Just Say No

1just-say-no            Even though I write full time, I still don’t have enough hours in a day. When I worked at other jobs, when my kids were small and when I had even less time to write than I do know, that’s when I still believed I had all the time in the world to do everything I wanted.

Now I know better. And because I don’t have enough time – not enough time in the wall_clock_threeday, this month, this year – even if I live to be ninety (which no longer seems so, so far away), I’ll probably never have enough time to do everything I want to. So I’ve learned how to say No.

I say no to serving on boards, even boards of organizations I believe in. Actually, I say No, thank you. Maybe there’s some other way I can help.

I say No to organizing Big Fundraisers. Been there, done that. Now I say, I’m a good foot soldier; give me a job and I’ll get it done. This also absolves me from meetings, to which I no longer go.

I’ve said, No, I’m working, but thanks for asking to any number of retired friends who’ve invited me to join them to ski, bike, hike, snow shoe or go out to lunch.

I no longer go out to lunch.

otl            I used to love lunch dates, but I don’t do transitions well. When I have a date for lunch, I spend the morning in anticipation of getting ready to go, dribbling out words between glances at the clock. It takes me a half hour to drive into town to enjoy someone else’s cooking seasoned with good talk. Inevitably, if I’ve made the drive, I’ll run errands. By the time I drive home and return to my desk, my concentration’s fractured. Lunch eats up a whole day.

Saying No isn’t easy. I like to serve my community and to socialize. I want to work and to have a life – but a life that supports my work, not one that makes it harder to write. So I’ve found ways to say Yes to both community service and to socializing with friends. I volunteer at a community justice center, I write copy for organizations I support, and I visit and play with friends. I just don’t do any of these activities between 8 and 5 on a weekday, when I’m working. Of course there’s an exception: I serve as Town Moderator at Town Meeting – one weekday a year.

It helps that I know what I do want to do: finish Ellen, write the next two novels knocking about in my head, write radio commentaries, newspaper editorials, blog posts, a play. I want to write.

Writing’s my job, and I treat it like that – even on the days I don’t want to write, even on days I’m offered a job with prestige and a yespaycheck. No thanks, I say. I’ve got a job. I’ve got to write.

Sometimes, saying No really means saying, Yes, I want to write.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin says Yes to writing novels and essays, to developmental editing, to public speaking, and to teaching writing. Learn more at www.deborahleeluskin.com

42 thoughts on “Just Say No

  1. Great post. I too work from home and I feel as if my family and friends forget I work. It’s as if because I am home, I am free to do whatever, this is so not the case! I try hard to protect my precious work hours but now I think it might be good for me to set up boundaries for myself, i.e. don’t answer my phone or adjust my schedule, just like I would do if I were in a remote office.

  2. Good reminder, thank you!
    I do tend to say yes to far too many things, because I have (don’t we all?) multiple roles to fulfill and because I’m a bit of a perfectionist in each of them. Of course I will help out at school and bake cakes and take my children to all sorts of places – because I want to be the perfect mum. Of course I will write that article or run that course, because it will be such a boost on my CV (and because I always underestimate the amount of time it will take to prepare). Of course there is one thing that has to suffer as a result, and all too often that is my writing…

  3. Round of applause – I know how hard it is to just take time for what YOU really want to do and I’m glad you made the choice to say NO. Thanks for sharing this post it is always good to remember what it is you want for yourself from time to time.

    • It is a daily struggle – until you do it enough, and it becomes the default mode. Keep on keeping on toward “yes”! Good luck, Deborah.

  4. you can’t believe the power you gave me, the encouragement I felt after I’ve read this post… thank you a lot, I’ll reblog your post on my blog.

  5. I used to work as a freelance writer right out of college. The most challenging aspect of the job was saying “no.” It caused a few fights with my mother-in-law, who mistook my writing as an excuse to get out of spending time with her. Great blog post and great insight.

  6. Great post! I know what you mean when you say it feels like 90 is not closing in fast 🙂 It’s got a lot easier actually to say ‘no’ as I’ve got older. I think most writers are ‘people pleasers’ which makes it doubly hard to find the time to write everything we want to write.

  7. Great post! Can relate so much to it… I’m so guilty of saying “yes” without considering the implications. I need be more inclined to say “no” and revise that decision later rather than the other way around!

    • Instead of saying an automatic Yes or No, I’m trying to learn to say, Let me get back to you on that – which at least gives me some time, and I think people find a little less offensive than my knee-jerk No!
      Thanks for reading and commenting. All best, Deborah.

  8. Thank you for this timely reminder, that writing – getting to the heart and soul while chipping away at the excess until we get down to the bare and the beautiful – is a process worthwhile protecting, of saying “yes” to.

  9. All so very familiar no matter our circumstances. I loved your last two paragraphs, “this is my work, my passion, it’s valuable, I’m valuable. It’s what I was put here to do, and I want to do it!

  10. Excellent, excellent, excellent! Thank you, Deborah, I’m printing this out and posting it in a prominent spot on my office bulletin board. Did I say “excellent?” 🙂

  11. Love this! I parted ways with my job early last year. Have been writing like crazy, but I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress, because I have to take care of my health and I am constantly trying to find ways to keep my finances going. It’s tough and I do need a payoff soon or I will be working for “The Man” yet again, but I know that I have to the drive and the talent to be successful at this. Part of it is fear, part of it is not enough time, part of it is I don’t know what the hell to do to get writing jobs that don’t lock me into the type of writing I don’t want to do. I will continue to say “Yes, I want to write!” Anyone else struggle with time and career path as well? Can anyone point me to some useful information for a novice with a passion who needs to get some credibility with some published pieces FAST!! Thanks in advance and good luck to you all.

  12. Working from home, especially working for yourself, often seems to make your friends think you can say yes to every offer of lunch, activity or bit of do gooding for a cause because … “surely if you work for yourself you can give yourself time off and catch up later” Well, in theory this is true, but the catching up never seems to be caught and you find yourself in an endless backlog of jobs you thought you would have completed by now! It was refreshing to read your post and peoples comments and know there are people out there who say No and stick to it – I am not alone!!

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