‘Creative People Say No’, thankfully!

Posted: April 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

Since I turned fifty I’ve started saying ‘no’ more. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally begun to say no with conviction, so people believe me. There’s a certain perspective you gain as you get older, thankfully. Things start to become more clear when you’re potentially staring ‘the other half’ (if you’re lucky) of your life down the barrel.

I’ve learned I must say no.

The mantra I’ve discovered that works for me as a writer is this,Creative time must be preserved. At all costs.’  As the kids get older they take on more activities. As I get older, I swear time itself moves faster. Everything in my daily life conspires to eat away at the time given me. I’ve started to guard my time to write more fiercely and hold onto it with more spirit than ever before. The internet is a wonderful tool; however it can also siphon my attention away like some sort of energy vampire. Even the strip of adverts which hog the right-hand side of my computer want my attention – I say ‘no’ by hiding the ads with a scarf!

Radical self care is quantum, and it radiates out into the atmosphere like a little fresh air. It’s a huge gift to the world. ~ Ann Lamott


Word drifted back to me around Christmas time, that certain people had asked, “What’s wrong with her?” after I’d turned down a couple of invitations. But something magical happened when I crossed that line of fifty, where on the other side I woke up not wanting to please everyone anymore.

There’s a wonderful piece going round on FB at the moment that says it all, a quote by Meryl Streep about what she’ll no longer put up with in her life. I mention this because she can say it far better than I can, and also because she’s Meryl Streep.

I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I have reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not smile at me. ~ Meryl Streep 


In his wonderful book, “How to Fly a Horse — The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery,” Kevin Ashton addresses these very issues. “Creative People Say No” is an extract from the new book. Ashton writes, ‘Saying “no” has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. No guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know.

“No” makes us aloof, boring, impolite, unfriendly, selfish, anti-social, uncaring, lonely and an arsenal of other insults. But “no” is the button that keeps us on.’

William Saroyan, once said: The writer who is a real writer is a rebel who never stops.

Picture 059

Over the years, I’ve wrestled with the problem of getting enough hours to write.

Our time here on earth is precious and who knows how long each of us have? To reach the empowering age of fifty is also a red flag reminder that the first part of my life is over. Therefore things become starkly clear. I need to get to work!

Here’s Charles Dickens, rejecting an invitation from a friend:“‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.


Also, in ‘Creative People Say No’, there are letters from famous writers, or their assistants, declining invitations. So, if you’re stuck for how to say no politely, then you could do no worse than these gems.

Management writer Peter Drucker: “One of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours — productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.”

Photographer Richard Avedon: “Sorry  —  too little time left.”


I used to be a notorious people-pleaser. It’s taken me till now to seize the power of no. I can tell you, it’s thrilling. With this weapon, I shall carve out the time to write. I’ve caught up with the sentiment expressed so perfectly by Dickens and dip a curtsey in his direction. it’s a relief to finally be able to say to those who invite me to this and that, ‘It’s nothing personal, but “I must go in my way whether or no.”’

What about you, have you perfected the art of saying no yet? How do you carve out the time for your art?


See ya’ in the funny papers,

Yvette 🙂




Worlds of imagination


The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write, and draw, and build and play and dance and live as only you can. ~ Neil Gaiman

  1. Joanna says:

    I really have managed to master “no” over the past decade. I even do it on a very small scale with books I read. because I take out 10-20 books a week from the library (Picture books to YA), if a book doesn’t grab me in a few pages, I toss it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Good on you, Joanna. 10-20 books a week? Girl, that’s inspiring. Just as well you’ve learned to say no to books as well! What a great way to educate yourself as to what works in fiction and what doesn’t. I’m going to ‘take a leaf from your book’ and try saying no to stories I don’t like as well – I never thought of that before – I’ve been a real stickler about finishing them, no matter what. At the moment, I’m reading a ‘tween or MG book a fortnight – I have just started ‘The Northern Lights’ by Philip Pullman.


  2. As an introvert who hates to drive and leave the house, I have never felt bad about saying “no.” I don’t want to overtax myself and be grumpier than I already am around my family. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      I’m with you on the first two points, Teresa! Conversely, I’ve had a lot of trouble with ‘no’, not only in saying it when I need to but also (and perhaps most importantly) feeling okay about myself when I do. In the past, any time I have managed to say no, I’ve suffered agonies afterwards, beating up on myself for being the worst person in the world/worrying about how the other person feels/wondering whether I’ve ruined my relationship with them. So it’s a two-part thing for me now, I have arrived at being able to say “no” with impunity, and I also feel the conviction of it’s okay to say it. Whew!
      And, I must say, if I was you, living on a gorgeous farm with great views, with animals and family around, I wouldn’t leave home either!! You live in paradise, my dear 🙂


  3. emaginette says:

    Very wise. I tend to do the same–mostly. 🙂

    Anna from Elements of Writing

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robyn Campbell says:

    Hey, Yvette. LOVE Dickens. I have read that before. Social media is a time suck. I am trying to pare mine down. Plus, i’m trying to Just say no! to people who would love to have me do this or that. I think you are well on your way to being able to say no gracefully. I hope I am too. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Hi Robyn, so glad to hear you’re starting to get a handle on it too! It’s such a tough lesson to learn, that’s for sure, especially when we’re younger. Saying no to social media is a tricky balance every day. However, lately, I’ve been winning the battle and spending more time editing than web surfing – it’s an ever-shifting goal though – good luck with yours! I was just reading this morning that social media is more than an activity for the 15-35 year olds, “it’s an obsession” – at least we’re old enough to have our priorities straight 🙂


  5. dray0308 says:

    This is a great post. It took me a long time to start learning to say ‘no.’ I tend to want to please people and hate to disappoint. Thank you for sharing your perspective!


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