Last fall, during a particularly stressful and busy stretch, I drew a decision tree.
It was too late for 2018 but for 2019, this is how I thought I would manage my time. This is how I would SAY NO.
I was really cocky about this plan. And specifically about automating the process. Sure, it’ll be easy to say no, I thought. Turns out it’s difficult. Turns out that even when you make a new year’s resolution and remind yourself on a monthly basis to refer to the decision tree, to say no at least once every third or fourth time, still, still, STILL the default will be yes. The yes will fly out of your mouth even before you’ve had a chance to think about it. Or, worse, you’ll agonize and come up with eighteen reasons why it would be a shame to say no, why you must pay things forward and say yes, why the opportunity won’t come again so you’d better carpe diem.
And then fast forward to the middle of the year and all the blank pages where you meant to have scribbled at least half of the first draft of a new novel (because everyone’s favourite question is: when’s the new novel coming? Never, at this rate, thanks for asking) and you’ll be left thinking: “Okay, I just have to knock these seven things off my to-do list and then I’ll get some writing done.” And of those seven things, six will be favours and one will be an actual paid project which thank goodness because electrical bills don’t pay themselves.
You must say no, I tell other writers. You must build a fence around your writing time and patrol the boundaries, and then you must coopy down and work. Like everyone else, I’m very bad at taking my own good advice.
I know there are writers, other, better writers, who say yes to everything and still manage to write incredible books. I don’t know how they do it but I harbour no illusions that I’m of their ilk.
So. I have written the word no in my day planner once again. No more book clubs. No more interviews. No more blurbs. No more boards. No more reference letters. Not until I get a first draft banged out because see above re: everyone’s favourite question. It’s my question too: when’s the next book going to get written? Now is the answer. I’m writing it now.