My husband and I took the U Bahn out of Vienna to a friend’s home in the suburbs. Figuring out transportation abroad can be a tricky puzzle. Careful observation of locals’ behavior and familiar hints like a word that starts with “halt” helped us figure out that this button was a “Stop Request,” before having to ask Google Translate.
In my writing life, I’ve decided that I’ve reached a stop where I want to get off and spend some time. But to do that, I have to press the button. The HALT button. The NO button.
I recently did a terrifying thing: I said “no” to being in a new, local, writing group. It shouldn’t have been terrifying. When someone asks you a yes/no question, in theory “no” is always one of the possible answers.
But for me, it never has been. I avoid “no” at all costs.
I read an article discussing why that may be, and if you’re like me, a first-born, yes-woman, you may find it interesting too: https://nyti.ms/2vxSe4P
In this case, the beloved friend, neighbor, and fellow-writer who asked me to join the group was visibly taken aback. In part because, as a recovering no-phobic, I couched my no:
“I wouldn’t be interested in another writing group unless I was getting paid for my time and energy to facilitate it.”
She was right to be a bit shocked. What a shit head response. But at the same time, I know she recognized the truthful place I was coming from: People ask me to join groups all the time…and I end up managing them. Why? I’m a good manager. I understand the logistics, facilitation, and structure groups need to succeed. I don’t mind being in charge. I have a lot of energy for stuff that many people (especially writers!) hate. I’m always trying to anticipate problems, check in to be sure participants are happy, and be sure there’s a plan in place when inevitably, changes need to be made. I am incapable of allowing any group I am in to fail.
The new group is going to be full of AWESOME writers. It is going to be local, face-to-face, and I know I would gain a lot by being in it. And I want it to succeed, so I run a serious risk of missing my stop. Of going from “participant” to “organizer” without noticing.
I know this. My wonderful friend knows this. Saying “no” is the right thing to do, and yet, I am sad because I am a FOMO suffering wimp.
But I need to get to “yes.” “Yes” to writing this blog post, not organizing a meeting time between a bunch of people. “Yes” to a deep revision of the story slated for submission this month, not figuring out the queue for writing to be critiqued. I need to say “yes” to reading great books, not emailing helpful reminders.
Saying “no” to managing activities allows saying “yes” to the actual work. And I want to be saying both “no” and “yes” – at the right places – with greater frequency for the balance of 2017.
Haltewunsch! This is my stop. I’m getting off. I’m not picking up any more organizing, managing, or coordination work unless it keeps the dog in kibble. Feel free to offer me money to do those things, but I can’t do any more of them (for now) for free.