by- Thomas Kubrak
Sporadically, throughout my life I’ve been introduced to this seemingly “easy” concept of saying “no.”
It wasn’t until I really began to develop my writing and my business that I realized how hard this really was. In the beginning it’s, “what do I say no to?”
If you are committed to being the best writer you possibly can be, what you need to say “no” to will become clear.
Awhile back, I began to get pretty off track we’ll say. I was struggling to finish a project for a client that I had been working on for months.
Then I had a conversation with a friend of mine named Hollis. We talked for hours about everything creative and business. Then he left and he said he’d send me something.
What he sent to me has had the greatest impact on me. What he sent to me was this:
Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating.
Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night-successes.
Saying “no” has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. No guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations, The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know.
We are not taught to say “no.” We are taught not to say “no.” “No” is rude. “No” is a rebuff, a rebuttal, a minor act of verbal violence. “No” is for drugs and strangers with candy.
Creators do not ask how much time something takes but how much creation it costs. This interview this letter, this trip to the movies, this dinner with friends, this party, this last day of summer. How much less will I create unless I say “no?” A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? Am experiment? Twenty lines of code? The answer is always the same: “Yes” makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, gas tanks to fill, families to love and day jobs to do.
People who create know this. They know the world is all strangers with candy. They know how to say “no” and they know how to suffer the consequences.
Charles Dickens, rejecting and invitation from a friend:
“It is only half an hour’ -‘It is only an afternoon’-‘it is only an evening,’ people saying to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes-or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day…. Whoever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.”
“No” makes us aloof, boring, impolite, unfriendly, selfish, anti-social, uncaring, lonely and an arsenal of other insults. But “no” is the button that keeps us on.
Take this however you wish, but know this; it’s our job, in our art, to become as tough as possible to withstand whatever is thrown our way. Because there surely will be a decision you have to make that will have a great impact on your writing. It’s our job to filter our needs and our desires in order to keep making our art.
This is now a mantra of mine and I have it placed somewhere I can see it everyday. Every last word of it.
Ask yourself, ‘What do I need to say no to?’
And remember, it’s okay to open up to your friends about your struggles, but do it with the one’s you trust.
By- Thomas Kubrak
Send me an email what you thought of this post! I would love to hear from you about this or anything else you have questions or comments about.