Saying “No”

In my last post, I noted that I was tabling a story.  Even as I wrote that, I started feeling the mental anguish of, “Don’t table it!  You should finish it!  You’ve done so much.”

Believe me, it’s eats me up as well.  However, it comes down to something I counsel my employees on at the day job, and something I’ve read in numerous books on being an effective leader/chaser of your dreams.  In fact, I’d probably put it into the Great Book of Traits everybody should have if you have a desire to be successful.

Learn to say, “No.”

Sounds counter-intuitive, right?  Who likes that guy?  The one who refuses to help.  The one who bails on you.  The one who can’t be bothered.  While we don’t really like “yes-men,” we really don’t like “no-men.”  Everything should be “can do!” not “no can do…”

I struggle with saying no.  I want to help everybody; I want to be there for everybody.  I don’t like letting people down.  I don’t like disappointing people who were counting on me (even if they hadn’t told me yet).  But I have come to a revelation that has helped me dramatically with this problem:

There’s only so many hours in the day for “Yes.”

Everything you say “yes” to has a time commitment.  If you say “yes” to everything you either A) run out of time on things that were important to you or B) you half-ass what you do to the point that it’s not quality work… often to the point you might as well not have done it.

There are two ways to say no.

  1. You just say no, politely (to yourself or another person)
  2. You say yes, and then keep not getting to whatever it was because you were so busy… Thus making it a no by default, but you don’t have to hate yourself for saying no.

The problem that comes from this is that you are praised for this behavior.  People look and say, “Wow, she’s got a lot on her plate.  She’s so hardworking to try to get to it all.”  I could write a dissertation on this in the professional world, but I’ll focus on the writing for this blog.

If your goal is to get published, you need to be taking steps to get published.

If you only have 5-10 hours a week to write, you could spend that time working on:

A) A gamble.  It’s a good story, but there’s no forum for it.
B) A story that actually has a prospective buyer.

In my case, I choose to table a promising story so that I might write another promising story… but this one with an audience that I might be able to deliver to.  The other project (Project Addley) will hang out and wait… Its time certainly may come, but for now I can’t afford to spend any time when I have more productive outlets.

Does that mean there’s no value on these other projects?  Of course they have value.  I enjoyed Addley, and I think it’s a good story.  But there’s probably another 5 hours of drafting left on it, and 20-30 hours of editing/revising.

If I want to finish something and push it to market, I need to spend those 25+ hours on something with a clear goal.  Addley needs to fall into the same bucket as the 10+ novels I’ve written 5000 words on but then stalled out.  It will sit, and wait… And when I can get back to it, I will.

Because after all, (especially in writing), it’s more important to finish than it is to start.  (But that’s probably another post all by itself).

Do you have trouble saying no?


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