Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lately, the harder I work, the more opportunities I'm being offered...and the more time it's taking up. I'm in a state of transition in my life. I'm getting ready to apply to new jobs (1st deadline this Friday!), I'm being open to moving far away, and I'm planning to publish 1-2 long pieces of fiction (Rooster and Bread) if ever I find a few precious hours to do some polishing revisions--no comments from the peanut gallery, MDA, SGFB, TM, and Nevets!

I guess I should consider myself lucky because my friends are helping me by throwing more possibilities my way. In November, I'll be involved in a grant review panel in D. C. that will require me to be well-versed in about 700-1000 pages of scientific proposals. I've got more applications due, and I was just offered the opportunity to write a review article on vitamins and algae. It's all stuff I'm excited about doing, but I'm also realizing that I'm having to say something I don't often have to say.


Being the pantster, I like the challenge of having a lot on my plate. But, the more I entrench myself in work that has such ill-defined finish lines as creating art and solving the mysteries of life, I'm finding that flying by the seat of my pants often results in a lot of mediocre work with little or no value.

But, isn't it hard to say no?

I guess what I'm actually feeling these days is a lot of gratitude and a lot of regret for having to turn certain projects down. It's an impossible question to ask all of you how you handle all that life throws your way. So, I guess I'll try to simplify it at least a little by asking: How do you decide when to say no?

In other news, you may be shocked and excited to learn that Scott, Michelle and I finally had our first conference call last night. While I've talked and seen Michelle before, this was the first time all three of us communicated together, and the first time we experienced Scott live. I had a blast, which was probably evident to the others because I was laughing goofily while they were talking about writing. Scott was quite dashing with his calm demeanor, classy office, and charming I-don't-have-an-accent-you-LA-fool. Michelle was looking lovely and, as usual, served as the technology guru. We chatted, among other things, about getting a gift for the great Becca, who assisted in handling our Notes From Underground entries. And, we also discussed some secret plans that somehow involves reading and banter...and another opportunity we haven't managed to say no to.


  1. Well...

    I usually look at what I can do. The I look at what I still have to do.

    After that I look to see who's getting the advantage of doing it. Me? Ok... Us both? I'll give it a shot. Person that asked only? Check the amount of time available.

    If I don't have time... No.

    If I do, will I mind doing it? No? Then I do it. Yes? Then the anwer will be a most emphatic Hell NO what were you thinking to even ask?

    And that... is how I decide to say no. The lovely thing about this method is, that should you apply it consistently, people learn what you will say no to, and therefore not tempt you next time by asking you to do the same kind of thing that you declined before...

  2. Wait a minute...Scott doesn't have an accent? Didst thou not knowest? (Who knew?)

    I feel your pain with time constraints. For me, the summer flew by, and ironically the longer days meant less time to get things done. The surplus time was dedicated to bike rides, parks, playing catch, and other general parenting tasks.

    Now that fall is here and the weather is changing, I'm starting to see pockets of time open up again. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of it.

  3. Okay, okay, no comments from the Peanut Gallery here on your revision issues...

    Oh, whoops, was that a comment?

    Ack! Anyway, I love this post! I love that you're considering saying no to things because as you very well know I have a huge, huge problem with this. I really do think I need to start saying no to more things, especially reading and commenting on blogs. Already this morning I have hit the "All Read" button in my Reader.

    It is about priorities, in the end. Mine are family, church, friends, writing, and oftentimes the friends and writing get mixed and problems arise.

    I didn't even notice that Scott doesn't have an accent. You two probably thought I sounded like a country cowgirl! Scott was very calm and suave, just as I expected, but his voice was higher than I expected, too. You're both very nice and I think we should hang out more. :)

  4. I think a time comes in everyone's life when they must, alas, say 'no'.

    I've been saying 'no' quite often over the last year or so. So much so that, last week, I ran into someone I hadn't seen in almost a year because . . . I've been saying 'no' when it comes to subbing in some of the card groups. Go figure. Still, there's only so much time in a day, and my evenings are normally spent writing, so - other than Friday nights - I normally say 'no' to most invites.

    I think, for me, it's all about the invite, who's going to be there (no, not in a snobby way - okay, maybe a bit snobby - ha), and what I have going on in my life.

    If you say 'no' too often, people will stop asking. Just a thought . . .

  5. Scott, that's a good point about saying no too often. It's something I always consider when someone asks me to do something, and then that usually results in a yes. I just have to move in cycles, I think, instead of eternally saying no to certain things I do want to do but sometimes just don't have the time for.

  6. Oh, and sometimes the key is in HOW you say no. :)

  7. Awesome that you have all these opportunities. Saying no is hard, but you must give consideration to the things you've already said yes to. If saying yes to something else means that the things you've already committed to will have less focus than you must say no.

    Also so fun that you all were able to speak to each other at once. Love modern technology.

  8. Davin, how cool that you three were able to have THE call. Wonderful. I can hear your laughter here in NC..

    I decide to say no when my plate is so TOTALLY FULL that not one minute is left in my day. Uh, er, no help, I know.

    Haven't I read parts of Rooster? I can't wait for that.

    Good to be here with you, Davin. :)

  9. Misha, I like your line of thinking. You make a good point too about consistency. Being honest helps people to know you and know how they want to deal with you.

    Rick, I always like hearing how family people get to enjoy their summers with each other. My times of being busy are opposite, with summers being slower than the rest of the year. I hope you enjoy your free time!

    Michelle, I've talked with you often about this topic. Good point about prioritizing. I think maybe that's why I'm having a hard time right now. And, yes, we should all hang out more!

    Scott, thanks for your thoughts. I think, admittedly, I have been saying no to some of the same people over and over again. Maybe I just need to mix things up a little, like a rotation. I think, sadly, the people I care about the most often get the short end of the stick because I know they'll always be there for me.

    Mary, that's exactly where I'm finding myself right now, yes. Taking all of the opportunities, as fun as they are, is making me produce mediocre work that hurts the projects I already committed to. I need to really remember that.

  10. Robyn, the call was very cool. And, the glimpses into each others homes and hairstyles and accents, or lack thereof was also fascinating. Lovely to hear from you too! :)

  11. Aha. So *that* was the mysterious conference call which Mighty Reader claimed was delaying the installation of the new ping pong table! Glad you all had a good time (and that ping pong did later happen).

    I routinely say "No" as my default response to nearly every request, on the theory that it is often easier to change a No to a Yes than the reverse.

    When I was inundated with Things People Wanted Me To Do re: the novel launch, I asked a much-published pal what she recommended. Her simple reply: "You must do exactly as you please."

    That's not always possible, but it's what I aim for.

    -Alex MacKenzie

  12. What, oh what secret projects are you working on?!? Reading AND banter, you say? You, sir, have piqued my interest! :)

  13. *werojnasfmmmomkomasdasd*

    Okay, I commented, but through a gag.

    Which was not easy because I'm terribly claustrophobic. You should be honored I was willing to cover my mouth for you, Pee Domey.

    As to saying no... My straight job is as a manager in IT client services at a university. One of the biggest battles I have is getting my techs to understand that sometimes it's more rude to say yes.

    Sometimes when you take too much on your plate, you end up having do in 75% or even less for one of those things. There might have been someone else with less on his plate who could have gone 100%. You think you're being nice when you say yes, but you're really robbing the other person of the full commitment they deserve.

    I won't bore you with the other scenarios, but the point is, it can be worse to say yes. Learning to say no is essential. At a minimum, you have to learn to say, "Yes, but not yet."

  14. Alex, I heard all about the ping pong table and the associated wall. I think Mighty Reader had to do much of the work solo as we were tying up Mighty Writer. Glad to hear the ping pong did take place afterwards!

    I like the advice to do exactly as I please. That fits nicely with Scott's advice yesterday to begin as I intend to continue. What an existence that would be!

    Ken, you should indeed stayed tuned. This project has potential, despite our initial fears!

    Nevets, I just spent far too long trying to decipher your gagged comment. You make a great point about saying yes and no. That's what I'm struggling with right now.

  15. The older I get (which is becoming plenty old at a rate I find alarming), the more often I ask myself, "Do I want to do this?" when I'm asked to participate in something. I'm getting pretty good at realizing when the answer is "no," and not feeling bad when I have to turn down opportunities. If I don't have to do it and I don't want to do it, I try not to do it. Anyone who's going to hate me for that is not really my friend, so I don't feel bad if they never speak to me again.

    People I will speak to again are Domey and Michelle! Michelle is lovely and Domey is handsome and both of them are quite charming and funny. Who's surprised by that?

    I have to go to the grocer's tonight, because I'm out of bread. Just saying.

  16. Bread! You'll have to be gagged too.

  17. Can you believe Mr. Bailey just crowing like that?

  18. I want to make a peanut butter sandwich. I have peanut butter already. What am I missing?

  19. Peanut Gaillery.

    Too subtle?

    Too obvious?

    Too much not actually the right word?

  20. If I knew how to say peanut gallery in Thai, I would.

  21. And then, in a small way, I would feel like I had won.

  22. I want to leave a comment, but I don't have time, so I'll have to say no.

  23. My m.o.
    1. Say yes to everything and naively believe I can do it all and still be sane
    2. Become insane
    3. Say no to everything
    4. Feel bad
    5. Say yes to a few things
    6. repeat 1- 5

    My advice: do the opposite

  24. I used to do exactly like Yat-Yee. Now I'm getting too old for that kind of manic living. I only say yes to the things I really value like family time, church responsibilities and friends, writing, music, and photography.

  25. Tara, Beautifully performed. Thank you.

    Yat-Yee, I've mastered steps 1 and 2. I'm working on 3, but may skip over 4.

    Lois, it seems to be a common trend that age makes us better at saying no!

  26. Saying no to one thing can mean yes to something that might be more important. Like, say, taking time to recharge so you can do what you love more effectively.

    A poet friend of mine, a man who is very involved in his own broad communities of interest and so gets bombarded with petitions to do even more, shared with me an interesting way of saying no.

    "I open my calendar book,"(this was before the advent of the iPhone), "and I take a hard look at what I have lined up. Then I say, 'I'm sorry, but I have that day free. So I have to decline.'"


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