My brother once lent me a great book, a non-fiction account of a man who decided to stop saying no. After I read it he asked me what I thought and I said it was interesting but, “…my problem isn’t so much saying yes, it’s saying no.”
I’m not good at saying no to people. It’s actually one of the reasons I ended up in teaching. Teaching is a great job and teachers genuinely have the power to change lives, but I NEVER wanted to be a teacher. I loved the kids I taught and I enjoyed working with passionate, knowledgeable people, but I got into teaching because *checks over shoulder and whispers* my mum really pushed it. Don’t tell.
I’m still not good at saying no and in many ways it’s worse now, because now essentially I’m self-employed. Every time I say ‘yes’, I’m saying ‘no’ to writing time. And so are you.
Given that I’m SO bad at saying no, what can I offer you on the topic. Well, I can at least share what I’ve learnt so far and what I’m working on. And hey, maybe you could give me some tips in return? Deal?
Say no to house work (and other chores)
Now, bare with me. We all have chores. You may think that once you’re an adult you’ll have more freedom over your chores but, if you live with someone else, there’s always outside pressure to do things around or for your household. What I’m saying really is, set aside time to write and then say no to chores. If you write between nine and ten thirty, don’t stop to hang out the washing. It will wait. The muse may not.
Say no to fun
Do you want to go to a movie? No. Do you want to grab a coffee? No. Do you want to go fishing? No. Not unless you’ve met your word-count/writing time/deadline. If you struggle with this, think of it as rescheduling, rather than refusing – “Sorry, I’m flat out this week, but how about we grab a drink next Friday night?”
Say no to being a martyr
They say the thing you dislike most in others, is the thing you dislike in yourself. I dislike martyrdom – I’m also a guilty of it. I will take on more than I can handle or jobs I don’t want to take on, then complain and agonise over it. Yeah, it’s a personality flaw. Don’t be like me.
Only you know what you can and cannot do, or what you want or do not want to do. If someone asks you to do something and you agree, you only have yourself to blame. If you didn’t finish your manuscript because you agreed to walk your neighbors’ dog every morning, don’t bitch to them (or about them), it’s on you.
Do as I say, not as I do
God, I wish I could say I was all over this but I’m not (particularly the third point). But saying no, setting boundaries, putting your writing first is important. It allows you to take your writing from a hobby, to a career. If that’s what you want to do, then you (and I) need to get comfortable with no.