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Friday, October 18, 2013

Is “NO” Realistic?

Is “NO” Realistic?

I recently came across an article written by Tim Ferriss titled, Why (and how) Creative People Need to Say “NO.” It was very well done and quoted many successful creators. Here are a few:
When asked for an interview, Saul Bellow’s secretary informed the journalist that, “Mr. Bellow informed me that he remains creative in the second half of life, at least in part, because he does not allow himself to be a part of other people’s studies.”
Management writer Peter Drucker said, “One of the secrets to productivity is to have a very big waste basket to take care of ALL invitations.”
A professor contacted 275 creative people to interview them on how they stayed creative. One third of them said they didn’t have time to be interviewed and one-third never replied, suggesting they didn’t even have time to refuse. 
Ferriss says, “Saying no guards our time and “yes” makes less. There are no overnight successes and many up-all-night successes. “No” makes us boring, impolite and selfish. But “no” is the button that keeps us on.”
I enjoyed Ferriss’ article so much that I printed it out and hung it over my computer. It made me feel motivated, but in truth, I have yet to enforce it. And lately, the more I look at it, the guiltier I feel.
For the past few years, since the kids have grown and moved into their own homes and lives, our house has been quiet, just my husband, our dogs and me. I work full time, with a schedule of afternoons and evenings so I can guard my mornings for writing. My first novel, In the Shadow of Revenge, was published a few months ago and I am getting close to completing what will be the second in the series.
A short time ago, due to unforeseen circumstances, my daughter and two grandsons, ages four and six, moved in with my husband and me. And now I can’t seem to move my novel from “close” to “finished.” The quiet house I used to have has disappeared. Now, I write to the background noise of Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Batman and who hit whom first.  I can close my door to most of the noise, but lately, my six-year-old grandson has been sneaking into my office and sidling up beside me. He lays a hand on my shoulder and asks, “Can I write a story too?”
I glance at Ferriss’ article above my computer as “yes” comes out of my mouth. I hit save and shrink my work off to the side and feel like a traitor to the profession. He slips into my lap and begins dictating while I type. Inside, I am agitated and want to keep working on my own story. I am also elated to share this time with my grandson and thrilled by his creativity.
I’ve been getting less and less done lately and my emotions are running the gamut. I’m behind on my work, anxious to finish, frustrated over lack of time and mourning the loss of my quiet home.  And then I remind myself that it won’t be long until my six-year-old grandson won’t be caught dead sitting on my lap and he’ll have a million reasons why he doesn’t have time for Grandma.
A writer’s life is not as cut and dry as Ferriss’ article suggests. We are spread thin and constantly weighing priorities. Sometimes our writing comes out on top and sometimes our families do and I’ve come to believe that’s as it should be. I also noticed this morning something I hadn’t picked up on before. All those quoted in the article, including its creator, are men. Does the approach to writing differ between men and women and if the answer is yes, is that due to choice or necessity? Is it easier for men to say no? How often do you say no?  


Toni Anderson said...

I can feel your dilemma, Pat. I know what it is like to desperately need that time alone to write. But how can you deny the needs of family? Perhaps you could have a subtle word with your family and figure out an hour a day when you are undisturbed. Or an hour a day you can go to the library or a coffee shop and get some writing done? Balance is everything.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Such a timely post for me, Pat. I'm debating whether to attend a writers' meeting this weekend. I really want to, as I enjoy the company and it usually sparks inspiration, but it would involve about 4 hours of driving time and time away from my manuscript and family (both of which need me this weekend). Such a hard dilemma to balance.

And I was thinking the same thing as I came to the end of you post - I don't think most men have as much difficulty saying no. I feel that need, as a mom, to be there for my kids 24-7, but I don't believe hubby feels the same. ;)

Marcelle Dubé said...

What an interesting post, Pat. You're right -- sometimes we need to be "on" for family and sometimes our focus needs to be on the writing. And the priorities can shift with the snap of fingers. And that's okay.

As for whether men can say "no" more easily than women... ::shrug:: my guess is that depends on the man.

Jean Harrington said...

Pat, grandkids are a powerful draw, no doubt about it. But I love what you said: pretty soon your 6 year old grandson won't want to sit on your lap anymore. As a card-carrying grandmother, I can attest the grandkids grow up and leave you. And leave you free to write.

Shelley Munro said...

I feel your dilemma. It's so difficult to say no to those we love. I have no advice either! :)

Ana Barrons said...

I've had a huge problem juggling family, work, sleep (I love it) and writing ever since I started down this road. For a few years I really did close the door and claim my own space, but over time I realized I was missing out on the other things that were important to me, so I opened that door again. I can't write anything in a stolen hour -- I need large chunks of time so I can set up, think, drink tea, walk around, sit down and click away and then do it all again. The large chunks are hard to find, so yeah, moving from close to finished is like pushing a rock uphill.

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