This is a picture of my office door. It’s also largely how I managed to write The Devil You Know in a house I share with four children and a dog, while I was working a full-time job. Any other parents out there know what I’m talking about? It’s the pre-emptive answer to all possible questions and needs: Can you make me a sandwich? (No.) Can you drive me to mall? (No.) Can you help me find my other shoe? (No.)
Any two year-old has already learned that NO is the most powerful word, but it somehow took me 37 years to re-learn that lesson — and use it to my advantage. (I share the house with my husband, too, of course, but he’s a brilliant and supportive guy, so the sign is not really aimed at him. Or, at least a whole lot less.)
The power of NO comes in using it to define your boundaries, give yourself guilt-free permission, and defend your own positive time (to the death! Okay, maybe that’s too much.To the pain?)
I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the last week, partially because I noticed articles like this LinkedIn piece making the rounds. Learning to say No is a valuable skill. More salient was Jonathan Ball’s great post about scheduling writing time rather than just trying to “find it”.
All this came across my screen at the right time, when I’d been gearing up to start work on a new project. So the NO sign is back up on the office door today. (Full disclosure: I’ve been working solidly, on schedule, for a week or two now. So it’s time to let the rest of the household know.)
The only difference this time around? I’ve made a second sign, for the inside of the office door. It’s the sign that tells the writer YES.