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.
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,
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