The Organized Writer: Saying No

by Jeff Abbott on December 29, 2008

The Art of Non-Conformity blog puts out a blunt statement as to the power of saying no (or simply ignoring requests for your time and attention). This is absolutely true:

To fulfill some commitments, others must be excluded. 

I have to say no all the time to requests and invitations (and not all are writing related, by any means); there just are not enough hours in the day. I’m sure to some people, my saying no is unreasonable. But I have already made my commitments, and I don’t have powers over time and space.
When you’re trying to get a  book done–say no to encroachments on your time. Say it often. This is much harder than it sounds for some people. Know that saying no to many things means getting to say yes to what matters the most.

    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    Ann Victor December 29, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Jeff, you have no idea how difficult it is for me to say that simple word “no”, even when I know “it” is just going to waste my time! But on a more positive note I’ve noticed a veryveryvery small change in myself towards the end of 2008, and reading this organized writer series of yours is making me determined to do more along these lines in 2009.
    I’ve started refusing to do little things (like return phone calls from people who just want to chat). I still waste a lot of time feeling guilty (and rude and antisocial) about this but I’m sure I’ll get over that if I persist and start seeing my writing time increase.
    Any thoughts on how to deal with the guilt inducing emotional blackmail that often follows the decision to say no to others?
    Thanks for the link – there was also a great article on how to respond to critics.

    Jeff Abbott December 30, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Ann: That’s a very tough one, and it’s hard for me to give advice when I don’t know the personalities involved. The only thing I can say is politely stand your ground, and do your best to help your loved ones/friends understand how much the writing means to you, and that their support is important to you (important but not critical–they don’t have the power to keep you from writing.) If they still can’t support you, then you have a deeper problem.

    Kristan January 1, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I struggle with this (as I think I’ve mentioned in a comment before) but am really making strides in the past few months. As are my friends, in fairness. They understand how important my time is now, I think, and are doing better about giving it to me. I miss them, but I think we’re finding ways to keep in touch more efficiently?
    (That’s the main thing I have to say no to, or at least the only thing that’s hard for me. Other stuff is much easier!)

    Sarah Jensen January 2, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I have the opposite problem. Stepping away from the keyboard to do things I know are important too. I have to force myself away from a novel. But the bright side is, I’ve completed 3 novels this year, and am querying agents. I have 2 more that I work on regularly, researching facts, ect.
    I read all I can on improving my writing skills, by credited people and I will take some online classes in writing from Gothem Writer’s Workshop.
    So, yeah, saying no isn’t my problem. But I do appreciate how hard it is for some, and I hope we can all come to a happy place where no’s and yes’s balance.

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