Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sorry To Say No

I have found myself saying yes to things when I really should have said no.

Sometimes I say yes because I don't want to let the person down.
Sometimes I say yes because of ego.
Sometimes I say yes because at first thought, it sounds wonderful!
Sometimes I say yes because I really think I have the time.
Sometimes I say yes because I really think I can do it all.

Here's a great blog post from Tim Ferriss's blog (he's the author of the The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

It talks about Edmund Wilson's Decline Letter and asks the question: How much more could you get done if you eliminated even one type of request?

This is from Tim's Blog--

Edmund Wilson, recipient of both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal for Literature, was one of the most prominent social and literary critics of the 20th century.

He realized, like most uber-productive people, that, while there were many behaviors needed to guarantee high output, there was one single behavior guaranteed to prevent all output:

Trying to please everyone.

He had a low tolerance for distraction and shunned undue public acclaim. To almost all inquiries, he would respond with the following list, putting a check mark next to what had been requested…

Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him without compensation to:

read manuscripts
contribute to books or periodicals
do editorial work
judge literary contests
deliver lectures
address meetings
make after-dinner speeches

Under any circumstances to:

contribute to or take part in symposiums
take part in chain-poems or other collective compositions
contribute manuscripts for sales
donate copies of his books to libraries
autograph books for strangers
supply personal information about himself
supply photographs of himself
allow his name to be used on letter-heads
receive unknown persons who have no apparent business with him.


I thought it was pretty interesting and a little amusing. (Though a little tough guy attitude with the no autograph books for strangers, I think that's bad manners myself.)

A long time ago I said I'd say yes to the things that have to do with poetry and family. But I've expanded that, now say yes to things that get me outside and moving, as well as good times with friends. And it's not that I wasn't seeing my friends, but my priorities were family and poetry. Now with a little more time because I'm out of grad school, I have a little (a lot) more social time.

So much of life comes down to our choices, intentional or not, we are constantly carving out the path in front of us. It's always interesting to see where we end up.

* * *


  1. I SO relate to this post. In fact, I think I might just blog about this topic myself!

  2. This is really significant to me today when I said yes to something that I really find hard to do, because I am down with a bad cold and couldn't sleep at all last night, and I wouldn't enjoy it anyway, and it would take me away from my writing... so so many reasons to just say no. There is not harder lesson that the saying of no.

  3. good stuff!
    the hardest thing is sticking to our decisions.

    i had decided to stop writing book reviews but now i am drowning in about 5 i need to write.

    i am going to have to set a limit per year of how many reviews i will write.

    only other rule i have is that i won't read manuscripts for critique for free anymore from just random people. sorry guys!


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