How to Say No to a New Idea

It’s tempting to dive headfirst into every new possibility. But you shouldn’t.

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When a new idea flirts with me, I fall for its tricks. Hard.

Translation: I am terrible at saying no.

Believe it or not, it’s not as hard for me to say no to people as it is to say no to new ideas. Which is weird, I know. Ideas don’t have feelings, they don’t care if you reject them or ignore them or throw them into the hot burning lava of Mustafar or whatever.

An idea doesn’t hold grudges or judge you because it doesn’t have a conscience. Thank GOD.

So I don’t know what’s wrong with me and I’m long past the point of trying to figure it out (EMBRACE YOUR TRUE WEIRD SELVES). But I do know that being almost completely unable to turn down new ideas has gotten me into serious trouble more than once.

Why? Because when you can’t turn down ideas, they start piling up. You start making too many commitments. You get overwhelmed. And if you’re anything like me, the only way you know how to deal when you feel like there’s too much to do is to proceed to do absolutely nothing at all.

Which is, uh. Bad.

Wait wait wait, you’re probably saying out loud (or not): Why does the title of this blog post imply that you are going to tell me how not to do this thing when you’ve just admitted that you STILL DO THIS THING?

Listen. I’m not perfect and don’t try to be. I’m learning right along with y’all. I also sometimes don’t always practice what I preach and I admit that for the sole purpose of letting you know I’m just like you. Sometimes I know what to do, but don’t do it.

So regardless of whether or not I’m good at remembering to put this into practice IRL, here’s what I’ve learned about rejecting the ideas that come to you begging for all your attention:

Write them down and leave them the heck alone!

Because the truth is, you can’t do everything. You are not a superhuman (I mean, you are a super human, but you have not been blessed with exceptional power … and if you were, you’d never tell me I was wrong).

You don’t have time to say yes to every idea for a new project that might come to you. Because in addition to making things you also have to eat and sleep and remember your family and friends exist. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting any of these things. Please.

Honestly, the best thing you can do is get it down on paper and try to forget about it for a while. Your head is not going to explode. Someone is not going to take your exact idea or create the exact same thing you want to create. The world is not going to end because you didn’t start working on YET ANOTHER project today.

Saying no is hard. But maybe it’s better to think of it as “not right now.” If you truly care for an idea — if you’re really determined to make sure it exists in the world at some point — you will get to it. You will find a way. It does not have to happen now.

I know that a lot of you reading this probably have the opposite problem: You can never seem to have enough ideas to work with. I wish that wasn’t something you had to struggle with. I wish there was more I could do to help. Actually, if there is, let me know below. I’m here if you need me. Always.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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2 thoughts on “How to Say No to a New Idea

  1. Great advice. I have tried to let go of the compulsion to stick with an idea that is still just percolating. I make a note or two and let it be. I open it up when I need inspiration but I’ve learned to trust that the words will come when I’m ready. It’s hard not to force inspiration but the truth is that never works for me.

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