It’s a challenging one and got me thinking. In it the author quotes various creative people who insist that saying ‘no’ is the cornerstone of their work, including Management writer Peter Drucker, who says : “…productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.”The article also included ideas which I resonate with to some degree, like ‘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.’
The thread of this article is that as creators we must become very good at saying ‘no’ to those things which distract us from our creation. “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.”
The author of the article concludes “ 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… How much less will I create unless I say “no?” A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph?... The answer is always the same: ‘yes’ makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, families to love and day jobs to do. 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.’
For years as a psychologist I’ve taught people about boundaries, and often have to return to my own words about the need to say ‘no’ to things that take time and resources away from the most important things in my life. Whether as Christians, parents, friends, or authors, it’s often a hard lesson to learn, and many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by other people’s agendas, to the detriment or our own calling, creative process, or energy. I don’t pretend to have this issue completely in balance in my life. But in the discussion of whether we support others in their creative work, I feel we need to be very careful not to go overboard on saying 'no'.
Of course we need to protect time that we can give to our writing, editing, planning of stories and then to promotion of our work. But I believe we must also remember that without the support of others; editors, publishers, promoters, and other writers who give great encouragement as well as their own precious time, none of us would succeed.
The creation of a work of art, be it writing, or any other project, may be the inspiration and vision of the writer, and no writer would dispute the enormous number of hours we need for our writing, the agony and ecstasy of digging deeper and deeper into ourselves for creative ways to present our stories, the ominous task of editing over and over again, the painstaking planning and execution of promotion.
However, surely most writers would acknowledge the absolute necessity of the support of others in the completion of our art. What if others always said ‘no’ to our requests to read our work, to give feedback, to consider publishing, to review, to promote through their own networks? I cannot overestimate the help and support I have received from other writers, readers, promoters, not to mention my publisher. I feel that being part of a writing community, supporting each other and achieving something together for the world of publishing, reading and writing, is very worthwhile. I believe this is a vision we share together, a calling we have from God to share ideas, stories and challenges to a reading public, and I can see that together we can achieve so much more than any of us can achieve alone.
So in this case, in spite of any teaching I’ve given on boundaries – and I certainly believe we must be good at setting boundaries in our lives – I think we must be very careful that we acknowledge the value of saying ‘yes’ to helping the work of other people.Carol Preston
With thanks to all those who have said ‘yes’ to helping me create, publish and promote my Turning The Tide series of historical novels.www.carolpreston.com.au