So I have this problem. Maybe you have it too.
When presented with a writing opportunity (one that’s of value), I have a very hard time saying no.
I am overbooked and overworked. And it’s no one’s fault but mine.
Shonda Rhimes spent a whole bunch of months saying yes to stuff. I really need to do the opposite. A Year of No. I don’t say no enough. And honestly, it’s not good for me. For any of us.
But before I can learn to turn more things down (so I have more room to, gee I dunno, relax), I first need to understand why I have such a strong aversion to this two-letter word. No. Nonononononono.
Am I afraid of letting people down?
Is it FOMO? (It’s almost always FOMO.)
Am I just a workaholic? (Probably.)
If you can relate to any of the nonsense I just described, then congratulations! You’re part of the club. The We Don’t Know How to Say No to Stuff And We’re Super Tired All the Time And Whatever club.
Now, don’t take this to mean I don’t love what I do. Because I do. Going to work is the most fun eight hours of my day. I like working. It would do me good to do much less of it, though. Maybe you’re the same way.
Maybe you were told that to find your footing in this business, you have to grab at everything that comes your way until you don’t have to anymore.
Trouble is, sometimes you keep grabbing … even when you don’t have to.
And maybe that makes you feel good. Like, you’re so available! You’re so agreeable! That must make clients love you! Right?
Unfortunately, saying “yes” to every writing opportunity doesn’t make you more marketable.
Believe me, I wish it did. Many of us would struggle much less if it did. But it doesn’t. It just makes you cranky and sleep-deprived and, honestly, totally miserable.
Writing is supposed to be fun. I mean, it isn’t always — but overall, you’re supposed to enjoy it. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t. Over-committing takes all the fun away. I don’t want you to do that to yourself. I’ve seen what it can do to creatives. The end result is not at all worth the sacrifice.
So … how do we say “yes” less?
Perhaps it’s a matter of gradually shifting from one thing to another. There’s no law that says you have to do 10 things at once. You can focus on a few, or just one at a time, and then move on.
Or maybe saying no is just a habit we learn in however many days it takes us to learn it. We don’t have to feel guilty for “letting people down.” People really don’t care that much. If they ask you to write something for them, and you say no, they’ll find someone else. The world will not stop spinning. Life will go on.
I could write a whole book on this stuff. Maybe I will someday. Once I learn how to stop saying yes to every gosh darn thing.
In the meantime, let’s take some deep breaths. Avoid our calendars for a night. Pretend we’re not secretly waiting for a new opportunity to show up (even if we don’t take it … but we probably will).
Here’s to figuring it out, one new commitment at a time. Cheers. Zzzzz.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.