My word for 2012 is “No”. And I mean it this time.

My regular readers know that over the last few years I’ve tossed around several ideas for books. More than several. I still think they’re all great but my problem has always come when it’s time to sit down and actually write.

I often feel like I need someone to help me get me started, tell me what to work on next. Or at least give me a kick in the pants. But when you’re a writer, there is no one to do that, because you’re the writer. If what you want to write about doesn’t make you frantic to sit down and get the ideas out – or you are frantic to get the ideas out but can’t seem to figure out how to do it in a way that makes sense –  maybe the book isn’t ready yet.

Or maybe there’s something else going on.

Lately, I’ve been kicking around an idea for a book. A good idea, a timely idea, an idea that would allow me to write about something that interests me a lot. And – knock on wood! – the ideas are coming out in a fairly sensible way. I’m excited.

The problem is that, much like every other time I think I’m on the right track, something happens to bar the way. It often comes in the form of other people – people in crisis, people who drop into my life to suck the life out of me, people who demand my time and energy and creativity. And in the past, I’ve always acquiesced to their needs, taking myself off my own path in order to quiet their chaos that I’ve allowed to descend into my life.

Sometimes it’s people with seemingly simple needs, who pretend they can’t figure it out on their own, and I drop everything to show them how to … let’s say find the ketchup or check their email … because for them it’s a crisis, when if they just took five minutes they’d figure out the answer on their own. But they make it such a big production it’s easier to just do it for them and end the stress.

It feels so much like pyschological manipulation; I recognize it, and yet I fall for it every time.

Or I begin to feel positive and the world seems calm and full of potential. Then out of the blue someone I haven’t spoken to in months or even years drops in to gloat and boast, and my fears of failure sneak back in to remind me that I’m not really that great of a writer anyway, my idea was doomed for failure, maybe it’s better to just curl up on the couch and watch a movie. Because I was afraid to move forward anyway, and the gremlins in my brain only needed to raise a small counter attack for me to raise the white flag of surrender.

Or the phone rings non stop with people complaining, arguing, accusing, and the days become filled with problems not created by me but left for me to clean up. It’s almost like clockwork. Whenever I’m ready to move forward, it starts, like a spiritual test or just someone trying to screw with me mentally.

And it’s started again.

I’m not going to take it anymore. This time, this year, I’ve made a vow not to let toxic people or situations steal my bliss, so to speak.

Of course, that means that those people who would normally get first dibs on my time and energy, or who drop in to stir the pot and get a reaction, aren’t happy. The roadblocks become louder and more persistent.

What I’m realizing is that allowing (or even instigating) change in my life means change for other people – people who have spent years (and decades) doing what they want or need, knowing I won’t rock the boat because I’m too afraid to pursue my own plans or dreams anyway; people who seem to thrive on speaking support with their mouths and pulling me back with their actions; people who for years came to me for help or support and offering the same in return, only to walk away when they got what they wanted, leaving me drained spiritually, creatively, emotionally, physically. 

My new word for 2012 is “No.” And I mean it. (Well, it’s actually “Yes” to things in  my life, which often means “No” to other people. But I still mean it.) And it feels good.

I’ve had to set boundaries and stick to them. I shut off the phone, turn off the laptop, and refuse to be sucked in. When I’m having a conversation with someone who is angry or upset with a situation at work or in their own personal lives and are waiting for me to say something that they can jump on in order to point a finger in my direction and deflect their own problems onto me, I simply say, “I’m sorry” – I’m sorry you had a bad day, I’m sorry you feel that way, I’m sorry you’re disappointed, I’m sorry I’m disappointing, I’m sorry I can’t or won’t give you what you want.

And while I may or may not have an opinion on the subject at hand, I realize more and more that it’s not my place to comment, because this isn’t a two-sided conversation and no one really wants to hear what I think. It’s a one-sided search for an argument and I won’t be pulled in again.


As a Christian, I believe a lot of it is spiritual. So if you’re a praying person, I’d appreciate prayers. There are a lot of things in my life right now, legitimate things that need attention, things that in the past would derail my writing. Please pray that I can address those issues without allowing them to be excuses not to write. Pray that I can set boundaries and stick to them. Pray that I can be objectively critical of my work as I strive to make it better without becoming critical of myself; for creative people, their work is intimately interwined with their self image and that’s been a major problem for me. Pray that I can be compassionate and open minded and kind, and that I can put other people’s needs first without letting them consume me, as I have in the past. Pray that I can see my own faults and take responsiblity for my part in the battles.

As always, thanks for your support.

12 responses to “My word for 2012 is “No”. And I mean it this time.

  1. Pingback: I’ll never be a leader in my generation. I’m not even a leader in my dog pack. | Notes From The Funny Farm

  2. Joanne! I’m reposting this right now on my Facebook page (RASJacobson’s “Lessons from Teachers & Twits”) And I hope you are writing. It’s a job, baby. Gotta do it.

  3. “It feels so much like pyschological manipulation; I recognize it, and yet I fall for it every time.” Absolutely LOVE that sentence!!!

    It’s absolutely fine to say NO and most certainly essential to set boundaries.

    It’s like what they announce on an airplane, “take the oxygen first, so that you can tend to those around you.” Loved your post; received it through Renee…. isn’t she great?!?!?! So glad that she shared your blog; I look forward to reading more. Good luck! Prayers up!

  4. So glad RSJ shared your post. Saying no is hard and if you are usually saying yes, it feels like you are not being true to others but the reality is you get to be true to you and do what you need and sometimes that just means everyone else has to wait or they need to go somewhere else and you can do what you need to do!

  5. “this isn’t a two-sided conversation and no one really wants to hear what I think. It’s a one-sided search for an argument and I won’t be pulled in again.” OMG, can I relate to This! Why do people do this? Brilliant insights! I’m a friend of Amy Mable’s and saw this on her FB page. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi – this is Wendy L’s husband. She suggested I red this and I’m so glad I did! I’m taking back my time now, too.

    • Super!! Giving myself permission to say no to toxic people and situations has changed my life. That one word is incredibly empowering. I hope it has the same effect for you! 🙂

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