Thursday, August 12, 2010

Learning to say no

"I'm sorry, I can't meet you this week," I told my friend.

"But you don't have a job," my friend said. She seemed to take it personally that I couldn't find a time to meet her for lunch in Zurich.

Story of my life. At least, my freelance life.

Somehow, just because I work from home, people think that I should always be available for an afternoon coffee, a lunch outing, or a shopping trip.

It doesn't work that way.

Here's the thing. I love being a writer. I love the freedom to choose my own projects, decide who I work with, and I love being creative on my own terms. And while my work sometimes feels like play, in reality, it's still work. Yes, I have more freedom than people with office jobs, but in return I also have to have more discipline.

One of the hardest parts about the writing life is learning to say "no". I'm still bad at that. Especially when the sun in shining in Zurich and my friends are going to the pool. But sometimes getting places tomorrow means going nowhere today.

Do you struggle with saying "no"?


  1. I have a friend who likes to chat on the phone in the middle of the day, and just this week, I had to tell her 'no' several times because I have too many assignments already assigned and many more to pitch. I love her dearly but we never talk for less than an hour and there's just no way I'm giving up an hour at my desk because she still doesn't quite get how seriously I take my job (she doesn't have one). Took me a long time to say no to her though so I definitely appreciate this!

  2. Amen, sister! Sometimes it's nice to take a break and do a lunchtime Pilates class or meet a friend for coffee, but sometimes I just don't have the room in my schedule, because I'm on deadline. People eventually catch on, but it can take quite a while.

  3. Yes, thank you for this insightful post from a fellow freelancer! I can't count the number of times I've guiltily ignored phone calls and IMs while trying to send off finished pieces or search for new projects. Maybe from now on, I'll just tell them to read this!

  4. Glad some others can relate. Of course I like to take advantage of the freelance life and grab a lunch or take an hour swim when I can, but usually it just eats up too much valuable writing time! Now that I say no more, I need to work on feeling less guilty!

  5. oh lord yes. thank you for this!

  6. I completely relate! I freelance, work on my own writing, and run a small company with my husband. And sometimes friends don't seem to understand when I don't have free time.

    I also had a friend refer to me recently as unemployed. That one stung. Freelancing is not unemployed.

  7. Great post. I admittedly had trouble saying no when I started freelancing 5 years ago, however practice makes perfect ;-)

    After a few good long lectures about the definition of work and the respect that should accompany it, my regular bug-a-boo's no loner question what I could possibly mean by, "no."

  8. I'm a full-time student with a part-time job I can do from my apartment. Saying no is incredibly difficult and having the discipline to get everything done ontime takes work. Sometimes I am jealous of my friends who have offices to work in. Even if their offices are just a block from the apartment, it's a place to go that says, "I'm at work right now." But then I get to be working while watching a movie and I'm not jealous anymore.
    <>< Katie

  9. The office thing would be nice--I just read an article in Time how Jonathan Franzen works from a rental office that has no internet. But on the other hand, one of the benefits of freelancing is being able to work from home. It's kind of a toss up for me.

  10. This made me laugh - been there many times. And as you mentioned in the comments, Chantal, being able to take lunch when I want or do something when I want to (unlike my husband with a rigid 50+ hour work week) is one of the pleasures of freelancing. Being able to say no when I need to, and yes when I want to.

  11. It is hardest to say NO but it should be properly used. Things that should be replied with a "no" , it is necessary to say no then. This is all because of lack of education. People can increase their confidence by enrolling for online education and earning online degree which will help them gain confidence.

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