A Freelance Guide to Saying “No”

Maintaining boundaries around things we love is a different kind of difficult to when it’s other people’s time, or money, or love, we’re protecting. 

The chat at the end of yesterday’s Writing Room included us congratulating a writer on saying a significant “No”. 

Some writing work had come in for them during their two hours they’d put aside for doing their own writing, here in the Writing Room (if you haven’t joined us before, it’s a free silent space for writing, or co-working of any kind, unmuting for a chat at the end. Join us any Monday morning). 

The “no” in question was the best kind of “no” when it comes to boundaries around things we do, actually, want in our lives. 

‘Sure,’ the “no” went. ‘I’ll be on it after 1pm” which is when the Writing Room ends.

I’m not the only writer and/or freelancer in that Writing Room who recognised and celebrated that victory. Victories of self-esteem and free will, of noticing our choices exist and making them actively, are the core of being a good line manager to ourselves. 

And it can be bloody hard. 

Maintaining boundaries around things we love is a different kind of difficult to when it’s other people’s time, or money, or love, we’re protecting. If we’ve booked time with a friend, or for work, it’s easier to recognise our own unavailability. But writing time is a contract with ourselves. Sure, emergencies may come along. But what we accept from ourselves as “reasons” not to show up for our writing are always worth checking in with.

Am I being a supportive boss to myself right now? Or am I taking myself for granted?

The Writing Too conversation went on to what happens “when” someone comes into the room we’re writing in and starts talking to us. I remember being on both sides of this, and how surprised I was many years ago when a family member snapped at me, apparently (to me at least) out of nowhere when I thought I’d just been being friendly. It was being on the other side of that which helped me realise a boundary-pusher isn’t a boundary pusher if they don’t know the boundary is there. 

Another example I hear from time to time is “Oh yes, I reinforced the boundary… but then they were so insistent…” 

A wall isn’t a wall because somebody else acknowledges it. It exists independently of their acknowledgement – or lack of acknowledgement.

That’s why I’m sharing this, because most or all of us are on at least one side of it any given day:

Our next workshop is Feedback: How To Give It, How To Take It: Wednesday 12 June at 1pm.

Or, join us Friday evening to start the weekend with Cocktails & Creativity, 6.30pm-8pm.

The Writing Room returns next Monday, 11am-1pm.

Listen to The Writers’ Gym podcast with Rachel Knightley, Emily Inkpen and Chris Gregory on AppleSpotify or any of your favourite platforms. Next new episode, Relationships in Fiction, airs tomorrow morning.