Writing on, and about, an island

6 Reasons I’m Saying No (to Others and Myself)

In Career, Freelance, Tasmania on January 25, 2012 at 10:58 am

As a compulsive over-committer, as someone who has (in the past) confused busy-ness with productivity, as someone who is so inspired by ideas that I want to be involved in everything… I’m saying no more in 2012. Here’s why…

1. I am tired of being the messenger. It’s time for my own message!

This is an occupational hazard for many writers and designers – anyone who communicates for a living. Sometimes, it feels like your whole career has consisted of working on the achievements of others. I have a lot of energy and ideas, and I believe in being generous (in fact, I frequently give away my ideas for free). But, when I spend all my time helping others achieve their goals, it leaves too little for my own. Yet I clearly have something people want: people pay for my advice, my opinions and my ideas… so I should respect this more.

2. I want people (read: ‘Tasmanians’) to respect creative work

Although the issue is widespread, the tendency to devalue the creative process and product is particularly endemic in Tasmania. Too many people want things for free, or cheap, or are slow to pay. I’ve worked hard to be financially independent, and I don’t have to tolerate this attitude. In saying no – to low-paid jobs, or ones that don’t respect the time and effort it takes to create – I’m stating that I value my, and others’, creativity. It’s important to educate people on the value of creativity; being selective (and explaining your reason) helps to do this.

3. I need to focus

I am a scanner. I like doing many different things – and I can do many different things. It’s great to be multi-talented; but, if unfocused, it can manifest itself as scattered and distracted. I blithely start countless projects in the hope that one of them will be the lightbulb that shows me what I really want to do with my life. What I should be doing, is taking the time to stop and consider what truly matters to me – not expect this enlightenment to come from external sources. Just because I can do anything, doesn’t mean I should!

4. I believe there is enough to go around

But I didn’t always believe this. I have previously felt pressured to do something right now in case the opportunity passed me by. From a young age, we’re indoctrinated in the concept of the Scarcity Principle: that there’s not enough to go around, and everyone’s in competition for financial gain, creative recognition, whatever… But you should challenge this false idea. Believe that what you have to say will be valuable, whenever you choose to tell it.

5. I feel there are more sustainable and satisfying ways to use my talents

Although my career has not been traditional, the way I’ve offered my services has been. In other words: reactionary. People want something, I deliver it. My skills and talents are charged out by the hour, or the word, or the job. I expend the effort, then it’s in the public domain for a short period of time. This is conventional business practice, and most people follow it. But I want better. I can create a business model for myself that means I can pass on my ideas and advice in a more sustainable way; one that’s not restricted to hourly rates or dependent on me being physically present… More on this another day.

6. I crave a sanity buffer

Once upon a time, I only had to worry about myself. I could stay up all night to meet a deadline. Those days are long gone, and I now have no control over huge portions of my life. If things are going well, I can juggle my commitments well; but if my child gets sick, everything falls apart. It’s stressful to be sailing so close to the wind. More space, please!


  • I’ve just said no to someone who wants to meet for (another) coffee, to ask my opinion, for free (again), on their project;
  • I’ve said no to something I would’ve usually loved to work on – because the timing was insane, and the person wasn’t prepared to compensate me for that;
  • I’ve said no to continuing on with a committee that was far too time-consuming; and
  • I’ve said no to my Masters (again), as uni will always be there when I’m ready – right now, however, it’s not directly relevant to the achievements I’m focused on this year…

I am discovering that if you say no to more things, you create more space and time to consider each request as it comes in; making it easier to choose wisely rather than simply react.


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