The Art of Saying No
A few weeks ago, I was on Facebook when I ran across a post by author Jonna Ivin:
“I have a great idea for a book. You should write it and we'll split the profits!”
Her response: “Really? I have a great idea for an amusement park! You should build it and we'll split the profits.”
I got a good laugh out of that, and it really got me thinking about all the writerly things that people have asked me to do over the years:
Oooh, you know how to write screenplays? I have an idea for a movie! Translation: I’ll tell you my nebulous idea and you’ll mold it into something decipherable, we’ll sell the script, and I’ll get half for doing nothing and constantly asking, “So when do we call Stephen Spielberg?”
Can you check this document for spelling and grammar errors for me? Translation: I use commas like they’re going out of style. Can you fix this mess of a letter for me? I don’t want people to know that I have commasplice-itis. Help!
I need your help with a job cover letter. Translation: Every time I apply for a job, the HR person calls and tells me that “awesometastic” isn't a word. I need your good time, energy, and creativity to mold this into something that uses words from an actual dictionary.
Oooh! You’re a writer! You can help me write a grant!
Oooh! You’re a writer! You can help me write my newsletter!
Oooh! You’re a writer! I can totally exhaust you to the point where you have absolutely no more creativity left for yourself and to sweeten the pot, guess how much I’m going to pay you? Absolutely nothing! Woo-hoo! It’s a win-win!
I used to acquiesce to every request, afraid of appearing like a mean girl for telling people no, then something happened a few years ago that changed that. Someone asked me to author a screenplay for a film challenge. At the time, I was also doing developmental editing on the side, working full time, and writing the first draft to what turned out to be my first published novel. I said yes, participated in the film challenge, and was so worn out and creatively backed up at the end of that process that I became a sour little ninny.
I decided right then and there that in order to save my sanity, I needed to keep the majority of my creative energy for my own projects. I used to feel like I had to explain myself after telling somebody no: “You see, what had happened was, I need to finish my novel because my characters are starting to get impatient and are threatening to do mutiny, so no, I won’t be able to write that 10 page grant for you that you need tomorrow and only told me about 5 minutes ago.”
I started to just say, “You know, I can’t do that for you right now but I’d be happy to take a look at it when I get the chance,” and you know what happened? Nothing! No one demanded any explanations from me and it dawned on me that I had done it to myself. In the words of the great Dr. Phil: you have to teach people how to treat you.
Do people still ask me to do writerly stuff? Sure they do. Do I always oblige? Nope. And you know why? There’s a little adage that all writers should live by: the only way to write a novel is to actually write a novel. And sometimes, in order to make that happen, you have to actually write. And in order to write, you need a ton of creative energy, and you won’t have that energy for your novel if you’re spending it in other places.
What about others? Do people ask you to do things that drain your creative energy? How do you handle it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Title: The New Mrs. Collins
Author: Quanie Miller
Release Date: October 13, 2014
Being left at the altar is bad enough, but Leena and her ex share custody of their son, so she has to see the new Mrs. Collins on a regular basis.
And it burns every time she does.
But soon, Leena starts to suspect that there is more to Adira Collins than meets the eye. And it’s not because she owns some kinky lingerie shop or allegedly insulted the pastor’s wife—it’s the strange way she can make a door close without touching it, or take one look at something and make it drop dead at her feet.
Leena starts digging for answers and soon discovers that, unlike her public persona, Adira’s true nature is somewhere on the other side of grace. She also learns, a little too late, that some secrets are better left buried.
She was on her knees in the back yard when she heard the unmistakable sound of Johnny’s truck pulling into the driveway. She turned her head slightly to the right and got up just as calmly as Ronetha Powell had done the night she put a bullet in her husband’s head. She had done it so calmly. Walked in there while he was watching Wheel of Fortune, put the gun to his head, fired, put the gun down, and then went to Wednesday night revival and sang “Somebody Prayed for Me” with such vigor that the visiting pastor singled her out and shouted, “Woman of God! You are blessed!”
It was two days before they found Mr. Powell. Before that, Ronetha had merely stepped over him like he was a bunched up rug that she didn’t feel like straightening out again. She was taking her meatloaf out of the oven when they surrounded her house. When Leena saw Ronetha on the front page of the Carolville Daily, being taken away in handcuffs, she thought to herself that Ronetha looked as serene as a river on Sunday morning. In some odd way, Leena felt the same thing. Serenity. It washed over her as she quietly opened the door and tiptoed through the ice cold house, which, for some reason, was blanketed in shades of yellow. She heard movement upstairs and knew that Johnny was in the bedroom. She walked to the kitchen and set a pot of water on to boil.
She walked slowly up the carpeted stairwell thinking that she should have changed that beige carpet long ago. When she got to the bedroom and saw Johnny — putting a picture of them face down on the nightstand — the shades of yellow that had intruded upon her vision turned stark raving red. Still clutching the letter in her right hand she cocked her arm back and hit that son of a bitch for all he was worth.
Quanie Miller grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana. She fell in love with reading at an early age and spent most of her time at the Iberia Parish Library discovering authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike (she was often found walking back home from the library with a stack of books that went up to her chin). She holds degrees from Louisiana State University and San Jose State University. She has been the recipient of the James Phelan Literary Award, the Louis King Thore Scholarship, the BEA Student Scriptwriting Award, and the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize. She is the author of The New Mrs. Collins, a southern paranormal novel, and It Ain't Easy Being Jazzy, a romantic comedy. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and is currently, as always, working on another novel. To find out more about Quanie and her works in progress visit quanietalkswriting.com.
Book Purchase Links
Amazon (US) http://www.amazon.com/New-Mrs-Collins-Quanie-Miller-ebook/dp/B00OAC362I
Amazon (UK) http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Mrs-Collins-Quanie-Miller-ebook/dp/B00OAC362I
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