Friday, February 22, 2013

Just Say No!

by Mindy McGinnis

From a young age we're taught a very simple phrase- Just Say No.

Don't be afraid to reject drugs. Stand up for yourself. Make it clear you're not interested. Walk away. But it seems that if you continue to apply this lesson to innocuous solicitations as you get older, you risk social alienation.

What am I talking about?

Random Kind Person: How would you like to be on The Something That Really Matters A Lot Committee this year?
Mindy: No.

Someone With No Time Constraints: We'd love to have you in the Collection of Various Sorts of Folks, we meet right after school, so surely you could come, right?
Mindy: No.

Really Cool Book-Type Person: I'm starting an adult book club, would you be interested?
Mindy: No

When you read the above statements, I kinda come off like a bitch, don't I? And while that's a debatable point, what it comes down to is that there are only so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, days in the week, weeks in the month, and months in the year. I've got time constraints like a sassy nun's got a chastity belt, and adding more shit to the shinola in order to make nice doesn't fit into my worldview.

I started out trying to say it nicely, and be polite, the way my German momma wants me to.

Mindy: Well, that doesn't really work for me. Wednesday nights I have a knitting class. 
Gleeful Response: Oh but that's OK! We can move to Tuesdays or, meet in the mornings even!

Mindy: I'm not sure. I'm awfully busy right now.
Cheery Smile: Oh it's not all that time consuming, half hour meetings at the most!

I've even tried honesty:

Mindy: I don't think I can. See, I'm a writer, and I need that time to write.
Oblivious: You can just bring your paper and pencil with you, and write during the presentations!

So, I let my Irish side have a go and I went with the concise, slightly rude, you-can't-explain-me-away answer that those anti-drug assemblies taught me years ago: No.

While our amazing e-friendships and networking reminds us that we are not alone in our journey towards authorship, the fact remains that the act of writing is a solitary endeavor. We need our time, we need our space, we need to get into the groove and hit our stride to make the words start flowing. 

So don't be afraid that you won't be invited to the next Nice People Gathering or Coalition of Really Useful People. Stick to your guns, write your books.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins September 9, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the ThirteenersFrom the Write AngleThe Class of 2k13The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on TwitterTumblr & Facebook.


  1. I have learnt to say no when I need the extra precious minutes to scribble, I have even learnt to say no when my kids ask for money, if only I could say no to that last glass of red after a very long week! Love the post! x

  2. A timely reminder. I find the more regular my writing schedule becomes the more jealously I guard it but "no" is necessary to get it regular in the first place!

  3. Great post! I still feel guilty when I say no, because people don't get it.

  4. Was just struggling with this today. Acquaintance would like me to help her with her resume & said:
    "Since you are not working"
    "Since you have plenty of time"
    "Since you are a writer you will be good at it and it won't take you any time at all"

  5. Super awesome post! "While our amazing e-friendships and networking reminds us that we are not alone in our journey towards authorship, the fact remains that the act of writing is a solitary endeavor.." - Best line of the day :)

  6. Great post! Have put myself into a 6 month hibernation - saying 'No' to everything - and how freeing that is! Your post is the affirmation that I'm not being anti-social or crazy :-)

  7. Barbara, Ellen, Sophie, Priscille - Thank you!

    Shelley - Don't feel guilty about that glass of red wine either. Anti-oxidants!!

  8. Rhiannon - yeah there's always someone out there who thinks that your talents are available to be farmed out at request. Send her a template from Word and tell her to knock herself out :)

  9. Ifeo- awww, I appreciate that! Thanks for reading.

  10. Kim - you're not crazy, you're goal oriented. Go for it!