What It Takes

What It Takes

Home/Work

By Shawn Coyne | Published: March 28, 2014

I face this conundrum a lot and I’ve had the good fortune to work with the expert on Resistance to ask for help. Here it is:

“How do you know when the voice in your head has been hijacked by Resistance? That you’re essentially acting on advice from a force out to distract and keep you from the important work you were put on earth to do?”

Steve’s response to this question is “the very act of questioning the motives of your internal chatterbox tells you that it’s Resistance.” And he’s absolutely right.

But what if the voice tells you that your devotion to your muse is denying your six-year-old daughter a connected, loving and giving father? It’s no secret that great writers/artists were/are often terrible at relationships. Maybe that’s the price you’ll have to pay to get that Clio award.

If you slavishly grind and do whatever’s necessary to ship your new app on time and then dive right in to fixing every bug that rears its ugly head after you do so, when will you have the time to roughhouse with your four-year-old in the sandbox?

You won’t.

When confronted with choosing between painting your masterpiece for the edification of the entire human race and lying on the pavement so your kids can outline your figure in chalk, go prone.

Once you’ve created another life or committed to another person, it’s your responsibility to put that life first. Sorry, your high-minded, laser focused self-actualization process will have to be put on hold. That doesn’t mean you don’t do your work. It just means that you have to be creative to find that time.

And when you rise an hour earlier or stay up an hour later or turn off the television, the cell phone, and the high definition audio system and get to it, you’ll be able to tell the nasty voice to shove it. You earned that time to bore into work and you’ll have none of its guilt tripping because your significant others will be sleeping or out with their friends.

And magically you’ll also find that all of that the muse rewards all of that silly stuff you did with your kids by showing up early and staying later in that window of time.

Putting yourself second means that you may never win that Academy Award.

So What.

Posted in What It Takes

24 Responses to “Home/Work”

  1. March 28, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Great post, part of forgoing the long-term benefits of being a parent for “work” is rooted in the fear of insignificance. Fear of Insignificance a great book by Carlo Strenger that address ithat topic in our fame-seeking century where everbody is famous in their own mind forever.

    Just because you don’t win the Academy Award, investing ij your child means they might win it instead!

    • March 28, 2014 at 8:08 am

      I had the Academy Award dream bubble to life for me when I was about 13 – and I always just believed that it would be so! Let me tell you, way back then my dream was scoffed at (and all my dreams have been since!) but being the blacksheepish kinda lady that i have been forever – those scoffs made me more determined to DO IT! Well as my blessigs would have it, I am mom to four incredible souls, raised them solo and yet made many of the dreams I had for my life come true! My screenplay was always on mind but never on paper – i simply didnt have a clue what to write about! Now, however, with just one teenager left living at home – and he has very little desire to have mom in his life – i have time AND i have the story! I simply wouldnt have been ready or able to create as I am now!! I am having a blast and have dedicated time to writing it (see i am also following my dream of running my own biz) i have created a schedule that works for me, today, but it is fluid – that alone takes alot of pressure off – and I am having a blast doing everything that I love – including being a mom, second… Those babies of mine were first when they were needing to be – but its MY turn now!!

      • Gunhild
        April 12, 2014 at 10:49 am

        This is just so perfectly what I needed to read right now. Thank you! I feel being a mom of a 4 yo takes so much time and thought capacity, that I am happy to read, that I don’t have to give up my dreams, just because this is a time in my life where it is more important that I am there for my son. I have plenty of time to catch up with my dream later, when he and future siblings are grown, especially if I just keep taking small, consistent steps towards my dream/goal. I was driving myself into a minor depression, stressing out about not getting anywhere career-wise. You eased my pain, Sherill. Thanks.

  2. March 28, 2014 at 6:22 am

    With my kids now ages 22, 19, and 16, I see that for me, a lot of self-actualization happened through mindfully spending much of my time doing stuff with my kids. It wasn’t either/or. :-)

  3. Mary Doyle
    March 28, 2014 at 6:33 am

    This was a battle I lost to Resistance when I was still married with a child at home and as a result I put writing on the shelf for many years. I have only admiration for artist/parents/spouses who find a way to successfully balance it all – great post Shawn!

  4. March 28, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Love it. I also think there is a compounding effect to this, too. If you routinely take time to be present with your kids/wife/family, it builds. You’ll find it easier and easier to find ways and time to do that. But if you let those opportunities go, it’ll feel as if you get fewer and fewer of them and less and less time to take advantage of those opportunities. Worse, the expectation of your family around having time with you will lower.

    Similarly, if you fritter away 20 minutes that you could be devoting to your art because “it’s only 20 minutes,” you won’t get that 20 minutes tomorrow. Something will come up. Or something will cut into the hour you had planned for later. But if you invest that 20 minutes, tomorrow things just seem to work out that there’s a half-hour rather than 20 minutes. And your hour is more productive than usual.

    For me, resistance works a lot by getting me to throw away smaller bits of time because, “what do you expect to do in X minutes?” It helps if I consciously label that the voice of Resistance (which it is), but it’s still a fight to overcome it. Still, if I fight that, and use those X minutes wisely, then when my kid wants X minutes to play, I have them to give.

    And to your point, Shawn, if it does come down to one or the other, family comes first.

  5. Ursula
    March 28, 2014 at 6:44 am

    I was nodding my head and smiling all the way until…

    “Putting yourself second means you may never win that Academy Award.”

    I say why not? You’re putting in the work carved out of precious time so the awards will come, it may just take a little longer.

  6. March 28, 2014 at 7:21 am

    “Putting yourself second means you may never win that Academy Award” – but putting yourself first doesn’t guarantee it either! So, do yourself and your family and/or friends first. At the very least, it gives you more life experience, and may give the Muse some material to work with!

  7. March 28, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Thanks for touching on this often-neglected part of being creative: relationships. Family does come first. If you make work your top priority, you’ll eventually murder your own heart.

    But as Pam pointed out, be careful of either-or thinking. When my kids were little, I included them in some of my research. They visited a crime lab, hiked to a clay pit mine, collected geology samples, etc. So look for places where your family might be included in your work, instead of excluded. Not only will everyone appreciate more of what you’re doing, but you’ll build memories–theirs and yours–for a lifetime.

    • Eva
      March 28, 2014 at 11:44 am

      I like how you phrased that: you’ll eventually murder your own heart. Yes. And you know how it is in academia. Sigh…

  8. March 28, 2014 at 7:38 am

    What a fantastic response to Resistance! Thank you for sharing the inspiration that going “prone” is where the real treasure lies. Genius knows this secret roadmap well. Funny that geniuses still continue to need reminders from other geniuses.

  9. Kent Faver
    March 28, 2014 at 8:01 am

    As I read this I’m also listening to a You Tube video with Steve from 2005. He says (in summary)

    - “after I finish days work and I’m taking a walk – the small voice that starts questioning why I used a certain word, or phrase, etc……. – that is Resistance”.

    Self sabotage – my middle name.

  10. Pamela Seley
    March 28, 2014 at 8:08 am

    There’s no doubt that family comes first for me. I wouldn’t trade the missed opportunities in for having gone prone for the world. Awards are over-rated dust collectors.

  11. March 28, 2014 at 8:56 am

    The False Dilemma is one of the strongest tools Resistance has.

    As you say, the life-or-work is a false choice. It’s about priorities.

    Thanks.

  12. March 28, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Thanks for the post. I’ve come to the same conclusion recently. It seems once I decided to give to those put in front of me, I found time and inclination to write each day, too. It helps me grow, and have more to give.

  13. March 28, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Great post! Now that I have a one year old daughter at home, finding time is a creative adventure in itself. But yes, the muse does visit late in the evening hours once my daughter is asleep. This brave new world I am living in with children has added a depth to my life as an artist that was not present before.

  14. Tricia
    March 28, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Great photo:)

  15. Emeric
    March 28, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I always thought it was a tragedy for a parent to let their dream die or go dormant, because they have children, when all one needs to do is bring the family along as best they can.

    To have the conversation with your family, letting them know you are going to pursue your passion, dream, and vision while embracing the struggles, the joy, and the fruits of the journey as a family, as a support system for each other, sounds ideal to me.

    What a beautiful life to grow up watching your father act, while you watch from the side of the stage, as opposed to rarely seeing him while he’s out selling manufactured goods.

    Children can become the excuse we sell ourselves for letting our vision slide, another form of resistance, perhaps.

    More presence…

    • April 1, 2014 at 4:35 am

      Emeric,

      Brilliantly said. Inspiring. I’ve just finished my first book to be published in July by Random House and at times it required a lot of energy and time to the point where I did feel guilty about the time it displaced from my our boys. But I always talked them about it, let them know what I was writing about, when I was stuck and when I was worried about meeting a deadline. It really felt like thy were involved and my two older boys were always asking questions and writing their own stories for me to read. It led to many discussions about the joy and importance of creativity and pursuing you passions and how writing had been a constant in my life since i was a teen. In the end I did have the feeling that my kids were cheering me on and learning at the same time.

  16. March 28, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    This is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever written, Shawn!

  17. g.a.
    April 2, 2014 at 3:09 am

    This is a beautiful piece, and I got it deeply, as someone with kids under 10. I also think that having children makes you more focused, at least that’s what happened to me. I believe that the quality of my writing has actually improved since having kids, even if the quantity has diminished. It’s also important to remember that pursuing our dreams is part of what we have to do as parents. We have to be the adults we want our children to be. They will only learn from our example.

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  19. April 13, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Great post! Thanks for sharing the details here. I am glad, i came across such a vital post here.

  20. April 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Thank you Shawn,
    Recently we got a puppy for our eleven year old daughter. I was never allowed to have a dog, and I didn’t want her to miss out on that experience.

    I had no idea how much time a puppy takes, but I want to spend time with my daughter and not be glued to the computer writing every minute.

    Now I write late at night or early in the morning, and spend the rest of the day chasing the puppy with my daughter.

    Wishes you all the best with your family.