Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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April 6, 2011

Your New Best Friend: The Word "No"

By D. A. Watt

My first word spoken was, “No.” This is pretty typical, just like “Mamma” or “Dada” or, for the genius babies out there, something random like, “Tortilla.”

I’m all grown up now, and am no longer limited by a toddler’s vocabulary. Like you, I am a writer. Writers get high on stringing together words, many words. Right?

Why then is this itty-bitty two letter word becoming more difficult for me to say? Seriously, I act as if a gang of time robbers are pointing their Uzi’s at me. Do you do this, too?

A time robber with hound dog’s eyes and a tennis tan asks, “Trudy is sick (or worse, she died) can you fill in, it’s just for a month or two?” I step back, hands raised, “Yeah, yeah, of course.”

A time robber in a business suit gushes, “We need your help editing the newsletter. Plus you’ve such an eye for lay-out and design. It’s for a good cause.” She smiles. I gulp.

Sometimes I walk into a time robber ambush. Like when my hubby, the Godfather of time robbers, wants me to sit with him to watch a movie I like, too. Or when one of my kids needs a ride to a friend’s house to finish a big school project due tomorrow (that’s a 40 minute roundtrip times two).

Or how about:

  • My son's 2 1/2 hour baseball game
  • My Daughter's dance rehearsal

At home:

  • laundry flaps me off
  • dinner moves me to tears
  • toilets belch unknown objects

All the time:

  • The cell phone beeps and tweets without permission or intermission
  • Emails…texts!
  • The internet clamors: follow this link, take a peek…Oops
  • I'm Facebooked, Googled and Windowed to the ninth degree
  • Yahoo…LinkedIn…blogging AGAIN.

Wait! Don’t pop that Prozac; take a deep breath, and count to ten. Now, let it out, real slow.

Focus. Unite with me and shout our new battle cry, “No.” Say it out loud, stand firm. Shake a fist for emphasis.

“No,” is your new best friend.

I urge you, fellow author; be brave, fight to write, and exercise your “No” often.

We’d love to hear what happens when you do, especially any clever methods you’ve discovered to introduce your new friend.

0 comments on “Your New Best Friend: The Word "No"”

  1. HA! Love the photos, love the bulleted list. Too funny!
    I actually like to say no. When it comes to my writing time you better be DYING if you want my attention.
    Yea, that's just how I roll.

  2. Some days I'm good at saying no while others the little two letter word is not in my vocabulary. I need to learn to say it at least 90% of the time, particularly to my friends. I have one friend that slips past the 'no' almost every time and I need to change that.

    Great post! It's always good to read a reminder to tell people no for your writing time.

    1. I know what you mean, I have a friend who is skilled as well. If you come up with a method, please pass it on!

  3. Loved this post, although I'm still not sure I can befriend the 'no'? Or perhaps just for a weekly coffee... I like it when I have a story idea that survives the day's wiping/watching/taxiing... I like the mish-mash of family bustle, the 'being there' thing for the kids, and the character-clock conflict that leaves you chanting a good idea all the way home, so as not to forget it, while small children look at you with that suspicious gaze (she's gone, she's lost it...). Plus, you meet some great weirdos and fruitcakes at ball games and kids' parties; characters that deserve to be fattened up, moulded to suit, and mangled in a story. In a nice way. No?

  4. It might help to remember that other people would not be saying yes to extra activities that require they do them during hours they are at work. Writing is work, just like freelancing would be work. (When you're self-employed, your time is doubly valuable because when it comes to taxes you have to pay the employer's half and the employee's half.) If you schedule your writing time and something that is a non-emergency tries to interfere, you can simply check your schedule and say no.

    Warning: Be ready for a few people to be shocked and perhaps even offended that you won't comply with their requests for your time. The average American is geared to think that anyone who is at home and is a mom is "available," and only moms who work outside the home are automatically exempted. If you have to explain that work is work no matter where it takes place and just like anyone else you don't get paid unless you put in the hours, I think in most cases they'll come around.

    As for the newsletter, smile and let them know you'll get back to them with your editorial fee. Either they'll cough up the cash, or you'll never hear from them again.

    1. I agree about the professional commitment and not being diverted -- yet in my original comment I promoted the joy of saying yes to friends and family, so I guess for me it's all about time management. I think for me it boils down to segregating managed chunks of time; when it's work time, writing commands full attention. When it's family time, everyone gets a slice of me. Best of both?!

      1. Definitely that's the best of both with close friends and family. Time needs to be budgeted, but as a parent/spouse we all have to keep a little flexibility. For example, as a volunteer I run a department of our children's ministry at our church, but I also homeschool, babysit for a friend, and head up a writing group. It's hard to find time to write with these commitments, but if I'm careful not to get overly involved with anything beyond them, I can usually do it.

        I also have a great group of people around me who help to provide support when something unexpected comes up. When three of my kids had the flu over a few weeks, I took time off from writing and delegated my volunteer responsibilities to my co-coordinator until we were back to normal.

        When it comes to saying yes to new activities, I've found it helpful to ask for time to think it over and talk to my husband, who helps me manage/protect my current time commitments. We talk it over and consider the cost to the family. This keeps me from being impulsive and makes sure I can do what I've already committed to with excellence.

        (By the way, it's good to donate time, i.e. the newsletter. But I take into account what I CAN do vs. what ONLY I can do. [Sorry about the caps. I can't figure out italics.] Only I can be the mom to my kids and the wife to my husband. That's a priority. Anyone can do a newsletter. Not as big a priority unless it falls under one of the areas I already have charge over, such as other volunteers in my department or my homeschool group, etc.)

  5. Love this! I Pressed This, facebooked and tweeted. Maybe some folks will get the hint. No is the most difficult word in the English language!

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