Just Say No

Longtime creative writing instructor Leslie Clark will be retiring soon, and no one more deserves the time to do her own writing and sleep in on Monday mornings.

Recently, we talked about her plans. I said I had been busier since I retired than I was when I was working. She responded with her usual succinctness: “Just say no.”

She’s right, of course. Saying no to one thing makes time and energy to say yes to more important things. We can imagine–and commit to–an enormous number of attractive activities in addition to the ones that are just part of life or thrust themselves on us–family, friends, housework, the dog being bitten by a rattlesnake.

In order to make (note I didn’t say “find”) the time to write, we have to say no to other possibilities–not all of them, just enough to get our creative work done. That’s the way life is. It’s full of choices, and we have to set priorities.

My step-daughter, Alex, is in an MBA program and loves to sew. She has three children, two of them with special needs. When they came by on their way to her husband’s new military assignment in Texas, I asked how she managed.

She has a simple system. She announces that she’s going to study for the next hour and is not to be disturbed. She sets a timer for the kids to see. Every time one interrupts her, she asks, “Is anyone bleeding? I anybody’s hair on fire?” If it’s not an emergency, she promises to deal with the child’s issue when she’s done studying. They can trust her to keep her promise.

What do I say no to? I’d love to take some art and craft classes, bulk up my birding life list, and take my dogs to obedience classes. If I want to finish my parrot memoir before I’m old(er) and in a nursing home, I have to say no, at least for now.

When my husband retired from teaching, I said no to having my desk in the living room any more, where he could interrupt me ever seventeen seconds. I spiffed up an old travel trailer for my office and learned how to operate the lock.

I mastered a sweet smile and the words “I love you, now go away” for those times when he wants to spend “just a minute” in the middle of my writing hour, showing me this cool video he found on the Internet.

How do you say no to enough other things to create (note I didn’t say “find”) enough time to write? I’m hoping readers will share their strategies.

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2 comments on “Just Say No

  1. Cappy Love Hanson says:

    Hope it helps. I think that saying no is especially difficult for women. Good for you for claiming some space of your own!!!

  2. Such a difficult skill to learn, this saying no thing! Loved your post! I have often thought of building my own writer retreat in my backyard so I can lock the door. 🙂

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