Dec. 4, 2022: No, Is A Complete Sentence
I was recently participating in a day-long training on mental health for children.
Part of the initial orientation focused on how, as teachers, we provided ourselves with the necessary space and focus to keep ourselves mentally healthy. The discussion was What do you do for your own mental and emotional self-care.
What came up over and over, was the importance, and sometimes difficulty, of saying no. No, to that added task or committee. No, to helping out during after school hours. No, to that added social activity. This is inherently difficult because teachers tend to be nurturers and givers.
Thinking about how difficult it is to say no as an educator, I began to think of the other facet of my life- that of an author. I think that sometimes saying no, as a writer, is even harder.
As writers, especially new writers, we are inundated with advice, pointers, and tips. Many of the ones that come up over and over again are to make sure we are networking (ie. writers groups and conferences), make sure we are working on our craft, (ie. workshops and classes), and make sure we are marketing ourselves and our work (ie. social media and book festivals). Adherence to these very valuable goals can result in an overbooked, overscheduled, and overstressed life. Which ultimately, either makes us less productive as writers, or sucks the joy right out of our art.
That is not to say that we should eliminate any of these things from our lives, but just that perhaps we should pick and choose when and how we participate in them.
I remember when my first book was finally published. It had taken years of work, rejections, and toil, but I had found a traditional publisher and here I was having my first book launch at our local Barnes & Noble Bookshop. My publisher was a small press, so that in itself was a success, but I remember veteran authors and publishers telling me how critical my own effort was in marketing my book. I took that to heart. Every book festival and arts fair I could, I participated in. Every literacy event, conference, or workshop, I attended. Every speaking and presenting opportunity I had, I accepted.
That was 14 years ago. I have just had my 4th book traditionally published and I continue to write every day. I also still do frequent school author visits, conference presentations, and book signings. However, I am now not afraid to say no. No, to that book festival that is hours away and will require staying overnight and eating up my entire weekend. No, to some conferences and gatherings. No, to some invitations that do not seem like a good fit.
Saying no is not easy. We often feel we need to justify our decision with details, explanations, and reasons. We feel like we have to explain ourselves and defend our thinking.
The psychologist leading that mental health training session made a statement that resonated with me and has been rattling around in my head ever since. As we discussed the challenge of setting boundaries and justifying saying no, she said, “No, is a complete sentence. No further explanation is required.”
So, as you work to balance all the demands on your time and focus, embrace the power of NO.