Friday, October 12, 2012

Saying No, Even When You Don't Want To

Writers need to write.

The urgency bubbles somewhere deep inside and when we get inspired, the craving is like a freight train pounding through town with broken brakes ready to flip over on the next sharp turn. Those moments of inspiration (especially for projects that appeal to us like candy) keep us busy, keep us occupied, and keep our heads in the game.

Then another opportunity comes along. Maybe you've been invited to submit to an anthology, perhaps even for the first time.

Oh boy, you think, what a fantastic opportunity. I so have to write a story for that one.

Simultaneously, a big-time publisher like Harper Voyager opens a short window for unagented submissions until October 14th and your novel's pretty ready and you simply must throw your hat in the ring.

Over on your friend's blog, you discover that the deadline for Ontario Arts Council grant proposals is Oct 15th and having the money to take some time off work to really write would be so incredibly amazing that you drool at the idea of that action.

But what about those copy edits that your editor has been tapping their foot waiting for? And this week, your writing group is expecting a submission.

Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!

How in the heck am I going to manage all of these deadlines?

Go big or go home

Choose the project that will generate the biggest benefit. How you measure benefit is up to you, whether it's prestige, money, or some other yardstick that is crucial to your writing goals. But aiming for the top is always a good idea, especially if one of your goals is to keep pushing your writing career to the next level.

Start with what's ready

Most of us have several projects in the hopper. Short story A has been close to submission quality for a while now. Novel B just received a rejection, and it's pretty much ready to submit again. Idea C has been percolating in your brain and you've been looking for an excuse to pound out that narrative.

If one of these projects is ready (or close) to submit, you could truly benefit from subbing it while this opportunity is knocking you in the nose.

Burn the candle at both ends

Times like these don't happen every day. Think of the pressure as the looming exam tomorrow. Most of us have stayed up until the wee hours cramming for a big test. (Although, I personally have always chosen a good night's sleep over those last minute prep sessions because I do NOT think clearly when I'm exhausted).

Only you know your limits. Work within them. Do not take this blog post as an excuse to push your body beyond what it can handle. Safety first!

Say No

I don't like to say no. Most people don't. But sometimes you have to open your eyes to the reality that you simply cannot do everything all the time.

Especially if you want to do the task properly, completely, at a top-notch professional level.

Which takes me to my week, and the choices I had to make when faced with all of these pressures.

I re-read the Harper Voyager guidelines and learned that the novel I've been shopping lately, the one that was recently rejected, is about 5,000 words shy of their minimum word limit.

Not wanting to miss this short window of opportunity, I considered my other complete novel, written a couple of years ago. Well I opened it, and it did meet the work count requirements, but it needed so much editing work, there was absolutely no way I could finish it by October 14th.

So I SAID NO to the Harper Voyager opportunity. Sad face.

And this week, when I wrote the first half of this blog post on Tuesday, I also SAID NO to finishing and posting it. Double sad face.

Suffice it to say, sometimes you have to say NO!

Saying NO sucks. But sometimes it's the right thing to do.

The alternative is to drive yourself crazy. And no one wants that.

I only have two hands and one brain, and there are only so many hours in a day.

Do it now
Take at look at your current to-do list. Can you say No to any of them?

If you can't eliminate the item, can you put it aside for a longer time frame?

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