Every single Thursday, I quit something. – Bob Goff
I am horrible at saying, “No.” Despite the great wisdom that my friend Sarah gave me a couple of years back – “It’s okay to just say ‘No’ without having to explain why.” – I still want to explain, and once I start to explain, my reasons begin to sound lame. Before I know it, I’m backtracking, agreeing to do whatever it was I was asked to do, and even following up with a “How else can I help?”
But I am learning to say No because productive writers say No.
I’m an introvert, and I’m also the type of writer who can produce words quickly but who needs a lot of time to think around those words. These two things mean I need to spend a lot of time by myself in quiet.
But being alone is hard.
When I’m alone, my insecurities about my work, my appearance, my life choices, my possibility of marrying again . . . all of those things surface quickly and with the vengeance of quick anger and burning tears. Sometimes, it feels like it would be better to be busy.
Plus, being busy means I’m important to people. If I volunteer for one more church event or offer to bring snack for one more meeting or join one more social media network, I’ll have a role to play that is defined and might just get me the praise and accolades that stave off those insecurities a bit longer.
But busyness does not cure insecurity.
It only delays it. The best thing I can do is to let myself be alone. With time and some prayer, those insecurities usually fade away as I’m reminded where my worth lies. With time and prayer, I find that my work is richer, my thinking clearer, my spirit stronger. To get there, I have to abide in the ugly stuff a bit . . . the only way out is through.
Busyness is also sneaky.
I see it sneaking up on me when I think, “I should _________ to get more business.” Or “I need to call _______,” that person I haven’t talked to in 15 years. I see it in others who think that they can’t say no to their kids for 15 minutes a day while they write or they can’t say no to their bosses even though no one will know if that report doesn’t get finished until 9am tomorrow. We let our writing slip down the list of things we need to do because we can’t say NO. We get sucked into busy because we think busy is better.
Busy is not better. Busy is just busy.
Better is living the life we are made to lead, painful, beautiful, profound, and sometimes lonely.
So I’m taking a cue from Bob Goff, and I’m trying to quit something every week. If I can’t yet say NO easily, I can at least step out (politely and gracefully) of things that I need to let go. Two weeks ago, I stepped out of one of my volunteer roles. Last week, I learned to delegate the tasks for a big event I’m organizing. This week, who knows? But I will find something that can go – social media in the evenings seems like a good option.
As each of these things falls away, I am finding myself in a tough spot, lots of buried emotions welling up . . . but you know what I’m also finding, words, lots of them tucked away with all that emotion. . . and as I write and cry and shout them out, I find more light all the time . . . It’s a little bit of grace.
What about you? What could you quit? When do you need to be better about saying No?