Learn to say ‘No’

19 Apr

I haven’t posted here for quite a while but that wasn’t because I forgot about my blog. I’ve allowed other people to access my writing time in a number of ways.

There are 24 hours in a day. That’s the same for everyone. After that, things vary depending on personal commitments. Whatever they are, in each 24 house there is a finite amount of time to devote to writing.

I have a couple of days at home each week. True, I need to fit in various jobs to keep the house and its occupants clothed and fed. Theoretically I have 3 hours to write on each of those days — plus any time I can find on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Mr Prue supports my wanting to write. However, it comes down to me to guard that time which — theoretically — can be used for writing.

Why do I keep saying ‘theoretically’? It’s all connected with the title of this piece.

Last night Mr Prue and I went along to a meeting of one of the local societies we belong to. There’s always a talk; last night there was also a buffet afterwards and a chance to socialise. As I was leaving, I was asked if I could ‘just deliver a few booklets’. Then there was mention of ‘invoices’ and a bit later of ‘keeping a record of sales’ and ‘phoning round to check stock levels’.

At that point, alarm bells rang — but only faintly. It was late, I was relaxed after a pleasant evening, I’d had some good food and a glass of beer.

What I should have said was ‘No, I’m not able to do that’.

But as I mentioned above, it was late, I was relaxed after a pleasant evening, I’d had some good food and a glass of beer. In the face of gentle but persistent persuasion, I agreed to do something that I knew would eat into my spare writing time.

This morning I spent time — writing time! — composing an email to say I withdrew my offer of help. This was accompanied by much grinding of teeth because had I said ‘No’ in the first place I could have got on with my novel! The only good thing about writing the email was the time it will save me in the coming months.

However, saying ‘No’ is not enough. Many people do not take ‘No’ for an answer and keep asking. Psychological research shows that while it is relatively easy to say ‘No’ the first time, it becomes more difficult to keep saying ‘No’ in the face of repeated requests.

But that’s what I need to do, to guard those precious writing hours. Say ‘No’ and keep saying ‘No’.

If anyone accuses me of being selfish I have but one thing to say. How selfish is the other person in asking me to do something which is not in my best interests?  (I’m talking about everyday, world-won’t-end-if-it-isn’t-done things here, not life-and-death situations).

Thinking about it this morning, I’ve been saying ‘Yes’ when ‘No’ would have been more sensible, quite a lot recently — possibly because I’ve been tired. That and not checking out exactly what I’m letting myself in for before commiting myself.

So I need to be clear what my priorities are; and to make sure I put my priorities first. No on else is going to see my priorities as more important that theirs. Quite why I see others’ priorities as more important than mine I’m not sure.

I need to stay vigilant — otherwise my novel will never get written!




Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


19 responses to “Learn to say ‘No’

  1. rae101049

    April 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Learning to say no is a skill that takes practice. You’re going in the right direction! I’m proud of you.
    Now, if only I could take my own advice!

    • Prue

      April 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

      Thanks rae (or do I call you Nancy? I’m never sure). I thought I’d got it cracked as this is something I’ve been aware of a practising for years. Always room for improvement 🙂

      • rae101049

        April 29, 2012 at 8:07 pm

        Nancy is good. I’ve been working on saying absolutely NO for the last few months. Life’s become insanely busy and my writing has suffered. (Hence the long silences on my blog.) But, the semester is coming to an end, more time is freeing up for writing, and the thing that I never want to say no to is emerging – the yard and garden. It does take time away from HTRYN, but it also lets the mind rest! And, boy, does my mind need to rest.

    • Prue

      April 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm

      Nancy it is. Thanks 🙂
      Enjoy your gardening. I love being outside growing things. It’s creative and soothing. Have fun!

  2. findingmycreature

    April 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Congrats to you for standing your ground! I know how hard and frustrating that can be! People can be so selfish, not realizing how serious your love for writing is and that you treat it as a job and put in the hours. It wasn’t until they saw me sit down everyday to write that they began to understand…but even then, when something needs doing they automatically assume because you’re at home, you are free to do whatever mundane errand that needs doing! Good thing we have wonderful writers to connect with 🙂 Guard your precious writing time!

    • Prue

      April 20, 2012 at 10:45 am

      Thanks fmc! You’re right, it is a good thing we have wonderful writers to connect with. Being understood and supported counts for a lot! 🙂

  3. Mike Schulenberg

    April 19, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Good for you, Prue. Sometimes I have a problem with saying no too. But we have to look out for our own priorities first, and there’s nothing selfish about that.

    • Prue

      April 20, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Thanks Mike 🙂 You’re so right about needing to look after our own priorities because if we don’t, who will?

  4. imotherofpearl

    April 19, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Good work Prue! I’m a volunteer with a local charity, but I have had to set a limit on how many hours a year I’m willing to contribute. And I know that if I do all those hours before March, I can’t help any further during the year, so I am learning to only say yes to the things I’m passionate about (or that might feed the muse – the last volunteer activity I did was at the National Multicultural Festival, and it was well worth it!).

    I think as well if I have said no to something in order to guard my writing time, I am much more likely to make good use of that writing time.

    • Prue

      April 20, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Thanks 🙂 What you write has made me think that while it’s good to care for others and help them out, it’s also good, even necessary, to care for oneself – and saying no can be a way of doing that. A sort of ‘charity begins at home’.

      I like your point about being more likely to make good use of your writing time if you have refused something in order to write. Thanks for sharing that 🙂

  5. Kirsten

    April 20, 2012 at 1:22 am

    This really strikes a chord with me, because not only do I have trouble saying no to non-writing projects, but the various writing projects themselves fight for my attention.
    To sift through them I’ve begun asking myself which ones scare me and why, and which ones will make me the happiest. Sometimes choosing a project that makes me happiest even means saying ‘no’ to other writers, which is the hardest of all.
    Ultimately, as you say, choosing to work on my novel feels like a selfish act, but anyone who doesn’t understand my need to do that probably has selfish motives of their own.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Prue

      April 20, 2012 at 11:03 am

      And now you’re striking a chord with me! 🙂 Once I’d persuaded myself I could write if I wanted to, I spent nearly a year in total indecision — not doing any writing — because there were so many ideas to write about 😀
      Choosing a project which makes you happiest is great idea! Thanks for sharing that.

  6. Sarah

    April 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    At least you e-mailed them to say you’d changed your mind! It’s much further than many people get.

    • Prue

      April 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      True. But I’ve said yes before, when no was more appropriate. I know the consequences. I could not not email (ooo! don’t you love double negatives? :D) The alternatives — either doing a lot of work which would take time away from other things or doing it, getting in a mess and then giving up — were much less appealing than writing that email 🙂

  7. Sari Webb

    April 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Good on you, Prue, for coming to this conclusion. I’m still working on it, and at the moment my inability to say no is causing me a lot of stress. I hope you manage to keep guard over your writing time now!

    • Prue

      April 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks Sari 🙂 I think I’ll always be working on it. Good on you too for working on it!
      I think the hardest things to say ‘no’ too are those which seem interesting and enticing and fun. I hope you get your work under control because stress is no joke and everything becomes a drag.


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