June 25th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Saying No, Redux

I’ve mentioned that one of my ongoing goals is to practice saying no.  I need to not take on too much work, and I can’t commit to every invitation — for a guest blog, an anthology, an appearance, etc. — that comes to me.  I’m getting better about saying no.  I know about how many short stories I can promise in a year and still be happy, and I’ve been able to stick to that for the last year or so.  I’m still figuring out how many events in a year is sane, and what kind of events I’m comfortable doing.  I think this is going to be an evolving process, pretty much forever.

Part of my problem is that, in effect, my eyes are bigger than my stomach.  The invitations and projects and conventions and so on always sound like so much fun.  I’m ambitious and I want to do it all.  But I’ve learned that I simply, physically can’t.  What seems like a great idea now will turn into that one deadline that tips my life into stress-out chaos six months from now.  I really can’t go to a convention every weekend and still maintain an actual life at home.  Not without some kind of teleportation device.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  This may be the hardest part of learning this lesson, after spending so much of my early writing career hustling for opportunities and networking my head off:  Saying no is not going to wreck my career.  On the contrary, saying yes to everything might very well wreck my career, if I start missing deadlines and getting so stressed out that I can’t write effectively.  In fact, I think my career will be better served in the long run by saying yes selectively, and saying no a lot more often.

A couple of weeks ago, some other writers posted on their blogs about the great challenge of saying “no.”  Jim C. Hines writes about boundaries in general, the social difficulties of saying no — and how we’re often trained to feel guilty for saying no, for various reasons.  Cat Shaffer writes about setting boundaries as a professional freelancer — how freelancers can be under particular pressure to make their schedules and boundaries infinitely flexible, and how establishing strict boundaries will make both you and your work better.  Both posts are well worth reading, for advice and for validation — it’s not just me who’s going through this.

This is my lesson learned:  I need to pay attention to my boundaries, and then — most importantly — stick to them.  Both me and my career will benefit.

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2 comments to “Saying No, Redux”

  1. A. McKay
     · June 25th, 2012 at 12:51 pm · Link

    I totally agree with you. I did that a while back but not in the writing field. It was to become an author I said no to other things.

    I started to work doing mall security what felt like everyday. The stress was getting to me and when that stress hits me, I am unable to write. I know it is a poor excuse, but I still noticed it. I wanted to finish my book, but work was driving me insane, or in my case more insane.

    So I went to my boss, and said hey, you know what I realize, i wan’t to become an author. I am having trouble balancing both JOBS. (Yes, I learned that word fast when I started to write. It is a job even if others don’t see it at first escpecially if your not published yet.)

    We talked and I found out he didn’t care if I wrote at work if my job was taken care of. Which at a mall it is never taken care of. But at times when we are closed there is an hour here or there that we wait for it to be open. I also dropped a day of work, I still do it sometimes but 30 average week is enough.

    By that I mean the bills get paid, and I get three of the 7 days to write.

    And that my friends is my “no” story. By the way I just published my book last week.

  2. Carrie V.
     · June 26th, 2012 at 6:54 pm · Link

    Congrats on the book! I think the boundaries thing is so important, because otherwise the pressure from outside, to do the things we “ought” to do, eats into us.

    I also think people who accomplish what they set out to do are happier and make the world a better place…

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