Tag Archives: time

Learning to Say “No,” Without Needing an Excuse

28 Oct
IMG_3235
The other evening, I was having dinner with my upstairs neighbor, E., a dear friend whom I don’t get to see as often as I’d like despite our close proximity. We were catching up on our lives, and I told her about a quasi-recent turn of events in which I’d told someone I wasn’t able to make the commitment they wanted from me and how I’d tried to explain to them why.
 
She stopped me mid-sentence.
 
“You don’t need to explain,” she said. At first, I thought she meant I didn’t need to explain to her. I know she often has a full calendar and as well understands how particular stages of life mean commitments are more difficult to make and keep. I knew she could relate to my experience. Then, I realized she meant that I didn’t need to explain myself to the other person. I didn’t need an excuse for my no. As she suggested, I didn’t have to justify my no.
 
I think this is true in many ways. It’s difficult to say no to others. And so often I say yes to the detriment of my own goals and dreams and time. I put other people’s wants and needs ahead of my own. I do believe there is value in this. I do think there are many times when we are called to go the extra mile for someone. There are times when it’s important to give back, to encourage, to help, to mentor, to volunteer our time and our talents. To set down our own desires in service of someone who really needs it. Still, there is a difference between someone’s real need and someone’s fleeting want. A difference between committing in a way that serves a greater good and getting locked into somethng that is so far removed from one’s own important needs that both parties end up suffering because of it. And there are times when saying no should come not with a justification but with thought and compassion. I know my friend would agree with me. She avidly devotes her free time to volunteer work, to spending time with those in need, to helping the disenfranchised. 
 
Perhaps the difference and the balance comes in not saying an automatic yes to things that hurt one’s own self in the long run.
 
Often because I am a writer and an editor, people come to me with essays, full-length manuscripts, resumes, and book proposals, asking for my advice, my edits, my time. I love helping people. I love hearing their stories. But I do this work for a living. It’s how I earn my income. There are people who pay me to do this. It’s how I pay for my electricity and how I pay for my subway fare and how I pay for my dinner. And unless it is a real need, say someone who has been out of work for a year and needs their resume reviewed so they can get a job to feed their hungry baby, it is unfair of me to not charge them when I would normally charge others. It’s unfair for my other clients. And it’s unfair for me, as, in a way, I am my own client. I am working on a new book. I spend hours sitting at the computer, typing, deleting, revising. I do this on top of my full-time career. I do this on top of my freelance opportunites. I do this on top of the free readings I give to support the biography I coauthored. I do this on top of smaller creative projects. I do this on top of the volunteer position I have leading a writing group. I do this when others are watching tv. When others are getting together with friends. I don’t get paid to write my book. Not yet. And so when someone asks me to look over something they’re working on, I instinctually want to say yes, I want to help them. But it takes time away from my own writing. It would mean saying no to paying freelance opportunities. Or, perhaps it would mean saying no to spending time with friends I haven’t seen in a long. I am honored that someone would want me to review their work, but I shouldn’t have to justify why I can’t help everyone for free.
 
I stubled upon Austin Kleon’s tumblr the day after meeting with E. He’s the author of Steal Like An Artist, and he posted about authors and editors saying no. I think I may steal E. B. White’s line:
 
“I must decline, for secret reasons.”
 
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Happy 99th Birthday, Robert Lax!

30 Nov

circus

Robert Lax was born on this day in 1915 in Olean, in the Southern Tier region of New York.

Lax studied poetry with Mark Van Doren at Columbia University and graduated in 1938, right before Jack Kerouac arrived on campus. Similarly, they both took on a life of wandering. Lax worked for some prestigious magazines — The New Yorker and Time — and then joined the circus as a juggler.

Eventually, he found his way to the Greek island of Patmos. The island is known as a place of pilgrimage, as the apostle John had lived there. Lax himself went on to live here for more than thirty years, living the life of a hermit and writing beautiful poetry.

Kerouac indeed did end up getting in contact with his fellow alum. You can read his letter to him in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956.

Friday Links: I Feel Old So You Should Too

6 Dec

In light of my birthday having been this week, here are a bunch of links that will make us all feel old 😉

Buzzfeed’s 48 Things That Will Make You Feel Old (This list makes me feel old because the pop culture references — I have no idea who the guy in number 8 is — are aimed at people younger than me.)

Buzzfeed’s 34 Things That Made You Feel Old in 2012 (A lot of overlap from the previous list, but this one makes me feel old because, yeah, I remember playing Pong before Atari.)

Buzzfeed’s 40 Things That Will Make You Feel Old (Did their marriage really end that long ago?)

Buzzfeed’s Things That Make 90s Girls Feel Old (I used to wear platform sneakers….!)

Buzzfeed’s 21 Questions You Might Have To Answer As The Last Living Members Left Of The 20th Century (Remember life before texting?)

The Best Article Every Day’s 17 Things That Make You Feel Old (Harry Potter is how old?!)

The Daily Caller reports that “Hey Ya” turned 10 this year (I remember listening to this AT WORK)

David Amram On Contributing Our Gifts

3 Dec

It was musician David Amram’s birthday last month, and he left the most inspiring message in the comments section on my blog. Since a lot of readers don’t go back and reread the comments on blogs, I want to draw attention to what he said because its worth paying attention to. It’s worth really meditating on. You can read his entire comment here, but I’ll highlight a few things in particular.

On what we should be doing with our time here on earth:

I am still searching for some wisdom, and recently realized that when you get as close to Methusala City as I am, and try to figure out what it all means, you realize that the most important thing for us to do in this life is to make SOME kind of contribution while we are here.

On our gifts:

And we all have something worth sharing with others, but often our dreams appear to be hopeless to experts who themselves have often given up hope.

[…] We are all born with gifts.

On persevering:

I hope my efforts will inspire young kids to hang in there FOR LIFE, especially when they are told by their career councilors that they should give up before they have had a chance to even get started.

On taking action:

So when young kids come to me and say “I wish i had been around when knew and worked with all these fantastic people. i wish i had lived during that time”, i always tell them what Charlie Parker told me in my basement apartment in 1952 in Washington D.C. when i asked him what it was like to have his song “Now’s the Time” (which he had composed seven years earlier in 1945)

“It’s just the way it should ” he said. “Now was and will always be the time because Now is the RIGHT time!”

My own birthday is coming up, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve done with my life and what I want to do with my life. I’ve been thinking about how I spend my time and what my goals and dreams are. Sometimes dreams feel impossibly unobtainable. Sometimes they feel like work. Work gets a bad rap. So does dreaming, for that matter. I think, though, that it’s essential to dream, and it’s crucial to work towards those dreams.

As David said, “We are all born with gifts.” Therefore I believe it is our responsibility to contribute them.

I think we often wait for a reason to change or start something new. After the holidays, we’ll exercise. At the New Year, we’ll make our resolutions. Next November, we’ll write our novel. In a different season of our lives, we’ll make time to volunteer more. And then when we fail to meet our own expectations, we wait for the next big marker to begin again. Every minute of every day is a gift. We have the chance to become who we want to be TODAY. We can start using our gifts RIGHT NOW. Sure, over time, our gifts will be honed that much more and we might look back and cringe at our past efforts, but without those past efforts we won’t get to where we need to be.

“Now’s the time.”

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Clip: A Time to Give Up

5 Sep

Indelible-South-Pole-expedition-388-thumbPhoto of Robert Falcon Scott’s failed exploration via The Smithsonian‘s article “The Doomed South Pole Voyage’s Remaining Photographs,” which states: “Their return trip would become one of the most dismal failures in the annals of polar exploration.”

Burnside published my latest art post in the “A Time to…” series. It’s

A Time to Give Up

 

In case you missed the previous posts in the series. They are:

A Time to Search

A Time to Embrace

A Time to Refrain from Embracing

A Time to Gather Stones

A Time to Scatter Stones

A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn

A Time to Laugh

A Time to Weep

A Time to Build

A Time to Tear Down

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

Clip: A Time to Search

20 Aug

Burnside published my latest art post in the “A Time to…” series. It’s

A Time to Search

 

In case you missed the previous posts in the series. They are:

A Time to Embrace

A Time to Refrain from Embracing

A Time to Gather Stones

A Time to Scatter Stones

A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn

A Time to Laugh

A Time to Weep

A Time to Build

A Time to Tear Down

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

Clip: A Time to Embrace … Or Not

19 Jul

Forgot to mention that Burnside published two of my art posts:

A Time to Embrace

A Time to Refrain from Embracing

 

In case you missed them:

A Time to Gather Stones

A Time to Scatter Stones

A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn

A Time to Laugh

A Time to Weep

A Time to Build

A Time to Tear Down

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

 

Clip: A Time to Gather Stones

3 Jul

Burnside published my art post A Time to Gather Stones.

Clip: A Time to Scatter Stones

5 Jun

For my latest “A Time to…” art post, check out Burnside Writers Collective.

Clip: A Time to Dance

22 May

The latest in my Ecclesiastical “A Time to…” series posted on Burnside.