I try to say yes to everything. I don’t think of myself as a pushover; rather, when presented with an opportunity, I like to be able to seize it. I’m genuinely interested in the things I say yes to, and I’ve gotten an inside look at all kinds of places because I’m willing to schlep tables, usher, update spreadsheets, whatever.
I live in a college town, though, and the opportunities come thick, fast, and with the possibility of travel. My kids have hit the age where they’re coming up with options themselves rather than getting dragged along with Mom, so now our calendar is being filled by curiosity times three.
When I decided to write the Ireland novel, I joined a workshop group that committed to finishing a book in a year. I knew I was going to have to give things up to make the room in my day to write. Potential hobbies that had been flitting around the periphery got a firm, parental No—at least for the year or so it’d take me to finish the manuscript. The guitar that not only did I not know how to play but it needed repairs got given away; the quilt stuff got pushed to the back of the closet. I resolved to buy no more gardening supplies.
On one level, these decisions were minor. I wasn’t spending much time on those activities, so it didn’t change the texture of my day to give them up. The mental step was bigger, though: even though I could do it, even though I’m interested in it, even though it’s right here, I said no. So I’m not going to be a gardener or a guitar player. I’m going to be a writer.
This turning down of available possibilities screeched against every brain cell I had, but that previous sentence is key. I’m a writer. Which means I have to write.
Maybe I’m just priming the ground here for a future post about how intelligence tests are bogus. But one of the things I learned once I gave myself the time to do it was that this word “write” is more than just the physical act of putting words down. Coming up with the words and putting them in some kind of order requires some time and space and quiet. And that means sometimes—ack!—saying no to interesting opportunities to do other things.