Choosing priorities (or why I’m not going to SXSW)

March 5, 2011

For anyone into social media, Web journalism and the intersection of the two, SXSW is thee conference. Most people know it as a music or film festival, but I’m referring to the Interactive arm, which draws thousands of geeks from around the country each year.

I bought my ticket months ago, when they first went on sale. That was before I had a day job, when Socialexis was my only form of income. I saw the $450 ticket not only as an investment in my social media business, but also in myself, since meeting other techies always gets gears turning in my head.

But as the date drew closer, I began to calculate exactly how much this professional development would cost me. In addition to the entry fee, I’d have to buy a flight to Austin, figure out transportation and pay for food. My housing would be covered; I’d stay with a friend. But I’d also pay in vacation days, which are in limited supply now that I’m working full time.

Then, in January, I applied for two writer’s colonies — Yaddo and VCCA; y’all know how much I love residencies. The minimum stay for both is two weeks, a good chunk of my annual vacation. And though I haven’t even heard back yet about whether I got in, if I went to a writer’s colony and SXSW this year, I’d have all of one vacation day left to spend with my family over the holidays.

That’s when I realized I needed to decide on my priorities. It’s about the money, yes. But more than that, it’s about my time. With a full-time job, I don’t have unlimited hours for projects on the side.

We each face our own fork in the road.

I love helping businesses with social media, and I appreciate the extra income it brings. But I also love writing books. My travel memoir will require my attention until and even after it’s published, and now that I’ve started writing my second book, I want to spend time on that, too.

I had to choose one or the other, I realized. That doesn’t mean I’d drop one of those projects altogether, simply that one would take priority and the other would turn into, well, a hobby.

I chose books.

Which is why I’m not going to SXSW this year. Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult to sell my ticket. But as the mid-March conference approaches, and SXSW hashtags take over my Twitter feed, I feel a little like I’m the only one not going.

But we can’t do everything. That’s difficult for me — and I’m guessing it is for many of you, too — because I love getting involved and putting all the ideas that sprout in my head to good use. But if I really want to write books, then something has to go.

So I chose books.

Have you put aside any projects to focus on your priorities?

Photo credit: Flickr’s D’Arcy Norman

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14 Replies to “Choosing priorities (or why I’m not going to SXSW)”

  • It’s so hard to make a decision like this, I had to do it this week actually with turning down a trip, but it seems like you made the right decision for yourself and that’s great that you were able to sell your ticket!

  • Abbie says:

    Definitely sounds like a great decision for you – be proud!

  • Andrea James says:

    My yoga teacher told us that she has FOMS disease. I believe that you and I have it too.

    FOMS = Fear Of Missing Something

  • Emma says:

    Good call! I choose books, too. In fact, I just finished a full ms draft this week, and now I am taking a month off while I have some writing friends review it. In the interim, I am catching up on everything else. I am going to have a super clean house by the end of the weekend!

  • alisha says:

    I’m totally feeling what you’re saying – I’m in the thick of big picture prioritizing! But it’s so hard to say no to exciting opportunities. 🙂 I think you made a wise choice. Are you still continuing on with Socialexis?

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Oh, I like this — big-picture prioritizing. Yes, I’m still continuing with Socialexis, but only with the clients I have. And if, in the future, things change, I can always pick it back up!

  • Marianne says:

    I hear you. I decided not to go to South Africa and still feel really clear that it was the right choice. But when the blog posts, Facebook updates and photos started coming back from that trip I can’t deny pangs of wishing that it were possible to be in two places, doing two things at once!

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Now that you say that, I remember you blogging about not going to South Africa. Very much along the lines of what I wrote about here — Saying NO to something so you could say YES to something else. Just have to constantly remind ourselves we’re doing the right thing!

  • Same for me. I chose not to go, as this point in my career as a writer, I don’t see a need (though I’d LOVE to…it’s just a lot of money). If ever I start my own business, which I plan to, then it will make sense. Instead, I’m going to BlogHer for the networking opportunities (and because it’s closer to home, in San Diego).

  • Alexis,
    This post really hit home for me. I am working on a memoir and have immersed myself in learning about the craft of writing:online memoir writing workshops, conferences,forums, critique groups and, of course, social media~PHEW! I am currently taking Dan Blank’s” Build YourAuthor Platform” online course which is wonderful. It’s all wonderful and I need it all. You have reminded me about the importance of setting priorities,i.e, writing. There is a saying r/t to teaching which certainly applies to writing as well: “The fine art of teaching(or writing)- Fill your head and be yourself” It’s time to be myself and focus on the writing.
    Thanks for a great post and the nudge I needed to get more focused 🙂

    Kathy

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Kathy — Glad to help you focus! There’s so much to learn when it comes to writing memoir. I think sometimes we have to remind ourselves that it’s okay to put other things aside while we — as you say — fill our heads with it 🙂

      Would love to hear how you like the Dan’s class.

  • Alexis,

    So far,I’m loving Dan’s course. It’s a whirlwind tour, a multimedia event with weekly lessons,videos,guest speakers,forums and, of course, weekly homework assignments with prompt and specific feedback. Ten students from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions from all over the world. A bit challenging in the midst of job,family, writing,life but well worth the sacrifice. In the end,it’s all about making meaningful connections. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about this transformative adventure 🙂

    Write on!
    Kathy

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