We want to please others. It’s natural. You don’t want to rock the boat. You want to be liked by everyone. But the reality is that as a writer, your first concern is…well…writing. But too many times other people come to us with a request, and we feel obligated to say yes. One person asks us to do something, we think, “Well, it’s not too much time. I’ll do it.” Except, it doesn’t end there. There’s always someone else and another request. It keeps going, and before we know it, we’re running around to do things for everyone else but ourselves.
Then we look at our writing progress, or rather lack thereof, and wonder, “Where did the time go? Why am I so far behind? Why didn’t I reach my goals?”
This is where we have to figure out what matters and what doesn’t. Our first goal as a writer is to write. If we aren’t doing that, we’ll have nothing to publish. And if we have nothing to publish, we won’t get to write the next book and publish it. Then what? Our readers have nothing new to read, no reason to keep checking our website or blog to see when a new book will be released. We’ve lost our ability to share our story with people who want to read it. And isn’t that why we wanted to publish our books in the first place? While sales are nice, the real joy comes from reaching that special reader who falls in love with our book and reads it over and over.
So this is why we have to figure out how to say no. Saying no can be hard. I feel guilty when I say it. But if I don’t, I’ll never write anything. While I struggle with this problem, I felt the need to write this post because it’s something I need to hear (and maybe someone else reading it needs to hear it, too).
It’s okay to say no. No is not a dirty word. You can’t do everything. There are only so many hours in the day, and you have obligations to your family and friends. You have an obligation to give yourself time to enjoy life, and some of that time should be away from writing because if you aren’t away from it, you don’t have time to relax and experience life so you can write. A well-rested mind is a creative mind. Then it’s time to write.
I think it might be a good idea to set aside so much time in a day, a week, or even in a month where you do nothing but write. After you do this, then you need to tend to your fans (fans should come before other writers because fans are the ones who have invested their time and money in your books). After you finish emailing or answering blog comments from your fans, then you should do your social networking (blog posts, Facebook updates, Twitter updates, update your blog/website, etc).
After that is all done, if you have time to spare and energy, then you might want to do a favor for someone who asks for a favor. But I want to add a disclaimer here. Some people will take and take but never give anything back. These are the types you should never say “yes” to. You don’t need to be used. Your time is important. Time spent doing a favor is time you’re not with a loved one, writing, or building relationships with your fans. It’s also time you’re not taking to recharge. I’m an introvert, so I need time to myself to get energy back, and this time can’t be spent answering emails or doing favors or even be with family and friends. I need to be alone and unwind with music, a book, or even writing. Extroverts might get the energy from being with people they enjoy being with. I’m not an extrovert, so I don’t know what they need most to recharge.
So think of it this way: when you say no to things you don’t have time for, you’re really saying “yes” to things that are a priority in your life. People might not like it if you say no to them and you might get hit with a 1-star review for it, but you owe it to yourself and your readers to write so you can publish the next book.
And for some inspiration, I thought Stephanie Meyer offered an interesting look into why writing should be the focus of what we do: