In the beginning of my writing career, it was a given that I’d say “Absolutely” or “Yes” to almost anything asked of me—oftentimes watching others reaping the benefits or, even worse, finding out that the heartfelt energy I’d put into the “Yes,” was seen as either trivial, just the way it is in our line of work, or unacknowledged completely.
And the most devastating—but necessary—epiphany was that part of my internal push to say “Yes” and be the “Yes” person was based on my personal experiences with systemic patriarchy, institutional racism, and self imposed scarcity-phobia.
(If you are shaking your head “No!” I can’t wait to see you in class!)
After taking some time to reflect and chat with other writers, particularly marginalized writers, writers of color, women-identified writers, black writers, writers over the age of 35, and creative types in general, I realized I wasn’t alone.
There isn’t a tidy answer or prescription to the process of evaluating and re-evaluating whether or not you are saying “Yes” too much, but there are certainly ways to take inventory and write about it.
Here’s an exercise for someone in the beginning stages of the glamorous refusal of No:
- Make a list of five things you’ve said “Yes” to this month that you were not jazzed about the least bit.
- Make a list of five things you’ve said “Yes” to this month that you absolutely know beyond a shadow of doubt you wanted to say “No” to.
- In which part of your body do you feel the most discomfort when you think about the things you said “Yes” to that you didn’t want to say yes to?
- In what part of your body do you feel the most power when you say “No”?
- Sit with your eyes closed and say to yourself:
“I give myself permission to say ‘No’ moving forward to the following things: 1. _______ 2. ________ 3. ________”
If you want to learn more about saying No—how to do it and why it will benefit your life—sign up for my six-session class, NO! Writing and Practicing the Art of Refusal, beginning Wednesday, July 17, 2019.
Anastacia-Renée is a multi-genre writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. She is the recipient of the 2018 James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award for Washington artists, and has served as the 2017–2019 Seattle Civic Poet and the 2015–2017 poet-in-residence at Hugo House. She is the author of five books: Forget It (Black Radish Books), (v.) (Black Ocean), 26 (Dancing Girl Press), Kiss Me Doll Face (Gramma Press), and Answer(Me) (Winged City Chapbooks, Argus Press) and has received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Artist Trust, Jack Straw, and others. Her writing has appeared in a TEDx talk; the anthologies Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism, Sinister Wisdom: Black Lesbians—We Are the Revolution, and Revise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks; and Ms., Painted Bride Quarterly, Crab Creek Review, Seattle Review, Duende, Poetry Northwest, Synesthesia, The Magazine of Glamorous Refusal, and many more. She teaches poetry and multi-genre workshops at Hugo House, libraries, universities, and high schools.