Monday, February 07, 2011

"Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again"

A few years ago, a writer-friend gave me this adorable change purse for my birthday. It's soft and shiny, with a woman's face on it and the slogan that reads: Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again:

I laughed because she'd been nudging me to stop taking so much on. And I'd "heard" her, and half-promised to "learn to say no" to ongoing charitable projects, but the truth was, it just wasn't in my nature.

I have a busy-busy type personality, I felt I had skills to bring to the projects, and I liked knowing I was working toward a greater good in society. Whether it raising funds for the hungry, heading a committee for a gala fundraiser at my son's school, participating in a writing contest to help newer writers achieve their goals of publication...there went my hand to help.

The problem was, between my family and all those volunteer hours, I was having trouble finding enough time for my career. As many of us know, there's more to being a published author than just writing the book! And I found myself having to cut corners or say "no" to promotional opportunities because I was too busy with my off-side volunteerism.

I knew I was in over-my-head. Especially when my agent pointed it out to me. So...slow-but-surely, I started making some changes. While I found it hard to say an out-and-out "no," what I did was learn to say, "okay, but not too much."

I went from being a coordinator and frequent contest judge to an occasional judge. And I try really hard now to limit how many I'll judge. At the school fundraiser, I now volunteer for secondary role where my duties and hours are fixed. And while I still head the feed-the-hungry projects, I willingly seek and accept help from others.

Which is really working for me! I still like being associated with these projects and meeting new people and having new experiences, but I'm no longer stressing myself out. There's more time for career-related tasks--like reading my friends' books and writing this blog.

As my kids move along and my nest empties, I may ratchet up my volunteerism again. But for right now, this is feeling good.

So tell me, have you ever gotten caught up in the volunteerism cycle at work or school? Sworn you wouldn't do another thing...then accepted yet another big job? And then wished you hadn't? And how do you handle it?


Janie Emaus said...

My problem is saying no to friends and family! And it often does get in the way of my writing. Kudos to you for your volunteer work, but do have to leave time for yourself.

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Oh, I need one of those purses!

I am currently tied up with yearbook, student store, spring pictures, room mom, and trying to squeeze in writing.


Tis the life of a writer mom!

stephhale said...

I'm pretty sure that one of my resolutions LAST year was to start saying no. Epic fail! I'm really going to try and back off after this school year. But I've said that before. :)

TinaFerraro said...

Thanks, Janie, Kelly and Steph, good to know I am not ALONE!

Monique Cherie said...

hey girls some times we take on too much and get stuck on fitting it all in

PS, You have won an award in my blog:

Wendy Toliver said...

I remember when Oprah said, "It's okay to say no." That's something I try to think about when I'm asked to do something I don't want to do or can't do because I'm too bogged down. My husband says I'm the hardest worker he knows who doesn't make money (talking about volunteering).

TinaFerraro said...

Thanks, Monique and Wendy. And in fact, this blog conversation has already helped me. I just passed on some contest judging because I realized that a) I'm already too busy and b) I COULD! :)

nymfaux said...

I don't know if it'll help, but you could also get a change purse that says, "judge not, lest ye be judged." :)

Heather Davis said...

Yes. I seem to judge a lot of contests, but I actually enjoy that - especially if it's one where I can give feedback.

Celeste said...

I, too, am a volunteer-aholic. I've been working on it the past couple years, and have cut way back, but just can't seem to give it up. Even though it would mean more writing time, which would be awesome. Have been trying to figure out what the trigger is for me? Do I like to be needed or am I just addicted to being busy?! I may never know, but I sure love your bag :)