Squandering? Really?

Sue Shellenbarger wrote an interesting – to me, at least, and given the blog posts I’ve read lately about our creative endeavors, interesting to some of you on the same blog circuit as me – article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: Lesson From Buffett On Following Dreams.

PotofgoldSeems that Warren Buffett, the richest man in America (or maybe the world, I forget which, but he’s right up there), gave his 19 year old son Peter “enough [money] to do anything, but not enough to do nothing.”

His son promptly dropped out of college, set up a music studio and began playing the piano, writing music, and experimenting with electronic sounds. He’s been successful enough that he’s now (this is Peter Buffett, not Jimmy – I have no idea if they are related) an Emmy Award-winning musician.

And now, of course, he’s written a book, and this, I guess, is the ‘lesson’ of the article. “If I had faced the necessity of making a living from day one, I would not have been able to follow the path I chose,” he wrote.


Shellenbarger, who writes regularly on juggling work and family, followed that statement with this one of her own: “If someone had given me the gift of time, for example, as Mr. Buffett did for his son, I imagine I would have squandered it writing bad novels, rather than getting useful paying work as a secretary, then as a teacher, and then going to graduate school in journalism, a far more practical path in my case.” [emphasis added]


Her career trajectory runs pretty parallel to mine – though right now I’m writing what is arguably a bad novel (I refuse to think I’m squandering my time, though) and her WSJ article today focuses on decluttering her house. Yeah, she can park her car in the garage now, but how about her soul? Her muse?

I spent many years as a single parent running my own business, and during those busy years, I almost never read a novel, let alone tried to write one. I was on that practical path that paid the mortgage and the orthodontist. Now I have a bit more time – even though Warren Buffett has not yet graced me with my own pot of gold – and I don’t want to think I’m squandering it.

If I don’t complete a successful/marketable/critically acclaimed novel, does that mean I’m squandering my time? I sure hope not. Do I need to write a best-seller to show I’m not wasting my time?

How about you? What drives you?

And why?

Squandering? Really?

20 comments to Squandering? Really?

  • Thank you for this post. You seem to have eavesdropped on my mind. I married young, had four sons, and then just when my youngest son entered high school, I started a new round of service: half-raising (or more) my first three grandchildren. I started seriously writing ten years ago, then stopped for several years due to the above mentioned second service. Now, I’m sixty (gawd!) and I’m doing what I please. Will I be published? Due to the market, maybe not. Does that mean I’m wasting my time writing? Absolutely not! I’m fulfilling a dream. I’m clearing my “inner garage” and it feels wonderful.

    • Natasha

      I love the image of clearing your ‘inner garage’! What a great picture that is. Now I’m envisioning doing the same with all those boxes of Stuff crammed in the back of my cerebellum or wherever I put them.

    • I, too, love the inner garage comment. Fulfilling a dream can never be a waste of time – I think it always leads to something positive.

  • There is only one thing that drives me and it’s the revelation I received during my sabbatical from societies norms. Whether my personal philosophies are universally accepted or not — I must be true to who I am.

    Although publication of any piece of work would be a dream, if I do not achieve the coveted status so be it – Such is life. The journey is the experience I have grown to cherish.

    Writing brings me joy, stimulates my mind and gives me a freedom to express myself in ways that I am audibly deficient. It has helped me to discover and understand things about myself that I was once too busy to identify.

    In summary, I am a better person because I write. Would you consider that squandering my time?

    • Natasha

      ‘In summary, I am a better person because I write.’ HELL YEAH!

      ‘Would you consider that squandering my time?’ HELL NO!

      As usual, you are right. And what a journey this is….

  • What a post! NO! You’re not squandering you time! What a ridicules statement. Sorry, but ridicules is the only word for it. If writing makes you happy, then you certainly are not squandering your time.
    I love Linda’s ‘inner garage’ statement!
    And DS is right on with “Writing brings me joy, stimulates my mind and gives me a freedom to express myself in ways that I am audibly deficient. It has helped me to discover and understand things about myself that I was once too busy to identify.”
    I second everything she said.
    I am having a blast with my writing, even when I complain about it. I’m learning things about life and about myself that I wouldn’t have paid any attention to otherwise.
    Of course, I still have to get up at 4:30am and go to work. But when I have free time, I write, and I’m loving it–even if my novels are BAD. 🙂

    • Natasha

      4:30 to go to work? Ouch.

      Do/can you talk into a tape recorder when you’re driving? I used to do that when I was interviewing people — they sometimes clammed up if I took notes or taped while they were talking — so I’d motor mouth as soon as I got in the car after the interview while I could still remember what they said.

      I’m trying to figure out how you are able to write so much with all your other stuff, wonder woman…

      • I do use a recorder in the car. It’s listening back and writing it out that I find hard to do. TIME, oh what I would do to have just one day to stay home and write. Between work, commute, three kids, husband, parents, in-laws, and 1750 sq feet of house to take care of, I never have more than an hour or two to spend writing. That’s not to mention blogging, Critique Circle, Facebook and taking some time to spend with a few friends once in a while. OH and exercise, I won’t mention how big my A$$ has gotten since I started writing and blogging. 🙂
        I am no Wonder Woman. But I often wonder if my children will hate me when their grown for all the attention I took from them in order to write. Hence–the guilt I mention on DS’ blog the other day.
        What can I do? I need to do some things for myself–correction–I need to do this for myself! If they don’t resent me for this, I’m sure they’ll find another reason to resent me when their grown, right? Isn’t that what kids do? Resent our parents for something.
        If anything, at least I can say I’m still a much better parent than either of my parents were.
        BTW, did I mention how long it’s been since I’ve been to the beauty salon? Okay, done complaining! It’s Friday and I’m walking the beach trail tomorrow. Maybe I’ll share some pictures.

        • Natasha

          Voice recognition software. You can train it to understand you pretty well.

          Yeah, whatever you do your kids can find a reason to love/hate you — generally both at the same time. 🙂

          You sound like a pretty cool parent to me, FWIW… Now if you can only get your hair cut while walking along the beach trail tomorrow…

  • I agree with what everyone else says! And as one who has been given the gift of time, I guess I am wasting my life! Wouldn’t I be a much more prodcutive and successful person if I went and got a “real job” at Starbucks or Home Depot.

    Note to Shellenbarger: climbing the corporate ladder does not equal success. At least not to me.

    • Natasha

      Well, in Shellenbarger’s defense, many of her articles are pretty interesting in terms of the juggling that women in particular frequently do with trying to balance a full-time outside job with full-time kitchen etc. duty. She happened to make some bad word choices in this article and I of course picked right up on it to make a point.

      • Excuse the small dissertation. But the deeper context of this conversation has been on my mind all morning.

        I remember well trying to juggle life as a single mother. The plight of the working woman is a position that should be honored and respected.

        However, I do have something to add to the conversation having been in both positions – working mom and homemaker. Just as respect is freely given to women in Shellenbarger’s position, an equal amount of respect should be given to those women who have the courage to break away from norms when the opportunity presents itself.

        Women who choose to become homemakers (or choose a career of lesser standing so they can devote more time to their homes) and walk away from their careers, generally find that society looks down on them — It’s almost as if they have lost their minds. In our material driven society a woman’s worth is measured more and more by her financial successes. Possibly this is the effect of equal rights, or just the natural progression of cultural advancement. I’ll leave that discussion to those who are more scholarly than I.

        My concern is: When did we stop cherishing a woman for simply being the beautiful creation she is?

        I remember being enormously angry with anyone who had a comfortable life when I was caught in the working world and having to make sacrifices for the sake of survival. I thought woman who could stay home with their children, or even those without children who chose to be homemakers where the hated enemy. How dare they have such a wonderful life while I had to slave away!

        It took a great deal of emotional growth for me not to hold others responsible for my position. That’s when I learned to embrace all woman based on the measure of their heart, and less on the measure of their position in society. Cultural and social differences among woman should be welcomed—not feared, or worse yet hated. If we begin to migrate down that slippery slope, we will become no different than the warring mentality of our more aggressive counterparts. We will in essence lose a small part of what it is that makes us women — Our ability to harbor unconditional compassion.

        (That’s just my two cents.)

        • Natasha

          As usual, DS, your two cents are worth considerably more than two cents.

          But I do think that you and I and the other (mostly female) people who share our thoughts on these blogs DO cherish women just as we are.

          And that is one of the many beauties and gifts of writing, I think — that we can step back (or forward) and see others as whole and unique personalities whose lives we are honored to transpose, invent, improve, share — whatever — through the course of our writing.

          Which is why I got this whole thang started on squandering. Which is NOT what we are doing with our writing.

          No. Way.

  • Living life is never squandering. It’d be nice to have a bazillionaire father who lets you drop out of college to pursue whatever you want – but I can’t help feeling blessed that I *didn’t* have such a father. There’s a lot of gratification to be earned by doing things the hard way.

  • Natasha

    Thanks for stopping by! Well, I am certainly of the ‘doing things the hard way’ school and there is a tremendous amount to be said for it.

    And you are right — living life fully is never squandering.

  • A

    This is definitely off topic but a little trivia for what it’s worth:

    Just recently, Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu has beaten out Americans Bill Gates AND Warren Buffett to become the wealthiest person on earth on the 2010 Forbes list of the World’s Billionaires.

    Of course the first eleven in the list are males, but women begin to show up starting at #12 & up. (you won’t like it)

    • Natasha

      What I like even less than the number and rank of women on the list is that when I looked for literary, music, art luminaries on the list, I came up empty-handed. #43, heading up Amazon, was the closest — and he wants to do away with paper books altogether.

    • Alright you two! You have no idea how much sleep time I lost last night shuffling through and reading the Forbes top 500 – yes I said 500. Once I started reading them I couldn’t stop.

  • A

    ‘Who would have thought that under the hard business exterior of mega-investor Warren Buffett lies the soul of a wannabe rocker? A surreal video making its way around the Net shows Buffett doing his best imitation of Guns N’ Roses rocker Axl Rose.’   Video

    Read more: Time Magazine

  • Not to be off topic–but to be off topic. What kind of vegan goodies do I need to bake for A in order to be able to subscribe to Nancy Drew Too by email instead of RSS. Since he’s the Left Mind behind the production. 🙂

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