Saying yes, saying no

In her book The Soul Tells a Story, Vinita Hampton Wright says, “In order to say yes to one thing, I must nearly always say no to something else.” I have found this to be true in my own life. For example, if I say yes to watching television with my friends, I get caught up in the storyline and visual experience and become less inclined to create my own stories and word pictures. By saying yes to this experience with my friends, I am satisfied to live vicariously through others’ plot lines and story worlds; I say no to the story that I perhaps could have written if I was not spending my time in this way.

Even when I say yes to my writing, I am saying no to other things. If I choose to write a blog post or a poem for my own satisfaction, I say no to reading or writing for my classes during that time. When I only have a limited amount of time and creativity, saying yes to my academic responsibilities means saying no to the short story I could have written if I weren’t so burned out.

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I’ve always been very aware that I can’t say yes to everything that I would like to do. Because participating fully in my classes is important to me, I have had to say no to extracurricular activities such as writing for my school newspaper. While I would like to do these things and I know that they would probably look good on my resume, I am afraid of over committing myself, and so I say no.

I want to say yes to my writing. I want to say yes to both the things I want to do and the things I know I ought to do. But when saying yes to one thing always means saying no to something else, how does one chose when to say yes and when to say no?

I try to prioritize, putting the things I absolutely must do first and occasionally peppering my day with the things I want to do, just so I don’t go crazy. I actually do accomplish quite a bit, although you wouldn’t know it sometimes by the way I talk. In the future, I’m going to try to affirm the things I have accomplished rather than mourning the things I couldn’t.

And perhaps it isn’t really “no” that I’m saying to these things, but “later.” Not as a cop-out, but as a promise. I may have to say “no” now, but I will say “yes” at some other time. Because I’m human, and I can’t do everything, but I do what I can.



4 thoughts on “Saying yes, saying no

  1. Saying ‘yes’ to things is a good thing, but you’re right, sometimes saying ‘yes’ just adds to an already piling list of things to do 😀 Putting it off ’til a bit later is as good though.

  2. I think that this is something that many writers struggle with. Personally, I keep a spreadsheet to keep track if my daily word count and try to at least write a few hundred words each day. It is surprising how quickly words add up over the space of a few weeks.

    I have also read articles in numerous writing magazines that recommend keeping a time log over the course of a week to find out how much time you’re spending on certain tasks in your day to day life. The theory behind doing this is so that you can try to find pockets of time that could be used for writing.

    • Those both sound like interesting ideas; I think I’d be a bit afraid to record everything I do simply because I know I waste a lot of time most days! It’s good to remember that the positive things (such as the words we write) do build up over time if we keep at it 🙂

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