Saying No

image by Wayne White

“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.” 

 –Steve Jobs BusinessWeek Online, Oct. 12, 2004

This one’s going to be short as I’ve got a draft and a couple revisions going this week. Yet, sadly I’m not even saying NO to my weekly blog, but neither am I saying YES. I guess in my half assery I should more accurately title this one “Saying Maybe.”

I have always been interested in just about everything. I love embarking on that long, gently sloping learning curve of a new craft/foreign language/art form/scientific discovery — I could go on. I truly enjoy being a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. This unbiased curiosity is well suited to the writing life where half the fun is imagining characters, their loves, their jobs, and the worlds they live in.

But it’s dangerous when combined with the ubiquitous encouragement that many of us have heard, also known as “The American Dream.” It goes like this: “You can be anything you want to be.” Great, right? What a world we live in. And we do, and you can, but you have to understand about “anything” because that kind of freedom can be a real albatross around your neck. I think it would be better to say, “You can be any ONE thing you want to be.”

Okay maybe two. I think I can say that I can be both a mom and a writer. And it’s my daughters who can take the credit for helping me figure this one out. When you first have a baby they take pretty close to ALL your time away. And while children are amazing, and the time freely given, it’s hard. Saying yes to my girls means showing up as a parent. Being there for them. And with every step towards independence they take, I get another ten minutes back to do ANYTHING with. This time I’m on to you “anything,” and the one thing I choose to do is to write. So, no to the half knitted second sock, no to learning Russian, no to yoga (though yes to commuting on my bike).

In the end, of course, it’s more complicated than just saying no. It’s a constant balancing act, a dance with yes, maybe and later, but that’s a post for another day.

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