Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Knowing When to Step Away (Plus a Farewell)

If you saw the Weekend Edition, then you already know about my decision to step away from my regular role here at The Writers Alley.

Good-byes are never easy, especially when it involves the wonderful women who are part of this group. But the reality is that life sometimes dictates difficult, but necessary, decisions.

Our lives are often like an ocean. We may go through times of low tide, when our schedules have breathing room and we can rest on the beach--maybe even build a sandcastle--without the waves crashing over us.

Then we may be offered an opportunity here, sign up for a commitment there. And with each thing we add, the tide starts to slowly rise. As long as we're comfortable on the beach and our sandcastle is protected, we don't worry too much about the rising waves.

...Until that final commitment pushes the tide past us, sending a mini-tsunami that crushes our castle and sweeps us away. That's what happened to me recently and what prompted the hard decision to leave this blog. 

Since many of us have lots of commitments on our plates (and since I can't do a blog post without giving practical advice :)), I'm going to share four steps for evaluating your own schedule.

1) Determine what your top two or three priorities are. (Picture these as the sandcastles you're trying to protect from the giant wave.) For me, this came down to family time, church, and focused time to work on my fiction writing.

2) List out everything that's on your plate. And I do mean everything. (These are the waves that creep toward your sandcastles.)

3) Mark each item on the list with one of the following categories: (a) Non-negotiable -- Definitely needs to stay on my list; (b) Iffy -- It could go either way; (c) Can be sacrificed -- This may be something that's easily discarded, or, like my role here at The Writers Alley, it may be a bigger commitment that someone else can come in to fill. (Picture this evaluation process as determining how big your waves are.)

4) Begin the process of elimination. (This is the removal of those waves that threaten your sandcastles.) For me, this process is accompanied by a lot of prayer. Start with the items marked as "can be sacrificed" and envision your life with those things removed from your schedule. Are you better able to focus on your top priorities, or does the elimination of those items hinder you from your priorities in some way? As you pray, envision, and continue to work up the ladder of the categories, it will become clear to you which things need to be surrendered.

This process isn't easy. And it often means surrendering something we enjoy very much, like my role here on this blog. But throughout this evaluation, we must always keep our sandcastles protected. No matter how much we may love one of the "waves" on our schedule, if it comes to the detriment or destruction of our castles, we need to let them go.

So to the readers here at The Writers Alley and to my fellow Alley Cats, I want to thank you for making this such a fun place to visit and learn together. I'll greatly miss being a part of the camaraderie and support. But have no fear...I won't be a complete stranger. And I look forward to seeing what God does through this incredible group of women as we all move forward, protecting our precious sandcastles for His glory.

Let's talk...Have you ever had to do an evaluation of your schedule like I described here? What would you say are your top two or three priorities? How do you know when it's time to step away from a commitment?

*Tide photo by Rawich /
**Sand photo by Lisa McDonald /

Sarah Forgrave is a stay-at-home writer-mom who feels blessed to pursue her calling and passion. She writes contemporary romance for the inspirational market and is a contributor to the webzine Ungrind.

To learn more about Sarah, visit her personal blog at:


Jessica Nelson said...

Oh Sarah, I feel you. Recently I had to put in my notice to my job. I didn't want to because I actually love my work and the peeps I work with, but things ended up where if I kept it, I'd always have waves crashing on my castle. *sigh*
Best wishes to you!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Sarah! It is a heavy-heart-day. I'm so sorry to see you go, but at the same time I know God blesses us when we listen to Him and are obedient to His whispers.

May He bless you and keep you,
May He make His face to shine upon you,
and may He give you peace.

Love you!!!!

Kathy Bosman said...

I loved your analogy of the waves on the beach. Last year, I had to let go of some things - actually, I wasn't going to until my husband prodded me to. I'm so glad I took his advice as now I have several more of those quiet moments to write which is one of my priorities.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sarah -

This is a timely post for me. With increased responsibilities, I've been frazzled trying to keep up. Thanks for sharing your process.

Susan :)

Beth K. Vogt said...

I will miss you at the Alley, but know that we'll stay connected in other ways. And I know you've made this decision wisely (this post proves it!)
The past year has been one of change for me -- saying no to several things I love to do because I'm saying yes to other things, well one thing: writing novels. Hard to do -- but the best thing.

Lindsay Harrel said...

I'll miss seeing you here, but that won't stop me from seeing you at your personal blog! I definitely know what it's like to have to protect you castles. You can lose friends in the process--I have. But true friends will understand, and if you've made the decision with prayer, then you've done what you should do.

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for these tips, Sarah. I actually need to do this with my current schedule. Have been floating around and need to make some decisions so I can focus more on specific projects. Praying the Lord will continue to bless your journey! :)

Unknown said...

I'll miss reading your posts here, Sarah! But I loved your sand castle analogy. It's easy to think we're almost supposed to be running, scrambling, playing the keeping-up game 'cause doesn't that mean we're making progress? Um, no. Love your tips for honing in on priorities versus things you to let go of.

Laura Frantz said...

Sarah, Love your sandcastle analogy:) So true! And the "surrender" word is key. It's wise to do this on a regular basis - evaluting your time and what you feel is God's best for you and others. Will miss you here but glad you're going to be keeping on over at your blog! Bless you for being here - and there:)

Angie Dicken said...

Wonderful analogy, Sarah...although it just means that you are leaving now. :( You have been such an inspiration!!
I think my priorities are my family and writing...and within those priorities, I try to focus on outreach the community with my family, for my family,and through my writing. I really want to bump up exercise to be on my schedule, but I am not quite there...guess that would be my lagging third!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Castles is a great way to put it and I'm discovering so much more this year. I have a real passion for cooking which is something I would like to pursue, but right now easy dinner are where its at. I had to give up my personal blog which I loved in order to finish my RD. I guess everything has seasons, but its hard not to wish for more hours in the day. What a great reminder that God has a perfect plan for all he wants us to do each day though.

Julia M. Reffner said...

So glad you're keeping up your blog so we can catch up with what's going on with you over there.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Wishing you every blessing as you move forward, Sarah! We will miss you at the Alley!


Casey said...

It is a heart-heavy day.Sarah, I will incredibly miss your wisdom and wit here on the Alley. But you know I'm your biggest fan and I'm excited to see where God takes you!

Jackie S. said...

Will miss you here, Sarah....have been blessed by your posts!

Loree Huebner said...

It's difficult to let things go, or say farewell to something. But it's more important that you take care of yourself and your needs, so you can roll with the tides. ~Sending you a big hug!~

Jessica R. Patch said...

Great tips, Sarah. I had to re-evaluate my exercise time, so I now come in to work an hour later so I can get a work out in early in the morning. I just won't do it in the afternoon when I'm pooped!

quietspirit said...

I am in the midst of reading a book on Time Management. I needed the points you gave to help solidify the things in my life that are important and those that I could do without.
Thank you for sharing these points with us.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oh, Sarah, we're going to miss you! I understand about priorities and had to make a decision recently to step away from something that was a big part of my life because it was what I felt led to do. All the best with everything you're working toward, I know we'll see you around ;)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thank God we have other ways to keep in tabs on you. How else can we tease and pray for you?
Sure gonna miss you in our Alley Cat email follies and your fab posts like todays:)

Lisa Jordan said...

Sarah, I applaud your wisdom in knowing when to let go of certain things in your life. By praying about it, you're honoring God by being obedient to His leading. That's not to say there won't be an empty space in the Ally. You will be missed! Go with God, friend, and rejoice in the direction of His leading!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, I had a busy morning out, and returning home to all these comments is such a blessing!

Jessica, What a big decision to leave your job! It sounds like you approached it wisely though, and I know God will bless you for it.

Sherrinda, Thank you! Love you too. :)

Kathleen, Husbands can be annoyingly wise sometimes, can't they? :) My husband often brings the voice of reason when I let my emotions reign.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Susan, I know that frazzled feeling all too well. I hope you're able to de-frazzle soon. :)

Beth, I'd imagine as writing careers progress, these types of decisions become more necessary. It's a good thing to move forward, but it's also difficult, isn't it?

Lindsay, So true. And I look forward to staying in touch with you through my personal blog too. :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Karen, "Floating around" is a great way to describe it. When we have too much on our plates, it's hard to settle in and focus on one thing, isn't it?

Melissa, You're so right. Somehow it's like we think the more we have on our schedules, the more value we have. But God tells us otherwise. :)

Laura, You're such a sweetheart. Thank you. And you're right...This type of pruning is a continual process.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Angie, Exercise is an important one too. (Of course, you knew I'd say that, right? ;)) And thank you for your kind words. I'll miss you.

Julia, You're so right about everything having seasons. I hope you can pursue your cooking dream someday. I know God will make a way at the right time.

Susan, Thank you! :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Casey, Thank you so much. "Wisdom and wit"...Wow, now that's some fun alliteration. :)

Jackie, Thank you!

Loree, "Roll with the tides"...I love that!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Jessica, Good for you! Sometimes it's just a matter of realigning to keep our castles protected.

Cecelia, So glad this reinforced what you've been reading. Sounds like God's talking... :)

Cindy, Thank you, sweet friend. I look forward to staying in touch.

Mary, "Tease and pray"...Now that's a combo I will surely miss. :)

Lisa, Thank you so much. It really is about obedience, isn't it? Even when it's not fun, I know my life wouldn't be "right" if I'm not in His will.

Ashley Clark said...

Such a beautiful way to word this situation, Sarah! We will miss your contributions to the Alley, but I know you've got great things ahead of you!

Jeanne T said...

Sarah, it's been another busy day in my world, and this is my first chance to pop over here, but I did want to say I'll miss your practical, wise words here. :) Saying no to good things is difficult, but God always honors obedience. When we know we are walking in the center of His will, it makes the sting a little less painful. May He bless you in relationship and in your writing career!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Sarah! I had no idea you were leaving. I'm glad I decided to stop by today to send you off. We will miss you!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Ashley, Thank you! I see a bright future for you too. :)

Jeanne, Thank you for your kind words! I hope we continue to cross paths. :)

Naomi, It snuck into the Weekend Edition. :) Thanks for stopping by!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Great advice! It's so hard to draw the boundaries, now that we're supposed to be uber-platform builders if we're writers. But family is always first, for sure. Will be tweeting this one!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

And PS--So glad I found this blog via twitter! Will add to my blog list of writer's blogs. I do enjoy guest posting, so let me know if you're ever looking for fresh voices!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Heather, You're so right. There has to be a balance between building a platform and spending time on our fiction so we actually have something to shout from our platform. :)

Pepper said...

Fabulous post, Sarah - and another gigantic reason why I'm going to miss you so much.

The Writers Alley has only grown since you became a part of our wonderful group. We are thankful for your time with us - and will celebrate the many wonderful things God will do in your future.

Can't wait to happy dance at your first sale! WOOHOOO!

Pepper said...

Fabulous post, Sarah - and another gigantic reason why I'm going to miss you so much.

The Writers Alley has only grown since you became a part of our wonderful group. We are thankful for your time with us - and will celebrate the many wonderful things God will do in your future.

Can't wait to happy dance at your first sale! WOOHOOO!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Thank you, Pepper! And congrats to you on your semi-final! Good things are in store for you too, my friend. :)

Terri Tiffany said...

You shared this beautifully. Thank you for being so honest and reminding us of priorities in our lives.Blessings to you!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Thanks, Terri!

Jennifer K. Hale said...

S- I have no doubt that you'll be missed on this site, but I think you set a wonderful example for moms everywhere when you know you have too much on your plate and something's got to give.

I tend to say "I can't be all things to all people" frequently, especially when my life seems like chaos (which has been a lot lately.) Thanks for reminding us that it is a good, healthy thing to whittle down our priority lists so that we can be more effective at what we have to do.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Jenny, Thanks for the encouraging words. And you're so right...This process is necessary for everyone, not just writers.