Note: I posted this at www.motherwritermentor.com two weeks ago, so it’s dated–I’ve already been to Jamaica and am now back. But I think the essence of the message is timeless and thought I’d post it here for my readers that come here and don’t go to the other website. Jessica
Last Saturday, I lay awake until 3 in the morning, my mind whirling with all that I needed to do and all that was preventing me from getting it done. Some of this was writing related but most of it was not, unfortunately. When I cross one thing off the list of things to do, another thing is added. There is no “Wow, I’m done” moment these days, only the endless list. And most of what I need to do prevents me from writing.
Of course I realize the problem. I can’t say no. I get asked to do a lot of things—this author event, or that writerly thing there, or something else. All of them are good things to do. Some of them even help pay the bills, though actually that is rare. People expect artists of all kinds to do a lot of free events—to give back to the community. (I’ve been giving a lot back to the community these days and to be perfectly honest, it’s made it hard to pay the bills!)
The real problem is that all of these good things to do prevent me from doing the most important things—namely, spending time with my son and writing my next book.
By the time you read this, I will be taking the first real vacation I’ve had as an adult. I’ve travelled a lot but it’s always been for things—business trips, to attend a conference, to do research, to go to a wedding. And sure, I’ve packed a lot of tourist stuff into those trips, but I’ve also always taken along my laptop and worked in every spare moment. This trip, I’m leaving my computer home (*gasp*). And one of the things I’m going to do as I lie there on the beach in the sun drinking beer is to let some of the dross fall away. I’m going to find the courage to come back and say no to some people.
No, I can’t help you write your novel (though I would love to) because I need to write mine.
No, I can’t come to your daughter’s classroom (for free) (though I really would love to) because I need to grade my student’s papers.
I can already feel the stress lifting.
Of course, I will say yes to a lot of things too. Yes. Yes yes yes! I am a big believer in Carl Sandburg’s “The People Who Say Yes,” that when you say yes, more opportunities follow, and when you say no, doors close.
But sometimes, you need doors to close. Sometimes, there are too many open doors and you simply can’t go through all of them.