An artist's guide to saying "no"

I am, by nature, an overachiever. If a friend needs a hand, I am instantly there to help. If I can take an extra course, I do. If I can juggle more jobs, than I have waking hours, I find a way to manage. If I get called to volunteer or sub a class for someone, I try my best to be there. Although living like this can get exhausting, I am happy to help others and to learn from new opportunities. I give my time when I can, and at times, when I can’t.

But, living this way can get exhausting. Literally there have been days when (even when my plate it completely full) I find myself wanting to find more hours in the day. But the truth is, there is a finite amount of hours in the day. Whether I like it or not, that's that.

Creativity takes times. Writing, in particular, takes a lot of time and, I'm ashamed to say it but, when I get incredibly busy, it's the first thing to fall into the background. How can this be? My writing practice is one of the most important things in my writing. When I'm not writing (or reading), I am thinking about writing. When I go too long without it, my body literally feels imbalanced and unwell. Again, how is writing the first thing to fall off my list when I'm too busy because I've said yes to one too many things? There is something wrong with this equation. 

I've spoken with a few of my writer friends about this conundrum and many of them find themselves in the same boat. 

I come from a family of hard working new Americans and, to be frank, busyness has always been something to take pride in.  Yet, as I've recently learned, saying “yes” to too much can cause people to lack clarity and focus on actual goals.

Lately, I have found myself wanting to say “no” more often. I’ve come to learn that saying “yes” may not always be the best solution. For me, saying “no” is a contributing factor to leading a creative, healthy, productive and happy life.  If we constantly say “yes” we will go off to do a thousand unfinished things and never completely, and successfully, finish one. The key comes in the balancing of “yes” and “no.”

So, yes, I'm on a path of adding "no" to my everyday vocabulary. And you might be too. This of course is easier said than done, so here are a few helpful tips and reminders that I'd like to share with you: 

 

How to balance “yes” and “no”

1. First know that it is 100% okay to say “no.” This means you can say “no” and not feel sorry about it.

2. It’s not rude to say “no,” it’s necessary.

3. “No” is the other side of “yes.” It is at times the more thoughtful and genuine response to a question.

4. Next time you are asked to give of yourself, take a moment to consider your response.

5. Before reluctantly saying “yes,” or thoughtlessly saying “no,” take a moment to think about how your decision will affect your life, attitude and being. Are you saying “yes” to please someone and harm yourself? If so, reconsider, and kindly say “no.”

6. Say “yes” all the time and you’ll become stressed, over exhausted and unable to finish things that matter to you.

7. If you always say “no,” you will close yourself off and not feel the fulfillment of reaching out to others.

8. It is the fine balance of both “yes” and “no” that will help you find the best version of yourself. You need both in your life in order to find your happiness, in order to reach your artistic goals.