Finding Time to Write, Part 3: Learning to Say No

Pen Writing 2In ‘Finding Time to Write’, I offer methods that aspiring writers can use to free up time for their writing, or at least make the most of the time they have. In part one I talked about having to actively make a choice to follow your passion, and in part two I covered the topic of selective ignorance.

Today’s topic is learning to say ‘no’.

Have you ever seen the movie Yes Man? It features Jim Carrey as a depressed bank loan officer who routinely declines opportunities to go and do things with his friends so that he can wallow in the misery of his divorce. Eventually, one of his only remaining friends confronts him and tells him that if he doesn’t start saying ‘yes’ to more opportunities, he’ll find himself alone and miserable for the rest of his life.

Carrey then attends a seminar from an inspirational speaker who convinces him of the power of saying ‘Yes!’, and Carrey goes through the rest of the movie doing anything and everything that people ask of him. Along the way, he meets a girl, falls in love with her, and then nearly loses her because he keeps prioritizing what others ask of him over spending time with her.

So the movie really has two morals.

The first is that it’s good to say yes. If you never agree to do anything out of your comfort zone, never agree to try new things and meet new people, then your friends, your acquaintances, and the whole world will leave you by the wayside. I think this is largely true. The phrases ‘optimism breeds opportunity’ and ‘optimism breeds success’ are reflective of this, in that people are attracted to confident, optimistic people and in that optimists are more likely to take chances and say yes than pessimists.

But the second moral of the movie is just as, if not more, important, and that is that you need to learn to say no. Though Carrey’s commitment to say yes led to him meeting a beautiful, interesting young woman, his inability to say no nearly cost him his relationship with her. He did not prioritize her, and so he nearly lost her. And that’s why ‘no’ is so important.

Saying ‘no’ is about prioritizing the things that you want to do over the things that others desire of you. It’s particularly important for writing. As I covered in part one, you have to make a choice to write, and part of that choice is saying ‘no’ to the things that will get in the way of your achieving your goals as a writer.

So next time someone asks you if you’d like to join then for some onerous task, say no, and feel confident in your choice. After all, you’re not ignoring them but rather choosing yourself.

Image credit: By Mark Grapengater (notashamed) (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), via Flickr.

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