The power of "no"
On refocusing and managing creative output
If I’m forced to find positives in living through a pandemic, one of the things I’ve grown to appreciate is that it’s become a lot easier for me to say “no.” I’ve become very happy saying “no” especially if it means staying home in my pjs to read a book, or knit and watch bad TV. While it’s easy for me say no to social invitations, I still struggle to say “no” to work opportunities.
Recently, I said “yes” to too many things and found myself navigating multiple deadlines, getting up early to read books for reviews, and counting how many hours I had to get work done without seriously compromising sleep and overall wellness.
One of the countless negatives of the pandemic is that a scarcity mentality has grown around work and acquiring work. I’ve seen calls for submission and work opportunities appear and immediately feel like I HAVE to submit or apply. “I could do that,” my brain says. I don’t first think “I want to do that” instead I react from a place of “if I don’t the opportunity may not come around again.” The motivating force behind applying for certain jobs is fear of not having enough work and then the impact of that on my bank account. Similarly, when I see certain calls for submission, I’ll think of writing something because I feel like I have to for my portfolio and platform and not because the call is interesting. I’m trying to change this.
My husband likes to remind me (and others) that every “no” is a victory, but it’s time for me to go beyond just saying “no” and thinking about what saying “yes” would add to my work and my creative output. I have a whiteboard in my office where I write down ideas I have for essays, and I’ve only written one piece from that list in the last year. Instead of writing just to write and see where a piece takes me, too often I write in reaction to a call for pitches or submissions. At the beginning of March, I decided I didn’t want to write like this anymore. I want to make time to explore the weird essay ideas I have, to pursue tangential curiosities, and then, maybe send it out for submission.
Yes I make money from my writing, but I don’t have to produce writing like I’m part of a production line. Creativity doesn’t work that way and it’s time to change how I work, and why I write.
Getting to know someone new: A character-building writing prompt:
Describe a character who collects souvenir spoons.
Events to check out:
Chelene Knight’s Breathing Space Creative is offering a Priority’s Alignment Workshop. Here’s a bit from her about what this workshop is about: “Through group writing exercises and discussion, this part creative, part time-management workshop will help you uncover vital priorities, your authentic self, find balance through a unique decision-making process in order to generate true contentment and satisfaction in your career and your creative practice.
By the end of this workshop, I would love for everyone to have a solid plan for building your own priorities alignment process map (I’ll give you a link to a template you can download to build your own map) and of course be one step closer to creative sustainability.” To register click here.
What I'm reading: I’m currently reading Don’t Call it A Cult by Sarah Berman. This book is a WILD ride. I’m devouring it. The reporting and research from Sarah in this book is so incredible, and I can’t wait to talk with her about the book for the Federation of BC Writers event later this month.
What’s next on the reading list: I’m going on a writing retreat with my friend Tara (who is an amazing poet and author of the AMAZING collection The Pit) this week and am hoping to bring a fun book with me (aka not work reading). A couple books I’m thinking of bringing are Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson and The Alice B. Tolkas Cookbook by Alice B. Tolkas (partner of Gertrude Stein).
What I'm listening to: I’ve been listening to a lot of dance music this week with a bit of Savages peppered in there.
What I'm watching: Powell River just wrapped its film festival and at the festival I saw so FANATASTIC movies. A couple I really loved were Beans and C’mon C’mon.
What I'm cooking: Yesterday was a cooking marathon. I wanted to make a few things for dinners during our writing retreat. So I made, a Giant Green Pie (from the cookbook I edited Water and Wood), which is kind of a riff on a spanakopita with eggs baked into it, a veggie lasagna, and Julia Turshen’s Honeymoon Chicken that we’ll eat in tacos!