I have a tendency to be a people pleaser. I like to help others, and I especially enjoy doing things for writers: to encourage them, support them, provide feedback, buy their book, and read their writing.
Helping other writers is why I have my blog and a newsletter about writing and publishing. Both my blog and newsletter are ways of helping writers and doing so on a bigger scale. Helping people in these ways, that is one-to-many, may not be as personal as one-on-one, but it’s certainly more effective and multiplies my reach.
But aside from blogging and my newsletter, I don’t have much extra time to help people. This season has been especially busy, jam-packed with writing. It seems I write, work, eat, and sleep. I often lose track of what day it is.
I’m certainly not complaining about having too many writing assignments and projects. It’s just that I’ve found myself saying “no” a lot more often. Even though this is necessary, I still feel a small pang of guilt each time I do.
When an email showed up a few days ago from an author asking if I would review her book, I wanted to say “yes.” Her request was respectful and not demanding as some are. She was humble, yet hopeful. But I knew I had to decline. I barely even had time to read her email, let alone her book.
I paused, took a deep breath, and said “no” as nicely as I could. It went something like this: “Your book sounds interesting, and I’d really like to review it, but I just don’t have the time. Sorry.”
A smidgen of guilt poked me in my gut. I paused and reread my words. I was nice but firm. My words were not evasive or imply I might do so later. I had closed the door without slamming it shut. Then I hit send.
I felt good about my decision. There’s power in saying “no.” Declining secondary things allows me to better meet my current commitments; it also provides the space to say “yes” to something even better later on.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.