Tag Archives: Saying No

Only Child on creativity and the word “no”

Only Child again in contemplative mode – this time on  creativity and the word “no.”

It might be hard to see a connection between the words “creativity” and “no.” However, I’m finding a few associations here. “No” can be a big factor and word in order to do whatever it is you do to be creative. In my case it is writing; more specifically, rewriting my prequel mystery novel to meet my publisher’s deadline to look at it.

I do have third and fourth factors to consider – my freelance work, particularly freelance editing. Ideally it would be a good idea to take three months off to finish rewriting the novel. However, I need the money to eat and pay bills. I also like editing. So, I’m comprising – I’m taking two and a half to three weeks off around Christmas to not only spend time with family and close friends, but to do some rewriting of my novel. Right now I have to steal a few hours here and there from regular work. My eyes do not do late at night at the computer well and my weekends are filled with catching up on personal email and phone calls, seeing family and friends, a bit of housework (I can’t afford to pay someone to do it), and now Christmas decorations, food shopping and the rest of the present shopping. I also want time to read the newspaper and books, walk, and watch TV.

The fourth factor is being an only person – no partner/husband or siblings to help out (financially or otherwise).

Here is where “no” comes in. When I was growing up and long after, my modus operandi was to please others. Some of that still remains – and it is a good thing where clients are concerned. However,  I am learning to say “no” to more things than I used to.

For instance, I have clamped down on clients/former clients looking for freebies, something I alluded to in last week’s post. Long after the contract work is done they want me to monitor their query letters (which I wrote under contract) to literary agents or look at part of a book proposal they wrote or they go on an extended email campaign to get a hold of a publisher via me. The first one I quit working for, the second one I sent the format outline for a book proposal but politely declined to look at the book proposal part; and the third one I just stopped returning emails – something I should have done sooner in that particular correspondence once I gave the person one piece of vital information. (I did say, I’m learning to say “no.” I just need to make a better decision when.)

Now that I’m a published author I’m refusing to read an unpublished author’s full manuscript for free. Later, I might do a trade – when there is time. I also keep my mentoring of other writers to members of the Canadian Authors Association – I am the Toronto branch Writer in Residence and there are obligations here to honour.  The other group is my own East End Writers’ Group which I run. It’s a writing critique group so we do group critiques and I bring in speakers (and also speak myself) on different writing and publishing topics. At my meetings I willingly give any suggestions/advice I can (and ask for it from others). One thing that came out of this (I did the asking) is a trade – one member is helping me organize my marketing for my short story collection and in turn I will evaluate one of her short stories.

Perhaps that is the answer to some of the “no” issues. Do a trade with the other person. Or refer them elsewhere.

In my personal life there are also time issues – such as housecleaning. As I can’t afford to pay for cleaning services, I’ve decided my house can live with being not so clean and not so tidy as others so I do minimal weekend cleaning (although I do a big houseclean before the East End Writers’ Group comes or before family and friends come over for dinner, etc.). Now, I just have to live with the setup and not feel guilty.

And for pseudo-no issues, I use the “delay” tactic. For example, more purging of stuff (mostly paper) in the house, gets scheduled in winter when I do only indoor gardening. In summer, the “stuff” inside takes the trunk (below even the back seat) to my garden outside.

Now, if I could just get my mind to stop its whirling about what to do and what not to do… Have to consider my health too.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Balance, Creativity, Delay tactics, East End Writers' Group, Family and Friends, Help and Support, Helping Others, Living alone, Money, Only child, Prioritizing, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child will get her sleep

Only Child in her office – getting down to business with work and sleep.

My mind has turned to mush. I forget where I put things; I forget to do things; things get mixed up, and some things go and stay missing.

Am I losing my mind?

Maybe?

Is it Alzheimer’s?

Probably not.

My immune system is also down and I have a low-level cold (at this point). And I’ve been getting to bed too late (or too early if you figure the time after midnight in a.m.). So, it’s sleep deprivation. Because I have not been carousing all over town until the wee hours of the morning, that’s not it. The root cause of all this is doing too much – a lot of that I blame on being the only person here who has to do and/or organize everything. Can’t do anything about that now (no time and no money) but there is something I can and will do.

TAKE BACK MY SLEEP TIME.

Studies show that sleep deprivation affects both physical health and mental health, particularly cognitive performance. Your short-term memory and even your long-term memory can take a nosedive and your decision-making abilities can go out the window. According to a study, Sleep Deprivation: Impact on Cognitive Performance by Paula Alhola and Paivi Polo-Kantola (Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2007), not getting sufficient zzz’s regularly can impair lots more, including your mood. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC265629 for the long list of sleep deprivation effects and the references to corresponding studies. It’s enough to make you want to crawl under the covers and never come out.

I’m not going that far but some things got to go or at least slow down. Consider last week where (among other things) I did/had to deal with the following:

  1. My handyman finally showing up – on a work day. It interfered with my work time and because he was one and a quarter hour late, not everything got done. I forgive myself for being really grumpy then. He deserved it (if you remember from previous posts he had cancelled a Saturday appointment).
  2. Juggling client work and meetings (in person) and via email and phone with new clients (not complaining here. I need and like the work. I’m taking it in the context of what else was happening).
  3. Trying to do end-of-season garden cleanup plus protect vulnerable plants from cold weather/frost with our yo-yo weather (that is the nature of gardening, but again I’m taking it in context with everything else).
  4. Doing readings from my book, including out-of-town (this I like doing), attending all day workshops on Saturday (my East End Writers’ Group sponsored it so I had to be there even though I felt sick).
  5. Plus the regular daily stuff – cooking and cleaning up (although I cook extra on weekends and leave what little “big” cleaning jobs I do until weekends).
  6. Etc., etc., etc.

That’s only part of it. Not getting done was phoning friends as promised, more clearing out of my office (I did do some so I have room for new client files). This week started out with a malfunctioning CD/DVD drive in my desktop computer so my computer tech was just here this morning. The drive wasn’t dead yet but something in it was loose so it was headed to the DVD/CD drive cemetery. My techie replaced it and then I found out his rates went up – but he gave me a discount because I didn’t know and he wasn’t here for a full hour. So, I gave him a post-dated cheque because like most freelancers I’m waiting for another cheque to come in. I also have a whopping house insurance premium (over $1,000 for the next year) due the beginning of next week.

Seems no matter what you do you can’t crawl out from under it.

Except for my sleep deprivation. I’m determined to get at least my required seven and a quarter hours of sleep each night. So, I have to get strict and maybe even a little nasty. My plan?

Put myself first.

Say “no” to many things including some social and business events, particularly where it involves me helping someone else. I’m doing too much of that (mainly in the business end) and spreading myself too thin.

Delete more email – some without first reading the email – just go by the subject and the sender. I don’t mean obvious spam. I’m doing some of this but I will up it.

Stick more to my daily schedule – I do daily schedules but don’t always follow them – now it will be to-the-letter barring extreme unforeseen circumstances. This means clients will have to get in line to get their work done if they want it done properly.

Don’t beat myself if I don’t have time to return friends’ and business phone calls and emails. I will get to it – when I have time.

Don’t get sidetracked by other things – especially those that don’t really interest me and/or aren’t pertinent.

Pace myself in what I do.

Take breaks and leisure time.

And get enough sleep.

Excuse me while I go to the next item on today’s “to do” list.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Balance, Cognitive disorders, Gardening, Goals, Health, Lists, No, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sharon A. Crawford, Sleep deprivation, Stress, to do list

Only Child views September’s new beginnings

Only Child age 8 Holy Cross grade school photo

September is too fast approaching and kids, teens  and others will be returning to school or college. I remember the mixture of anticipation and dread of that first day back after two months of freedom. Back in the grey ages I could smell the pencils, paper and print from the books – it’s a miracle I didn’t get high. I wondered who would be my teacher(s) and who would be in my class(es). Not all was smooth sailing for someone who was shy and quiet (then, not now. Try shutting me up today). As I write in my memoir, I had some difficulties with one particular nun in grade 2.

In grade 2 we applied our Grade 1 reading skills in exercises.

“Turn to page 12, exercise A,” Mother St. Helen says. She stands behind her desk. She holds the exercise book, alternating between glancing down at it and over at us. “When you are finished it and exercise B, you may quietly bring them up here for me to look at.” She sits down.

For the next 15 to 20 minutes the only sounds are the flipping of pages and the scratching of pencils. I read through each question and write down my answer or draw the picture required. Some of the students finish quickly and line up at Mother’s desk, so now I hear her occasional, “That’s wrong. How do you expect to pass Grade 2,” and “Good.”

I have now completed the work, so pick up the exercise book, which is the size of a thick colouring book and climb out from behind the desk, walk up to the front and line up. Nora and Michael stand in front of me and as Mother looks at Nora’s work and says, “Good,” I think I also have done all right.

“How do you expect to pass grade 2?” Mother asks Michael.

I hope I have done all right.

It is now my turn. I say nothing as I place the open exercise book before Mother. She presses her lips together as she follows along on the page with her pencil. When she reaches the bottom, she jerks the book at me.

“What’s this?” she asks.

I look down and read out loud. “Draw an X.”

“The word isn’t ‘X;’ it’s an ‘axe.’ ”

I have drawn an “X.”

“Stupid,” she says. “You should know better than that.” She whacks the pencil against my nose.

Tears well up in my eyes. My face must be turning red because Mother is looking a little strange for Mother.

“I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?”

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

But that was back then. Now, with this September lurking near, it might be a good idea to focus on renewing ourselves, what we do, and what we really don’t have to do. Some of us are in a too relaxed mode and September can thrust us in overwhelm and overload. Here are a few ideas to help get us through the next month or so (Do as I write, not necessarily as I will do).

1. Make a list of what you do, what you think you have to do in both work and personal.

2. Use the three D’s – delay, delegate, delete as you scrutinize all the items in your “to-do” list. Ask yourself: What can you get someone else to do? What can you put off doing until another time? What can you delete or never do?

3. Tell yourself that the biggest word in your dictionary is NO. Repeat it to yourself, out loud. And keep it in mind when someone asks you to do something you really don’t have time to do. All it takes is a “No, sorry, but I have a full schedule and really don’t have the time to do…” And courage to say it. If I had more courage here I might have said, “no,” back in July to phoning member of my graduation high school class for the reunion coming up in October. But I had to get the list of classmates with their possible current contact info. I’m not a journalist with a nosy mind for nothing.

4. Find some relax time – go and sit in your garden, a park, go for a walk, meditate, listen to soothing music, read a book, heck even watch some of  the new TV shows.

5. And don’t beat yourself up mentally (or otherwise) if you fall off the balance wagon. Nobody is perfect. (I will repeat that one to myself like a mantra, along with the “No.”)

I think my friend, Fran, had the best way of summing this up – consider what is best for you right now, not what someone else thinks you should be doing. I tend to agree with her. What about you? I’d like comments on how you plan to deal with the September rush and its back-to-business mode.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Back to School, Balance, Delete, Life demands, Memoir writing, No, Only child, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Reading escapism, School, School days, September, Stress, Teachers, Time management, to do list