Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mary's Rants - Not enough hours in the day

I'm the president of Utah RWA, we have a conference coming in October. It's going to be a great conference, if you want to check it out, go to Anyway, I'm not the conference coordinator, but everything has to be approved by the board.

I had my day all mapped out, what I was going to edit, etc. Then I get a call about raffle prizes. And there goes an hour of back and fourth with the board, and the coordinator.

I finally start to catch up, then it's dinner. Good it's over and I'm at the computer and again I'm on the phone, now it's the budget. How much do we have in the bank. We still need, this and that and the other.

My coordinator said "You wouldn't believe how many hours I've worked on this conference and not written a word." And my answer was, "Oh, yes, I do know exactly what you're saying."

I coordinated the URWA conference in 2007 and for the year prior to the conference I did not write a word. Though I will admit it was mostly my own fault because I would delegate and if they weren't fast enough I'd do it myself. Well how long do you think it took my committee to realize if they procrastinated long enough they wouldn't have to do it at all? Anyway that's beside the point I'm trying to make.

If you're a member of RWA you understand how important it is to volunteer. And there are a lot of benefits that come with volunteering. Especially coordinating something like a conference or even being on the committee. Those are the volunteers who meet the visiting editors and agents up close and personal.

They have personal contact with them prior to the conference. Chances are they meet them at the airport and they have a captive audience in route to the venue. Then they have the conference time to chat with them, introduce them to everyone. Basically make them feel at home. Show them around town if there's time.

Great you say, where do I sign up. But did you read what I said? I did not write for a year. My coordinator this year has hardly written in months. And she's been very good at delegating. I have only myself to blame for how much I missed out on. Had I not taken over when people were slow, I still would have cut my writing time in half. That's still a lot of sacrifice to give to your chapter.

And someone needs to do it. I'm not saying not to volunteer. My point is: you have to find a balance for your volunteer time. When does the time away from writing outweigh the benefits of meeting VIP's for the conference, or networking with people you otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to do?

Only you can know what the balance is. You don't want to burn out so you never volunteer again. But you want to have opportunities, after all isn't that why you joined RWA? To network with your own kind? To find an agent and ultimately an editor?

The moral of this blog post is: Volunteer, but be wise.

What are some of the experiences you've had?


Kari Lee Townsend said...

For years Barbie Jo and I were the Rose Queens for our chapter, planning the big holiday event. It took quite a bit of time, but we loved it. We also were in charge of Book in a week and during that week once a month, things got crazy. We received an award for volunteers of the year, but since getting published, I've had to cut way back on volunteering. You really do pay a price and sometimes somthing's gotta give!

tonya kappes said...

Mary I feel your pain. I have no clue where my time least five hours of the day go to my real job and the rest goes in the toilet. I'm deep in edits and have not time. BUT when I'm writing a first draft, I have all the time in the world. Hmmmm

Mary Martinez said...

Kari, You had your volunteer time when you could. I feel that a new person on the block benefits from volunteering. You make contacts, etc. However we also need those veterans that know the ropes to volunteer and mentor. As long as there is a balance so your writing doesn't suffer, then RWA volunteering works.

Tonya, I know what you mean about 'where does the time go?' some evenings I ponder what happened to my day.

Liz Lipperman said...

Everything said here is valid. You have to decide how much you can give back. Like Mary said, if someone else knows you'll step up, trust me, they won't. Another thing to consider is that because you did something so well, people are afraid to follow you. In this case, offering to be a consultant might be the way to go.

Let's face it - anyone who has ever volunteered knows it's a time suck. This year, I am the Elections Coordinator (My third year doing it. I have to confess to a benefit to that - the EC cannot run for office!) One less guilt trip.

I'm also the Chairperson for Literacy Book Signing at our chapter conference in April. So far, that hasn't been bad, but I suspect it will get busy around the first of the year, which, BTW, is way too close to deadline for second book.

Something that hasn't been mentioned her is volunteering your time to younger (time writing and not age) with advice, critiques, or simply pep talks. This is where I think I can be the biggest help to someone, but even that has gotten out of control. I have a talent for spotting typos when I proof read, so I get asked to proof a lot of fulls.

I just can't do it, especially now that I have a deadline. So, it all goes back to your advice Mary.

Do volunteer, but choose wisely.

Cassy Pickard said...

Mary, great topic. It certainly is a balancing act. Last year I co-chaired our chapter's writing contest. My fellow chair became ill and had to step aside for a bit. I was swamped. No writing happened for many months. Yet, it was great to have so many people submitting and looking for advice from our judges. I confess, I'm not doing it again this year. It's time to look at my own work.

Mary Martinez said...

I love hearing that I'm not the only one who has been caught doing a good deed then missing out on writing time. However, it is very worthwhile. And when you have deadlines you need to step back.

It's important though as we advance in our career, like Liz said, to help the 'younger' authors. But you do need to do only what your time permits.

I hope I never have anyone say about me "Oh she got to big for her britches and not she can't bother the help" I plan to be very successful some day and when I do, I want to give back, but I plan to give back along the way. But I've learned the hard way that I do have to balance it.

Donna Cummings said...

It sounds like volunteering is like the "Hotel California" -- you can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave. :)

It's hard to enforce boundaries, but if you don't, no one else will either unfortunately. If they see you setting aside your writing, they'll assume it's not as important as the volunteer tasks.

So I don't have any advice -- just lots of sympathy. :)