You can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything.

practice art vonnegutMy life would be a whole lot easier if I wasn’t a writer.

I would have a lot more time on my hands.
My To Do list would be a lot shorter.
Time management wouldn’t be such a bear.

But, I am a writer.

My dad is fond of saying, “You can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything you want.” This particular bit of wisdom annoys me, partly because it feels limiting, but mostly because it’s so damn true.

You can’t say “yes” to one thing without saying “no” to something else. All choices involve sacrifice.

Artists are known for sacrifice. Writers, painters, performers – all of them choose their art over other things – security, comfort, leisure, even relationships.

We make ourselves vulnerable by opening our hearts up to the world. We sacrifice the safe anonymity of the non-artistic life, choosing instead to willingly subject ourselves to judgment. We are willing to do without material goods, social acceptance, and the false security that comes with a more traditional lifestyle.

We commit more of our time to work than play. We are painfully aware that the hour spent vegging out in front of the TV could be much more wisely invested in our latest project. We get up earlier and stay up later in order to carve out time for our art. We sleep less, and even when we do sleep our dreams are filled with thoughts about our art.

We will even sacrifice relationships, walking away from people who don’t understand or aren’t willing to accommodate our need to create.

You can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything.

You are a writer, an artist. You make choices each day in favor of your art. You weigh the rest of your life against your work and make the hard decisions that keep your creative endeavors alive no matter how busy or distracted or bogged down your life gets. You fight for your writing life and your weapon is sacrifice.

Be proud. Your path is not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Be a writer – an artist – and your life will be richer for the journey.
 
 
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

66 thoughts on “You can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything.

  1. Great thoughts. I keep this in mind when I hear people are too busy to read or too busy to write the book they’ve been dreaming of writing for 10+ years (or longer). I know people with full time jobs and who have young children to care for who still turn out manuscripts and books to a publisher. They are disciplined with a plan, and they love to write too much to not.

    • Hmmm … there’s another whole post in there, I think. 😉

      This is the conversation about “pros” vs. “hobbyists.” Neither is better than the other, but I think some people set themselves up for all kinds of needless frustration by trying to be one thing, when what they really want is to be the other.

      It’s about how much you’re willing to commit to and sacrifice, right?

      TKS for the comment!

  2. I have been doing the exact opposite sacrificing my writing for other things. I will now go back to it because it is a talent worth putting time to. Your post was really enlightening. No you can’t have everything.

    • We all do that, I think. The trouble is, we assume we have all the time in the world … there’s “always tomorrow” … except, there isn’t always tomorrow and today is always the better choice anyway. (Sorry if I sound like I’m babbling … been out with the flu all week and still a bit out of it …)

  3. I find largest sacrifice is the willingness to put myself out there, to write my truth even when it makes me look silly. I think that’s the artist role, to believe and promote the grand ideas, regardless of how we are recieved. I enjoyed this post Jamie, thanks.

    • So wonderful.
      Best of luck to you in your writing and your daughter in her acting. Love that you are a family of artists! 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Dyslexics' Can and commented:
    It is hard to disagree with this piece. I just think there are ways to win is just be unwilling to let go of the best of thing. We do need to connect to the flaws and pain of ourselves to write better. Thankfully I do see people everyday that redefine what “anything” can be.

    • I agree that almost anything is possible, but we still have to make choices. I love people who can not only embrace their flaws and pain, but put them to good use in the world. That’s a beautiful thing.

  5. In the conventional sense of course you’re right, though the women’s movement re-phrased your father’s wisdom to we can have it all, just not all at once! Maybe that could still apply in your analysis?
    In another sense, my years of spiritual study helps me see life is not the zero sum game I might have thought, we’re not having to give up as much as we think. We may be choosing the highest right, to open the door to the better opportunity, the greater abundance. I’m coming to think getting all I thought I wanted would not have been good for me, that it in fact it may have been limiting. So, with an embarrassment of riches to choose from, I ask the universe to help me select those which will lead to more and more and leave me with less sense of lack.

    • You’re right, Sandra, about having everything, just not all at once. That’s a valid approach, but one that still involves choices in the here and now.

      I actually think that the whole “we can have it all” tag that came with the women’s movement was a well-intentioned idea that ended up handicapping so many women. I and many of my friends have taken a good, long time to come to terms with the inadequacy (and inaccuracy) of that call to arms. It just doesn’t pan out in the Real World, does it?

      I love your observations about life not being the “zero sum game.” So true. If we believe that time is not linear, our whole experience shifts from one of striving after distant, “future” goals, to one of living in the moment and making the best choices for the now. There are endless possible outcomes and realities and we’re just moving through them with each choice we make. But who’s to say that the Universe won’t shift again tomorrow?

      (I’ll apologize to you as well for any rambling. I’ve had the flu all week and am still quite under the weather and not quite coherent. Makes for some fun writing, though!) 😉

      Thanks for bringing this added dimension to the conversation.

      • You’re welcome, enjoyed your “rambling” which adds again more dimension! I like that “Universe…” shifting again, as I suspect it does to (human sense) based on the choices we make this moment. For the optimistic, that means opening up new doors to better horizons than we’d thought were there before. Love what you’re putting out into the atmosphere!!

      • 🙂 Glad it all connected for you.
        Thanks for inspiring my ramble. I quite enjoyed the chance to let loose.

  6. This is beautiful and very encouraging for me as a young writer trying to define my need and place as a person who writes, I think this is a lovely human testimony to the art. Thank you very much, 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Emily. That’s a lovely comment and I’m thrilled to think you find encouragement here. That’s so important. Keep writing!

  7. It is true that we can’t have everything. However, I have found that the more you do, the more you can do. When I push myself, I find my capability to do more increases. It’s when I choose to slow down and “take a break” that I start to become lethargic about what I want to achieve. I know there are limits but I haven’t reached them yet.

    • There’a another whole post in this idea! 🙂
      I also find that when I get super busy, I often fall into a kind of groove that boosts my creativity and productivity. Although it happens on a fairly regular basis, it always surprises me. We usually are more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

      That said, it’s also so important for me to build in some “fallow” time for just resting, reflecting, and “noodling.” The two – busy-busy and regenerating – go hand-in-hand.

    • Yes. Exactly. And the choices we make are not always the traditional or “popular” ones, so we don’t always get the support that would make those choices easy.
      Keep up the good fight!

    • Sorry, Sandra. I can’t see what you’re referring to.
      I did see an offensive comment show up on this post earlier, but I deleted it.
      😦
      Stupid Internet trolls.

      • It’s OK, probably the one I saw. Internet is strange, not sure why that box was missing. Wondering if your message to me below is also missing?

        Thanks.

        Sandra

        >

      • OK, this is probably my not understanding a WordPress wrinkle. Responded differently this time, I see the “box” within email doesn’t travel to the blog! Life is an adventure!

  8. So, I guess you’re seeing the unappealing Applejazz comments and deleting them, but I’m still getting them in emails since I subscribe to comments. Guess I’ll have to unsubscribe to your blog?

    • I certainly am. So sorry you’re still getting them. I am trying to see if I can block the spammer’s IP address so WordPress won’t let the comments through at all.

      I’m afraid I can’t easily see what the RSS options are on comment follows (because I’m the author of the post), but usually there’s a way to manage your subscriptions on a post-by-post basis. If you are getting these via email, you may see a link in the email that says “manage subscriptions.” If you do, click through and see what your options are. Hopefully you won’t have to unsubscribe in bulk.

      So sorry you’re having this experience. Our spam filter is usually quite good and this is honestly the first time I’ve had this happen here. Very frustrating.

      • Update, Sandra 🙂

        I just added that commenter’s id to our spam list, so (fingers crossed) we won’t see anything more from him or her.

      • The strange thing is that when I went to my Reader to edit my settings for Live to Write, I noted I was already unsubscribed to “comments”. So, began to wonder how I was getting those emails, esp. when I also noted, am not getting any other comments from the blog. Something to learn of course. I temporarily unsubscribed to see what would happen, wait until the person gets tired. Plus I decided it was an opportunity to pray. I also asked WordPress for advice, since I kind of felt it wasn’t your “fault”!
        Thanks for being in touch. Will hope it stops soon, that we learn something, and that I remember to resubscribe! I also need to check to see if I’m subscribed in another way other than hitting the “follow” button with WordPress.

        The adventure goes on.

      • Hmmm … I’m not sure why the comments come through that way. That is odd. I would recommend subscribing via email (link in the sidebar just under the subscribe in a reader link). I believe that only sends you blog posts, not comments.

        At any rate, I have blocked that user and IP address, so we should not see any more nasty comments from that individual.

        Thanks for bringing the issue to my attention.

  9. Oh how true, but maybe we, as writers should spend more of our time being with or thinking of our partners, they are often the silent victims of our craft. It must be a cruel existence at times, for, as the partner of a writer, you cannot enter their mind, you often cannot drag them away from their writing, and if you do manage to do the latter they will often ask you to become an insightful critic or unpaid proof reader, all, of course, free of charge

    How do I plead as a writer…oh dear…guilty as charged,

    At least my most definitely better half likes it when I finish a new story. She loves my writing style, but she is an ex librarian, and an eagle eyed critical reader, so she has the chance to have her say!

    • It requires a delicate balance … and the right “other half.” 🙂
      I agree that living with a writer can be difficult, but I also think that except in the most dire circumstances (when, perhaps, an intervention is warranted), a supportive partner will make an effort to understand the writer’s needs and when they cannot be understood, simply try to accept them.

      For his or her part, the writer should try to maintain a stance of having at least one foot in the physical world. For my part, though my mind is always a writer’s mind, I do try to avoid the kind of constant, internal multi-tasking that leaves my beau feeling like I’m only half there.

      A delicate balance, indeed. 🙂

      • I feel as if I’m “eavesdropping” on this thread since I’m not yet a full time writer and don’t have a spouse, but got to thinking of the issues of people who are self-employed, running small businesses, or of families with conventional jobs, 9-5 routines, or longer. When one or the other, or both is out working do the same sentiments come into play, worry over neglect of things, others?

        Working mothers thinking they’re not being there for children; one spouse off all day, does that one feel a sense of neglect of the other, or just out doing his/her thing? I don’t know, but I’m thinking when one lives with other people, spouses, children, etc., there must always be an issue of balance, tradeoffs. Should the artist perhaps cut herself, himself some slack maybe? Feel as if the artist’s work is no less important (maybe more so) than going to the office! Not think it’s so different from the rest of the world?

        (Thanks Jamie for the feedback on the disturbing visitor. I’ll know all is well).

      • You don’t need to feel like an eavesdropper, Sandra. 🙂

        I think you bring up an excellent point that is often a sore spot for writers, especially writers who are working towards but not yet writing in a professional capacity. Many people fall into the trap of assuming that any non-profitable endeavor should take a backseat to a) money-generating activities and b) domestic responsibilities. If I had a nickel for each time a writer friend lamented the fact that her family/friends/whomever considered her writing work a “hobby” instead of an artistic and professional path … well, I wouldn’t have to write another word that wasn’t exclusively for my own pleasure.

        Worst of all, we pass this same judgement on our own writing. I do it all the time. I am a single mom who works for herself as a marcom consultant and writer. I almost always prioritize my To Do list around paying gigs, mom duties, my relationship, household duties, and then – if there’s anything left over (often, there isn’t) … my personal writing projects. It’s a tough situation.

        One thing I’ve found that helps IMMENSELY is having a few, specific activities/tasks that I can easily define and tackle. My posts here on Live to Write – Write to Live are one of those “defined tasks” – especially my Weekend Editions. The bi-weekly column I write for my local paper is another great opportunity for me to keep my writing muscles limber.

        It’s all about the little steps … and making sure you’re always taking them … slow is ok as long as it’s steady. 😉

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      • And thanks for the discourse, it’s giving direction to my confusion over writing, focus. As a long time spiritual journeyer haven’t known what to do with it all.

        Especially here in the U.S., we all need to feel validated, authentic, valued, no matter what we do, or don’t. Loving ourselves just for breathing. The rest is just icing. Only in America is “earning money” more important that being. Jamie if you never earn another dime, you’ve already made an impression on the universe!

        This morning and after commenting above, I felt the commitment rising up in me to simply write it all down, so many hours a day. Period. Let it rip, where it wants to go.

      • That is really lovely, Sandra. Thank you. And all the bet for your continued journeys – spiritual and in the world of the written word.

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    • I admit, I’m guilty of the “I’ll just be a minute.” Ouch. Truth stings.
      Love your response post. 🙂

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  14. Great article. I was thinking about this quote, You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want because I remember reading this in a book. While I don’t remember all of it, to sum it up, what it comes down to you is you can have what you want, but not everything because obviously, we don’t have all the money to buy everything we want, we also don’t have all the space to accommodate everything we could want, and we don’t have the time to utilize everything that there is on earth. Life is short. So, what it means to me is you can work towards anything that you want in your life with the right amount of sacrifice and investing of your time and money. Any goals that we make for ourselves requires effort, ability and sacrifice; not just money or time. Over the years of my life when I went to this church, people used to throw quotes around. One of them was “Want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I didn’t fully understand what that meant because I always thought that people in church expected people to always put church first and forsake everything else. In my eyes, they did not appear to have a lot of interest in anything but church (at least they never shared anything with me for me to know that). But that is not what that saying means at all. It can mean that in order to achieve something, you must do something else first. If you don’t so the first steps first, you will never achieve your goal(s). So, if you want to be doctor but hate school, the plan to become a doctor might be “laughable” because you have to go to years of school and residency. You must achieve points A and B before you can get to Y and Z.

    • Hello, Ellen. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Yes. I think much of what these sayings are getting at is the need to focus – to give yourself a creative advantage through the application of constraints. In other words, don’t expect to be able to do everything – just choose one thing to work on and go after that. Concentrate your resources and efforts, and you will see better results more quickly.

      As for making people (or gods) laugh by showing them your plans – to me that has always meant that even the best-laid plans go awry. We are not (as much as we’d like to believe we are) in control. Things change. As the saying goes, “Sh!t happens.” We can plan all we like, but a) we never really know at the beginning what kind of plan we need, and b) even if we did – it’d all change anyway.

      I suppose all this said, the best course of action is just to get busy working on one thing at a time without worrying too much about “all the other stuff” or your “perfect plan” to get from A to B to (eventually) Z. Seems simple, but human nature makes it difficult. Still worth trying, though.

      Thanks again!

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