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