When our boys were toddlers, like all toddlers, they loved the word “no.” Looking back, I’m sure it’s the sense of power that “no” conveys upon the naysayer, especially when the naysayer is a small human who feels powerless in a world of grown-ups issuing orders. Somewhere along the path to adulthood, “no” goes from a thrilling power play that is guaranteed to get a rise from adults to a surefire way to provoke conflict. Conflict, for many of us, is something to be avoided.
A skill of adulthood is learning to use “no” with the same amount of joy that you feel when you say “yes.” One of the crappy parts of the writing life is hearing “no” a lot, from agents and publishers and readers who review you on Amazon. In the past, I’ve let those “no’s” shut me down. It’s only years later that I realize how far I could have gone if I had said, in the immortal words of Ariana Grande, “Thank you, next!” I think that being someone who hates saying “no” made me take the “no’s” I received far too seriously. I should have lightheartedly let those rejections roll off of me and continue on my merry way, writing the next thing that came to me. But a lot of the time, I let the no’s paralyze and silence me. To that, I now say NO.
When friend Clara texted me to ask if I would buy her a plane ticket to Italy, you can read my initial avoidance of “no” in an effort to make sure Clara doesn’t get upset with me. Instead, I tried to make a joke out of her question by saying “OMG not again!!.” Only when Clara prods me do I manage to spit out a “no.” And even though I knew I was supposed to say no, I still felt bad doing it!