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.