A Gracious “No” and a Greater Glory

Do you have difficulty telling people “no” and setting good, healthy boundaries in order to stick to your writing schedule? I have to admit, sometimes I do. But in order to meet my current writing deadline, I have to be more diligent about protecting my time. I am a morning person, so my designated writing time is from eight in the morning to noon, four days a week.

Just after determining my weekly word count for the year and setting goals to meet my December deadline, some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile invited me to join them for a long lunch at one of our favorite restaurants.  I needed to say no. I stammered. I paused . . .  I caved. I went to lunch and thoroughly enjoyed catching up. However, as a result, I got behind and ended up spending Saturday at the office, missing family time, in order to stay on schedule.

I would venture to say, most Christian writers do what we do from a deep sense of mission. We feel “called” to write, and we want to glorify God with our work.  Jesus glorified God on earth by completing the work He was given to do (John 17:4). In order to complete His mission, Jesus had to stay focused, and there were times He had to say “no” to what appeared to be great opportunities.

One time, after teaching and performing miracles in the synagogue at Capernaum, word spread, and by evening the entire town gathered at Simon Peter’s house where Jesus “healed many” and “drove out many demons” (Mark 1:34). What happened next serves as a great example for those of us who need to stay focused and struggle to say “no.”

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’  Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (Mark 1:35-38 NIV).

Jesus said “no” because he needed to remain focused on his mission. If we want to complete the work God has given us to do, we also have to be willing to say “no” to wonderful, yet distracting opportunities.

So, I’d like to share a few tips I’ve found helpful in my effort to graciously say “no” and remain focused on my writing mission:

  1. Pray. Spend focused time in a solitary place, talking with your Father. Prayerfully plan your schedule; seek His guidance for your writing and the way you spend your time.  It is easier to say “no” without feeling guilty when you’ve prayed over your writing schedule.
  2. Protect your writing time. Set aside a specific time to write and schedule it in your calendar (or your phone) just as you would record a doctor’s appointment. When someone asks you about your availability, you can avoid facing a perplexed stare or wrinkled brow as you apologetically explain why you need to spend the time writing. Instead, you can simply say you are booked at that time.
  3. Present alternatives.  When an invitation interferes with your writing schedule, offer alternative times when you are available, or make an effort to arrange something at a later date. It’s easier to say “no” now when you are offering to say “yes” later.
  4. Plan some flexibility. Some interruptions are inevitable and necessary. There will be days when the urgent gains our attention. So, prepare for interruptions when you set your writing goals. For instance, my daughter graduates this May, and she will be going off to college in the fall. I’ve incorporated gaps in my writing calendar during the months of May and August. Plan some flexibility. Get ahead when you can. Catch up when you get behind.

What additional tips can you offer to help all of us graciously say “no” so we can stay focused and complete the great works God has placed upon our hearts to write for His glory?

20 Replies to “A Gracious “No” and a Greater Glory”

  1. Mindy, thank you for this great reminder. People have said to me–after they find out I’m a writer–“I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I can’t find the time.” Your post reminds us that we don’t “find” the time to write. We’ll never “find” the time. We “make” the time to write by building our schedule to inlcude dedicated writing time.

    1. So true, Henry. Writing requires a great deal of self discipline. Thank you for your comment.

  2. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to scheduling time, especially now that the gardens are defrosting and there is so much to be done out in the warm, spring sunshine. However, I find some of my best plot ideas come when on my knees, either in the garden or in prayer. The peace and quiet allows the Spirit to guide me, giving me inspiration for what to write.

    Thanks for the advice of how to stick to dedicated writing time. It seems simple, but I’m sure the execution is much more difficult.

    1. I agree, Ann. It should be simple, but spring fever gets the best of us. Thanks so much for your comment. I pray your time on your knees is fruitful – in the garden and in your writing.

  3. Excellent post on writing time. I have to be better at that, as so many things pull my attention away from writing. I have said “no” to some things, but others are harder, especially when they are family related. Guess if I were being true to writing, I might post fewer responses. Today I’m absolved for I’m sitting at Church answering phones so the secretary can do some of her other tasks. Can’t write here, so answering emails is good. Thanks for this post helping me to remember to prioritize.

  4. Great idea to write that scheduled writing time into your planner! Then you are officially “booked,” making it easier to say no. Good advice! We have to carve out that time or others will gobble it up and keep us from the ministry we’ve been given. Like E.B. White said: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.”

  5. I’m also a morning writer until around noon. I adhere to a strict daily page count so that I can have editing time (also booked in) before my deadlines. But I book plenty of “free days” for “other stuff” here and there. Knowing how many free days I have for a six month deadline makes me use them carefully for the important things like vacations, visitors, and emergencies. I avoid appointments in my writing time, mainly because no matter how good my intentions, I can’t write in the evenings. I think everybody knows their PWT (Peak Writing Time). My hats off to those who has a schedule that keeps them from writing during their most productive hours, but still produce wonderful stories.

    1. Thanks for your great insights, Dianne. I also admire those who are able to write well during off “peak” times. A remind that God’s grace is sufficient…

  6. Great post. I have had to learn to say no to keep my sanity! I once had a portrait painting business on the side years ago. Word-of-mouth caused my business to grow, but then the amount of work became overwhelming since I worked part time and my son was only two.

    I finally broke down and started telling people “no” thinking my business would stop. But it didn’t stop and I spared my sanity!

    Thanks for the reminder!

    1. I’m sure your son benefitted from your decision to say “no”. Thanks for sharing, Ruth.

  7. Dedicating time to writing is my biggest struggle, Mindy. Thanks for the reminders to hold firm to both a project and my own ability to say ‘no’ without guilt. John 17:4 is going to be my mantra for the next few months.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Jan. John 17:4 is one of my favorite verses. I’ll be quoting it along with you!

  8. Mindy, I enjoyed your post. When I have trouble saying “no,” it often means I need to say “yes” to what I should be doing instead. That helps give me clarity.

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