Know (And Prioritize) Thyself

You know that old adage, the one about how you can tell a real writer because s/he writes? I don’t think that’s the exact phrasing, but you know the one. Writers write. If you want to be a writer, write some words. How can I be a writer, you ask? Well, you do some writing.

It’s kind of a pithy, snide sort of adage, but there’s truth at the heart. If you want to do something, you jolly well find a way to do it. In short, you make it a priority.

It goes for other things, too. If you want to be a faster runner, you run. If you want to learn to play guitar, you practice. Want to speak Portuguese? Well, you probably need to go to a class or something. At any rate, you say to yourself, “This thing I want, well, it’s important to me. Therefore, I am going to dedicate time, energy, and brainwaves to it. And by George, even if I have to give somethings up to do it, I’m gonna do it.”

Simple as that.

But while it may be simple, it’s certainly not easy.

We all have so many commitments, between work, family, and, you know, living, it’s hard sometimes to make space for one more thing. Sometimes, when you’re exhausted after a long day, you don’t want to wring out your brain for just a few more cogent minutes of study or creative work. And that’s fine: sometimes health and sanity take priority over wishes and goals.

At times, prioritizing is largely about self-knowledge, which is one of the trickiest things we humans can do. It can be difficult to distinguish between “I want this,” and “This is important enough to me to dedicate the time, money, energy, and sheer willpower to make it happen,” and that difference is the gap between having Pop-Tarts for dinner and moving to Ireland for a year.

So how do you do it?

Often, the proof is simply in how you live. We unconsciously prioritize every day: it’s why I’m a pretty good spinner and a terrible guitar player. Some things are harder to make happen, though, and that’s why we have to work, every day, to figure out what are the most important things.

But other times, it takes soul-searching, angst, and a re-evaluation of one’s life before those priorities surface. And when that happens, it can be a crisis, or it can be a brilliant moment of awakening. These realizations often come in a tidal wave of shock, when we realize we’ve been distracting ourselves from what really matters, or we finally acknowledge that we’ve been doing nothing to pursue one of our Big Dreams.

So perhaps it’s worth the price of a little ongoing self-study to keep the priorities straight, if only to prevent those foundation rocking moments of cold clarity.

Have you experienced this? Do you prioritize based on self-knowledge? How do you decide what’s really, truly important to you, and how do you prioritize those things?

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One thought on “Know (And Prioritize) Thyself

  1. Sometimes I feel like it’s a better idea to kick a wooden chair with my shin than sit down and write. But I always regret it afterwards.

    I have a full-time job, a 2yo daughter, and very limited free time. I would love nothing more than to make a living writing and have more time with my family. But that’s a massive long-term goal that isn’t achieved by just a single decision. I started my current project on July 28, and the best thing that’s been working for me lately was to set a 3 month deadline. Knowing that I get to take a break when it’s done helps me to devote more of my free time toward writing. Although I still have my lazy days (okay I’ll be honest; I’ve had a lazy *week*). But I’ve been tracking my numbers, and August has been my best month this year, and I’m excited to get to the end of the book!

    And if I don’t hit my goal? Well it’s never healthy to beat ourselves up over failure. So I’ll set a new goal. After all, I’m gonna be writing for the rest of my life anyway. But I think if I can stay focused on the shorter goals with a deadline in mind, I’m confident I’ll hit them.

    So that’s been the key for me: focusing on one project, one deadline, and knowing that I can finish just this one project. The rest will come later.

    Thanks for this, Kristin! You reminded me to think about my priorities.

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