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?