Making a decision to move forward with turning professional in a creative field, starting a business, a family or even a new career will mean sacrifice. The sacrifices will be on how much time you will have to spend on watching TV, social media and yes, sadly, on the people around you. If you’re an extrovert like me, the idea of losing people as you move forward with the life you want may seem almost not worth it.
But I’m finding that it’s just the opposite.
Cutting time spent with people who don’t live by my values (ABCs, Always Be Creating, most importantly) is clarifying my thinking. And, I’m finding that I’m meeting new people who are inspiring my creative flow.
Cutting People From Your Life Isn’t Cruel
Corporations cut departments and people all the time. But those institutions are psychotic monsters run by psychopath CEOs.
That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? It’s what I thought too.
Then I began pondering the concept of a Zen Garden. If you haven’t seen one, Google it and look at the images. The grass is cut short, the branches of the trees are in harmony and it’s designed to soothe the senses and still the mind. Also ponder, that the concept of pruning is to restore the vitality of a plant. The energy should be going to branches which will yield fruit in fruiting trees. All the other branches need to be cut so the tree can nourish the fruit and be at its most productive.
Such is life.
It’s meant to be a pleasing picture to you and one that’s fruitful if you want your chosen path, be it that of the creative professional, business person, parent or careerist, to nourish you spiritually and materially.
I compare the relationships I hold to the branches of a Bonsai tree. The people you’re in a relationship with have expectations from you and you have expectations of them. All that a relationship is, give and take of thoughts and energy which are delivered in increments of time. Sometimes others’ expectations from you aren’t aligned with your core values or the key behaviours which will drive the life you want for yourself to reach your life’s objective (in my case to earn a living through my writing to encourage self-actualisation, community-mindedness and creativity in others).
As a writer, I must create time to write. Creating time requires energy. Where does that time come from?
Mostly it comes from waking up early. It also comes from organising household duties so they can either be carried out by myself or others in an efficient manner. Organising tasks requires mental energy. Another way to create time is to prioritise what I must accomplish each day (and this will come from key behaviours tied to your core values. You can find out how to define your core values and key behaviours by undertaking Scott Jeffrey’s Core Values Workshop. I’m undertaking it right now and would love accountability buddies) and cut out time spent with those who don’t energise me socially or get me closer to writing and publishing goals.
Continuing relationships with these people saps your time and energy.
In these early stages of my writing career, the universe offers me no material support from doing the work which I’m designed to do.
However, I have faith that if I keep doing the work, keep improving, getting published in reputable places, opportunities to earn an income will present themselves. More importantly though, if I don’t write every day, I’m a cranky person to be around.
I balance my writing career with the responsibilities of being a mum and a partner. I value having a stable and functional household. It sustains me emotionally and materially. I see benefits from putting my creative energy into constantly improving my household so that it offers all of its members the right balance of space, challenge and support.
There’s a Better Way: Allowing People to Fall Off
I admit, over the years, the way I’ve cut off relationships has been anything but smooth. Lots of drama, going back and forth, fighting and tension were involved. All of this drained the energy I should’ve put into my writing, personal and professional growth. These days, I’m making an effort to say “no” in a way that will leave the person uplifted and on their way.
Winston Churchill said:
“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”
A recent example comes to mind.
I’m currently writing a book “How to Create Time” which was inspired by a writers’ group I put together, three years ago. The members of the group didn’t bring much in the way of fresh writing to the table. Their excuse was “they didn’t have time”. This frustrated me beyond belief. If people brought new pieces of writing, it showed no signs of improvement and they had no curiosity to research things like story structure or take any courses to improve their writing. They simply wanted others reading their writing and telling them they’re good writers.
Then I tried to tighten up the group by putting selection criteria like to join they must have written 20,000 words and must be able to bring a new piece of writing up to 3000 words to every monthly meeting. At the time, we were meeting in the local library. The librarian who’d organised the meeting room told me that it should be an open community group and such criteria were likely to scare people off. She discouraged me from imposing these rules to keep the free meeting space.
We stuck with the group of “writers” who didn’t write or improve. As the group was called “WritePublishGrow”, I introduced a collaborative anthology project. The group members certainly wanted to see their book published so they submitted original pieces and polished them.
Finally, forward movement.
I thought we’d have the book ready, published and launched in six months. It took more than a year for it all to come to fruition.
What had I overestimated?
The group was made of the wrong people. Maybe one or two were interested in pursuing writing but the rest were happy with a vanity project. They were saying they wanted to be professional writers but their actions were not consistent with their words. My actions were also inconsistent with my desire to become a professional writer. One who wants to be a professional writer writes and submits work and gets published. She doesn’t run a free writers’ group, which of course, only attracts the wanna-bes who have all the time in the world to distract themselves from what they say they want to achieve.
How did I cut them out of my life?
My opportunity came when I fell pregnant with Lucy. It was easy to explain that my priorities had shifted. Pheww!
The universe was on my side, giving me a growth opportunity to cut ties with a group that wasn’t moving me towards becoming a professional writer. Lucy has been far more creative and inspirational with the challenges she presents around time and energy management than the writers’ group has been for my writing career.
I keep in touch with a few members every now and then. It’s the ones who, like me, are constantly creating and growing who continue to come into my life. I guard my time though and make sure that the interaction will yield some fruits, a new writing project, or reading each others’ writing or helping out with projects which will benefit both parties.
As long as I keep writing, publishing and growing, I will have no time for those who aren’t on that path. They simply fall off like dead leaves from my branches. Following one’s nature is a beautiful thing that keeps one happy, healthy and sane.
Ignoring Sunk Emotional Investments
One of the reasons I found some of the past relationships with my “writers’” group members so hard to let go was that I’d invested so much emotional energy into them and to the group.
I was e-mailing three reminders per month to get the group together, had put together group meeting agendas, many workshops on writing an anthology and had worked closely with the editor on polishing up the stories and getting the cover design and typesetting done properly.
I didn’t charge for coordinating any of the work even though I felt I should have. I was putting out professional commitment. Despite all of this some members disputed with me on the costs of printing the book. This made me realise I wasn’t trusted or valued.
Today though, I’m letting go of the past and past emotional investments. Those people owe me nothing. It was an experience that taught me to be clear about what I want, put value on my time and communicate this openly so I never get to work with anyone who doesn’t value my time ever again.
Over to you…
What past emotional investments are you holding on to?
How are your defined core values and key behaviours supporting you in saying “no” to people and situation?