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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Just Say No

“Just say no” isn’t only an 80’s anti-drugs campaign catchphrase; it’s a mantra to recite if you are the kind of person who overextends herself volunteering.

Yesterday Karen Potter blogged about making sure we live a balanced life that includes time to write. Consider my blog an addendum to hers. To live a balanced life, we sometimes have to say “no:” no to the dust bunnies proliferating under our beds; no to being room mother for our child’s homeroom; no to chatting on the phone during writing time; no to baking homemade cupcakes for the soccer team; no to heading a committee that will suck much of our writing time.

Keep It Steady
Visualize the balance Lady Justice holds. You’ve got to keep your obligations, especially volunteer ones, level—especially if you’re currently living a balanced life. In the past, I said “yes” to just about everyone who asked me to do anything. I wanted to make everyone happy. In doing so, I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t do justice to all the volunteer activities in which I was involved. If I was doing an adequate job with one activity, it was because I’d let another one go until I was super-stressed trying to catch up with what I’d let drop. To regain my sanity, I learned to say no, and that I wasn’t a bad person for saying it. Now, if I say “yes” to a new activity, I drop one of the old ones. I didn’t take on chairing the sewing committee for my daughter’s ballet company until I’d completed my term as an RWA chapter president. I keep the balance level.

Love It or Leave It
Make sure the time you spend volunteering is enjoyable. An added bonus would be if your volunteer job makes the most of your talents. I wouldn’t claim to be the best seamstress because I’m not, but I do know how to use a machine and follow a pattern. I love sewing and learning about costuming. I also enjoy organizing things, so chairing the NEAB Seam Team was a good fit for me. On occasion I write press releases for the ballet, which I also like because it exercises different writing muscles than fiction. If you’re not getting something beneficial out of the time you’re spending volunteering, why are you doing it?

How about you? What have you said “no” to recently to protect your writing time?

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At 11:10 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Great post, Mo! JUST SAY NO!!! It's so true. I worked until my fourth child was born and it seemed suddenly everyone thought I had time for coffee and long chats. It took me years to figure out how to balance and say "no." I was room mom too many times to count (my fault for having so many kids) :). I went on dozens of pumpkin farm fieldtrips and fire station trips and helped the freshman with their floats in high school and sold tickets at football games and helped with basketball fundraisers, etc. I'm done. At some point it's time to step down and let the next crowd take a turn.

I have also learned to do the bare minimum of house cleaning. If someone doesn't like it, they don't have to come over. I'm fine with that. Until I can afford a house cleaner, there are going to be dust bunnies under my bed. I try to inspire the family to help me out once a month...we can clean windows and remove dust bunnies in one quick sweep of the house! I can cook fish in 4 minutes and microwave a vegetable while the fish is cooking. Hey, if cooking was fun for me, I would take my time planning dinners. But I'd much rather play the piano or write.

Life is short people. You've got to look out for yourself.

And don't get me wrong, although I called last year the ME YEAR and this year the ME-ME YEAR, I do take time for others. I have a mother who can hardly see and she can no longer drive. I take her around town once a week. I also have a stepmom who has altzheimers and who was just put in a home. I visit her too. I have in-laws who live around the corner and sisters and nieces. I'd rather spend an hour with them, then cleaning or cooking. That's why Mo's post is so true...BALANCE. PRIORITIZE and let go of the least for now! Otherwise you'll never get to write!

Sorry, for the long response!

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Thanks for sharing your "just say no" experience with everyone. I remember those pumpkin farm and fire station field trips!

Another good thing to keep in mind is that when we always are the ones volunteering at school, we aren't giving other parents the opportunity to participate and give of their time and talents.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

I remember the first year I woke up and used the "no" card. I'd been involved at some kind of admnistrative level in just about every group I belonged to. If there was a committee that needed someone, I said, "sure, why not?"

Then one day, I said 'not this year.' I didn't say 'never' to anyone who asked, I simply said, "I can't commit to that this year. Maybe another time."

I'm still learning to say no. I joined my CFRW chapter and almost as soon as I did, I had volunteered to help with their conference, serve as membership chair and coordinate their contest.

I don't have kids at home anymore, so demands on my time have lessened, and maybe I'm more selfish, or maybe I'm just plain lazy, but there are only so many things I'm willing to give my time to.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

I'm having to be more and more conscious of this. It's second nature to me to make myself available to my kids' schools. Except now I have three kids in three different schools.

Then, there's church and I've volunteered to do voter registration and canvassing this year.

I know when I'm in over my head because I start to get the willies in my tummy and the hairs on my neck start waving in the wind. Most of all, I start wanting to hibernate and hide from everyone and anyone who might want a piece of my time, including my family.

So now, because writing is a priority for me, and family time is a priority, once the election is over, I'm saying no.

With a smile.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Good for you, Patricia!!! Stay strong. Someone else can step up to the plate for a while.

I like Terry's response...Not this year. Not right now. Not a good time. Maybe next year. No, for now... :)

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Great post, Mo! I'm quite good at saying no to the dust bunnies, and sewing is out because it hurts my back too much. But striving for the balance is still hard.

For me, the volunteering has really gotten in the way in the last couple of years. I'll tell you right now, anybody who coordinates four contests in two years is just plain nuts. Or maybe a total masochist. But then, isn't masochism a mental illness?

And too much contests judging, too. I've cut those way down, but still feel like it's too many. No more chapter offices for me. Ask me to do the little things like sitting on the editor/agent desk at a conference, but that's it.

I've learned my lesson. No more mental illness-- uh, volunteering for me!

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Terry O,
I love your variants of no. I will have to use them. Not at this time. Yup, that'll work!

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Good for you Patricia! Your body is definitely sending you cues that you're doing too much. I'm glad you're listening (after the election).

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Bless you for all the contest coordinating and judging you do. I bet if you pare down a little bit more and just help with your favs that you'll find the right balance.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

I'm saying no right and left this year. After 16 years at work, people are in shock. Actually, I think they're confused because I'm really very polite about it, so maybe they think I'm not serious...
But when I actually don't do something, then they figure it out. :)

The girls need attention and help after school each day, so my time during the week is late evenings. Do I spend that time cleaing? I don't think so! ;)

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Good for you, Gillian!

At 9:23 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I have a hard time saying no to the fun things! A lunch with a friend. A weekend visit. A good TV show. I'm my worst enemy!

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

It used to be so difficult for me to say NO! Especially when it came to animal causes, another stray animal, or my family.

A couple of years ago I realized that I was spending all of my time working and then WORKING. I had no time to myself to just SIT!

I had to learn that saying no did not make me a bad person. It actually made me a better person. I am more relaxed AND I can give each of my rescued animals more love and attention time.

Now that writing is my number one priority I am very jealous of my time off the dreaded day job. I turn down beach weekends and a lot of other things so that I can get this second book done!

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I think saying no to the "good stuff" is one of the hardest things to do.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

What you mentioned was the hardest thing for me, too--thinking that saying no made me a bad person.


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