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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?