Do you have a problem saying no? I sure do. I say yes to all kinds of things, often without thinking about whether that is the right thing for me. I say yes because I like the person asking, because I feel obligated, because I would feel guilty saying no, because I think it will be good for me….
Then I lament the fact that the things that go undone each day are things that really matter to me, the things I consider “my work.”
I came across a blog post about saying no the other day thanks to author/ entrepreneur/ speaker Joanna Penn. The blog addressed this issue of saying yes to our own creative and productive detriment by pointing out a number of highly creative and productive people who typically say no. The blog by Kevin Ashton is a quick and worthwhile read. Take a peek for yourself.
Here’s the gist of it: A professor asked creative people for an interview for a book he was writing.
The professor contacted 275 creative people. A third of them said “no.” Their reason was lack of time. A third said nothing. We can assume their reason for not even saying “no” was also lack of time and possibly lack of a secretary.
This week I had three appointments that were optional. They were with other writers, people whose friendship I value immensely. With two of them, I talked about the problem of time management, responsibilities, and getting my writing work done. It’s a problem many of us share, but it’s not outside of our control. Right after commiserating with my friends, I read this:
Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time.
Talking about writing is important. Having writer friends is important. But I realized, yet again, that I need to practice saying no. Even when it feels like I am depriving myself–of the excellent company of friends–or when I know I’ll feel a twinge of guilt–my kid’s on summer break and wants me to go to the movies. I know that “time is the raw material of creation,” so why do I keep saying yes? So many reasons, but very few of them are as important to me as my drive to create. I will continue to say yes when it matters, when I need it, when I have time to spare, just not as often as I have been.
I am going to be more judicious with yes. I am going to practice saying no. I invite you to do the same.
Hey, can you do me a favor?
Go on, say it!
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