I had a powerful reminder about the importance of saying no not to long ago. I do a lot of freelance writing and ghostwriting in addition to writing “my” books. Some of these projects have my name on them, some of them don’t. Some pay a royalty, and some don’t. I’d rather be writing these books than working in the corporate world, but my income can be unpredictable. There can also be uncomfortably long gaps between assignments. And that’s when I get into trouble.
An educational publisher – actually a vendor working for an educational publisher – was putting together a new line of hi/lo readers. I was in one of those uncomfortable dry spells, and they were looking for authors for lots of books. I said yes. I should have said no. The pay wasn’t high enough, there were too many moving parts (multiple stories, multiple authors, too many cooks in the kitchen at the vendor/publisher), and the dates kept shifting. Of course, right after I signed on to write two novels for them, I got a much more lucrative and more interesting offer from a trade publisher.
I was able to use their shifting dates as an excuse to leave the project (and happily they were gracious) and take on the book I wanted to write. But first I went through quite a bit of angst. I had never quit a freelance job before, and I didn’t want to appear like a flake. But it was a relief when it was all over.
And the thing is, I knew from the beginning that I should say no. A few years ago I put together a list of four freelance “musts” – things I absolutely had to have in order to take a job on. Then I added a list of four “very importants” – things that weren’t essential but would go a long way to tipping the scale. That educational publisher job had only one of my musts and none of my very importants. The only thing it had going for it was a much too low paycheck.
So I am reminded again not to say yes just because someone asks. Saying no can be much more powerful, and make room for better, more interesting work to come my way.