I love what I do.
I love writing. I love coming up with new ideas to write. I love helping other people put their ideas into words and then into action.
This is why I struggle with one of the shorter words in the English language: No.
Hello, my name is Randy, and I am addicted to new projects.
There was a time when my inability to tell people no stemmed from my fear of letting them down. Or more accurately, my fear of them never asking again and my value as a person being reduced to zero.
Not so now, luckily. Now, I find my value internally. I am, therefore I have value.
Interestingly, though, I still struggle to say no. But now, it’s a curse of enthusiasm and confidence, now fear and self-loathing.
And to complicate things further, that same enthusiasm and confidence attracts people who are more timid in one or both. People with ideas but lack voice, or with voice but lack means.
I am glad that they see me as a vector through which to explore and advance their visions. At the same time, I have to remember that my bandwidth is limited. It is less the hours in a day and more the daily ration of creative energy that limits me.
(BTW, this is why I don’t upbraid myself for spending hours on the computer or playing Solitaire. That is my period of recharge.)
At some point, I have to limit my involvement in others’ works. I have to save enough space for my paying gigs, lest I be hungry and homeless, and for my creative projects, lest I be frustrated and unhappy.
I have to say “No”.
You recently published a book and want to turn it into a screenplay? Great!
You’ve got an idea for a comedy sketch event? Fantastic!
I came up with another great concept for a movie? Congratulations! (Yes, even I drain my batteries.)
I’m not saying I won’t help, but don’t take it personally if I limit my involvement. It is not a reflection on you or your idea but rather on me and my limitations.
Today, I can work with you. Tomorrow, I may only be able to listen to you. The next day, I may not even be able to do that.
Oh, and I’ll do my best to recognize and respect those same boundaries in your life.
No doesn’t mean your idea sucks. No doesn’t mean I never want to work with you. No simply means I can’t, not right now, no matter how much I might want to. There are shades of No.
I can’t because I already have plenty on my plate. I can’t because I have to keep myself a priority. I can’t simply because I can’t.
But I wish you all the best in your efforts.
In a slightly unrelated brain fart, the concept of No reminded me of one of my favourite revelations from the movie Yellow Submarine, the animated Beatles film.
Early in the film, as the forces of evil are over-taking Pepperland, a ballistic glove called Glove chases people and smashes things with his giant fist, including the letters in the giant Technicolor word “KNOW”. First, he smashes the K to make the word “NOW”. He then smashes the W to make the word “NO”, which becomes black-and-white.
Late in the movie, when the Beatles—disguised as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—lead the people’s revolt to reclaim their land, the smashed letters reverse and become colour again.
What surprised me was that having watched the film at least a dozen times before, it wasn’t until late in my “adulthood” that I realized the message embedded within the two events.
Consider my mind blown!