Opportunity Costs of Volunteering (for Authors)

By CBramkamp Newbie Guide, Writing Encouragement, Writing Tips Comments Off on Opportunity Costs of Volunteering (for Authors)

stop-me before I volunteer againIf you are woman, you compulsively volunteer.  It’s what women do, it’s how we make the world better.  It’s also a socially supported and sanctioned way to spend our time.

But during those frantic hours spent soliciting  merchants for  just one more gift certificate because the silent auction table at tomorrow’s golf tournament  is a little bare, does the thought occur to you that you could be using your time differently?  Are you volunteering for a worthy cause but ignoring your own worthy cause: your writing?

Volunteering is a great use of anyone’s idle time. But no one discusses the great seduction of volunteering, how one position inextricably leads to the next. Volunteering creates that time sucking sound that begins the minute you raise your hand to bring a dozen cookies to the PTA bake sale. (Bake sales are the volunteer  gateway drug).

I have found that volunteering is it’s own reason for existence.  If one event was good – two is better.  If two events raised $16,985.40 less expenses and did everyone turn in their receipts?.  Then making the event even bigger and including live music will surely increase ticket sales, we just need to find a band that will play for free. . .

Volunteering is seductive. But ironically, the rewards and recognition that are shoveled on a volunteer look a lot like more work:  You did a great job on the fundraising committee, be the secretary!  You were marvelous as the secretary, be the president!  You did such a great job as president – do it again, no one else wants the job!

To my knowledge, there is no VA – Volunteers Anonymous.  First of all, most volunteers are anonymous anyway, and second, VA would end up being just one more meeting and someone needs to bring cookies and take minutes.

So as not to burden you with another meeting, here’s what we can learn from a virtual Volunteer Anonymous meeting:

One way to organize your time is to commit to balance.  For every volunteer hour – spend three hours writing.

Make sure the volunteering is reciprocal, what are you getting out of the effort?  Clients?  Good will?  A deep feeling of happiness and connection?  Or is it flipp’n annoying?

Do you like what you’re doing?  If not, drop the most annoying projects – it’s okay, others will shift into your spot and the golf tournament will be a bit hit anyway.

Accept that you are not indispensable. Actually, embrace the idea that you are not indispensable; it makes it easier to leave.

You ARE NOT indispensable to your dream of being a writer.

Yes, you will be called selfish, but only as the very final argument as someone tries to convince you to cook up 3,908 pancakes for Relay for LIfe and can you get to the football field around 3:00AM in time for the first group?

Volunteer to help yourself.

And if you accidentally wander into a PTA meeting –  sit on your hands.


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