7, I am so with you on all that. I'm a strong introvert, who learned to put on extroversion like a garment in my previous career where I had to give workshops, seminars, put on big conferences, raise money, etc. Now, I'm reverting to that introvert, who'd be happy to just be left alone with her computer and her imaginary people. And that's not a healthy way to live, not all the time anyway. We need our friends and family more than we might realize.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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