Burning, Burning, Burning Out

I’m kind of jealous of the “Fuck You. Pay Me” people, because then it’s really easy to say no to things. No money? No work. But yesterday, I had to decline to help a friend with something because, honestly, I just don’t have it in me. It’s not just the commitment to Pith and Project X, it’s the ghost story I want to send to this literary mag that I’m feeling like shit about (the story, not the outlet), and the interview I need to do, and the ways I’m behind at work and on and on.

It’s good to be busy. But it feels weird to say, “sorry, no. I can’t.” It makes me think about how much we’re socialized to try to help, no matter what, especially if the only cost of it is our own time. And, especially if the only thing that would suffer is our own work.

I read someplace recently–maybe in that Carole Maso book–that being an artist is about being selfish in ways. And I kind of bristled at that notion. Not me. I’m not going to be selfish. Being selfish is bad and wrong and there has to be a way to make being creative work without being selfish.

Eh, now I’m not sure that’s really true. I don’t think you have to be completely selfish, but you do have to be honest with yourself about what you need to do the things you need to do and you have to be a hardass about protecting those things. Otherwise, they just get eaten up or pushed aside. They’re so easily lost.

Which I think is another reason that I’ve just been in a piss poor mood. The Butcher’s workload has lightened (which, in real life is a relief) and football is over. So, the long hours I had at night to write–when things were silent in the house–are becoming much rarer and I’m adjusting poorly.

6 thoughts on “Burning, Burning, Burning Out

  1. Telling someone no in this situation isn’t selfish, though, just self-protective. Unless the request was essential to someone’s life, health, or happiness, and no one else could have provided the assistance. Now, asking the Butcher to buy you some good Bose headphones to block out the noise of his increased presence — that would be selfish. Buying them yourself, however, would not be.

  2. But at least, now with that extra time, he cleans now and again.
    I say not just the headphones, but with a fresh, safe ceiling in both rooms, the den could become your writing room, if you put in the right sort of comfy chair and moved (or bought another) computer stand. Then when he’s home with the tv/video games on, you’ll muddle through. Of course, the poor animals won’t know how to decide who to cuddle with.

  3. Yeah, this situation is completely of my own making. It’s not like he would care if I went in the other room. Hell, when I was working on those Think Progress posts, he didn’t think anything weird of me sitting on the couch wearing his headphones so I couldn’t hear his video game. I just feel like it’s kind of rude and weird.

  4. While I’m not of the “fuck you, pay me” school, there is some truth in something a colleague once said to me: a feminist doesn’t ask other women to work for free. If the thing you’re soliciting has a value, then something (a lawn mowed, a sweater knitted, cupcakes, cash on the barrelhead, professional exposure and some networking opportunities…something) should be offered beyond gratitude and flattery. It’s not an act of friendship to take your friend’s time and work so she can’t create her own stuff — and that’s true even when what you’re working on might be of mutual interest or because you feel confident that you can draw on the intimacy of your relationship to get what you want for free. If I can’t pay for the job, I don’t ask for the help.

    I also have trouble isolating myself to get work done if everyone is in the house. I have an office, but I work at a table right in the middle of the house so I can be present and part of everything…even though I’d probably get a lot more done if I withdrew. It just feels anti-social to do so.

  5. Exactly. Plus, the Butcher is hilarious in this kind of ongoing way and I just hate to miss any random comment he might make. And, lord, when the Red-Headed Kid is over? I DO NOT want to miss a bit of it.

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