Just say No

Just say No

All my life, I’ve found saying No to certain people and situations difficult. I’ve done things I didn’t want to do for people who may or may not have actually been grateful in order to achieve goals that weren’t mine. As you might imagine, I became an easy mark for anyone needing… just about anything. Newsletters written, belongings moved, furniture stored, books edited. I took on all sorts of tasks, many of which I was good at, because I was striving to “be a good person,” whatever that meant.

The end result, as you might imagine, was me suffering frequent migraines from stress and seething resentment when my help wasn’t valued the way I thought it should be.

Something within drove me to taking on these little projects — a sense that if I worked hard enough, gave enough, and helped enough, then I would be loved, accepted, and worthy. Many hours of personal work taught me I couldn’t earn love and acceptance from outside of myself, and the liberation that came from saying No (in a kind way) to all these requests was incredible. I could finally breathe!

The $64,000 question: What does any of this have to do with writing?

The two-bit answer: Old habits die hard.

While I didn’t take on other people’s projects, I still tried to fill my time with projects of my own devising. When I stopped working a full-time day job and started writing for Silhouette Bombshell, I had what I perceived as scads of time to pursue all kinds of new projects. The result of this activity could be good — the JABBIC was a direct result of my having some spare time — or less constructive — writing a screenplay based on an Isaac Asimov short story that a director-wannabe friend of mine requested and that never got off the ground.

The work that needed to be done while I was writing for Silhouette was… writing for Silhouette. And while I did that (mostly), I also wasted enormous amounts of time on non-writing activities that weren’t even career-related. My brain was telling me that I had tons of energy to apply to these projects, even when I didn’t. Because that’s how I’m wired on a very basic level: I have high mental energy and low physical energy, so I always think I can do more than I actually can.

Hence my tendency to overcommit.

Which brings me back to the writing. These days, I live with my significant other, who also works from home, so we’re together most of the day. My spiritual practice requires about an hour a day, more on the weekends. My nearly full-time job requires most of my brainpower on my work days and that I travel out of town periodically. I volunteer for my local writing chapter. I do other volunteer work that can take between one and four hours a week. From time to time, some folks for whom I’ve done contract work will email or call, requesting additional projects. Writing chapters need judges for their contests. And so on.

Are you seeing any actual writing going on in that list so far? Do you think that if it doesn’t turn up on my To Do list, it might not get prioritized?

And that’s where I might start to see some truth in what I’m doing. If I were to log each day’s activities for seven days straight, I know exactly what I’d see: 8 hours of day job, 1 hour of spiritual practice, 2 hours or so of time spent with my partner, and everything else crammed into whatever’s left when I’m not sleeping, doing chores, weeding the garden, and so on.

If “everything else” isn’t writing, then I’m saying the writing isn’t all that important to me. If “everything else” includes faffing around on the internet or reading the newspaper or what-have-you, and at the end of the day I don’t have the number of words I’d set for my goal, then I’m saying the writing isn’t all that important to me. If “everything else” includes caring for an ill loved one or taking on the second job to send the kid to college, then I’m saying the writing isn’t as important to me as the person I love so much.

Because sometimes, for a week or a month or a year, it’s okay to Just Say No to “being a writer.” We’re writers when we write, not when we want to write or plan to write or read about writing.

Every day, we get to choose who we are and what we want to be, where our heart is and what we expect of ourselves. The best part is, There’s no shame in any choice we make. As my spiritual tradition says, we’re always on the path even if we don’t see it.

What are you choosing to do and be today?

Sandra K. Moore

Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.

11 thoughts on “Just say No

  1. Today, I’m choosing to be a writer. My chapter is singing along. Always makes me excited to hit the keyboard. It’s harder when the words aren’t coming as freely, but I chose not to think about that today. Today my writing life is simply groovy.

    1. Nice! I love it when a story hums along.

      And you bring up a great point — that “being a writer” is much easier when the words are flowing. When the characters aren’t behaving or the plot isn’t working or we aren’t inspired? Not so much… I used not to be a fan of “discipline,” as in, make yourself do something you don’t want to do, but I’m also finally (finally!) old enough to see that self-discipline in small things can support self-discipline in large things.

      And boy, am I a sucker for comfort. I have a long way to go…

      1. Discipline? If there weren’t so many letters, I’d say that’s a four letter word. What makes discipline even harder is when you put that word “self” before it. Egads, that’s a tough one. Maybe that’s what I’ll ask Santa for!!!

        1. I hear you on the discipline thing. For years, I think my pendulum swung too far over to the “do it if it feels right” camp, and that resulted in me cutting myself much more slack in some areas than was warranted… Cultivating a daily writing habit has been challenging, but rewarding.

          But. UGH!

  2. Today, I am a writer. I will write, even though I’m not sure what the point of this scene is. I will let my muse have free rein and I will not worry that these words are not ‘good words’ or that they don’t serve a purpose. I will write. Today, I am a writer!

      1. Way to go, Terri. I struggle with letting go. Maybe there IS something good about getting to be as OLD as you. Hee hehehehehhheeee!

    1. The holidays are always challenging, aren’t they? Fall tends to be my busiest time of year, with everything happening at once… This year I’ve had Flowstate to help me out, so that just writing all I can for 10 or 15 minutes is the best I can do. But that’s enough. I can “catch up” again in January. 🙂

  3. The funny thing with me is the busier I am, the more disciplined I can be about finding writing time. Like this morning, I read critique pages over morning coffee, rather than my normal habit of Facebooking, becuase the rest of my day is nearly completely booked. But give me a day where all I have scheduled is a few loads of laundry and writing, and at the end of the day, I’ve generally failed at both!

    It goes back to what you said, Sandra, about when you first quit the day job and figured you had plenty of time to get the writing done. “Plenty of time” can often be a curse.

    Of course, knowing I’ll get a pie in the face this afternoon if I don’t squeeze in the writing time helps too. I’m loving our new “immediate” consequences. No place to hide when you have to put up every two weeks!

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