One Chapter Leads to the Next

As season gives way to season, so the ending of one chapter of life is the beginning of another. There are the obvious transitions–graduations, weddings, births, deaths, divorces, jobs begun and jobs ended–those abrupt moments that change everything. But unlike in books, when white space and large numerals indicate the next chapter, sometimes in life we only recognize the ending of one thing and the beginning of another in hindsight. The change is so gradual–the drifting apart of spouses, the slow fizzle of friendship, the long development of a talent until it finally defines us.

I have been through many a hobby and many an interest, as you have, I’m sure. At one point or another I have filled up my free time with stamping, painting, making jewelry, selling Pampered Chef, taking care of pet lizards and mice and tree frogs, making mosaics, developing my gardens, leading nature walks, making quilts, sewing a closet full of clothes, decoupage, seeing nearly every movie in the theaters, making paper, going to the gym…and I could go on. (You may notice the glaring absence of housework from that long list. This was not an accident.)

One hobby that I have been particularly proud of over the past six years is being a docent at Potter Park Zoo. 50+ hours of every year since 2006 I have given over to educating people about our zoo, conservation, ecology, and many different kinds of animals. I have worked firsthand with some amazing animals and some amazing people. And I have loved each moment of it. But I find that this is a chapter that is ending for the time being. Those precious hours need to be put to a different use.

I have also, for the past several years, been sewing steadily, creating around 75 items of clothing (more than 40 of those in just the last year as a regular contributor to The Sew Weekly) and more than 30 quilts. It garners me a lot of compliments and it is a fun and rewarding hobby. I have committed to finishing a quilt for my son next year and I’ll do some more outfits for the Sew Weekly to close out 2012. But I find that this is a chapter that is sort of ending for the time being.  Those precious hours need to be put to a different use.

What use? Why would I voluntarily end activities that pleased me and often helped others? For the simple reason that I need to use that time to write.

People often ask me how I find time to do all the things I do. We all get 24 hours a day. Most of us have to work to make a living. Many of us have spouses and children to care for. When I was feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities as a young mother going back to work I made a schedule for my days, not to follow exactly, but simply to see if it was possible to do all that I had to do. I filled up my 24 hours quickly and sat back to look at my work, amazed and feeling pretty satisfied that I had fit everything in. Then I noticed that I had forgotten to allow any time for showering, dressing, making meals, or even eating. So I had to reprioritize. I couldn’t make more time. I had to cut things out and cut things back. I had to reclaim time.

And at this point in my life I must reclaim time again. I must sacrifice some good things in favor of something better. Writing. In November I am doing National Novel Writing Month, devoting my extra time to writing about 2000 words each day. Beyond that, in 2013, I am devoting the time I would have used for sewing or tramping around the zoo to finishing and revising my second novel. And starting a third.

To find the kind of time one needs in order to really make a go at writing, to make it more than a hobby, one must be willing to let go of other things, even if they are good things. Because even I can’t do it all (even if to some people it seems that I can). And you can’t either.

Is one chapter of your life slowly and perniciously turning into the whole story of your life? Maybe it’s time to wrap that chapter up and start on a fresh page. If you want to write…then maybe it’s time to write.