It seems like just yesterday when I was a young artist who said YES! to every opportunity that came my way. Being a writer is highly competitive, so I felt the need to pad my resume. Well, more accurately, to stuff it full of experience in an attempt to get ahead.
As always, my mother would be over my shoulder reminding me that I needed to think about myself. Taking on too many projects would make me over-stressed. I wouldn't have any time to rest. I would get tired.
She was right. But, young writer and all, I thought about myself. To succeed as a writer, I needed to work harder. And harder. And harder . . .
At roughly the same time, I was also reading a bunch of articles about the power of saying, "No." That people needed to learn how to say "no". That people needed to learn the power of saying "no" so they didn't stretch themselves too thin.
All the articles, all the people telling me to say "no" were telling me to do it for the sake of myself. It was "self care". It was something you needed to do to take care of yourself.
After reading these articles, saying "no" sounded kind of selfish.
It wasn't until I was directing a project that I realised saying "No" wasn't for the sake of myself, but for the sake of others, too.
If it was possible, the producer for this project was stretching herself even thinner than I was. I mean, I thought I took on too many projects at once. She . . . every second of her every day was theatre projects.
When she came to watch a rehearsal of our show, she was on her phone most of the time coordinating her many other projects. This producer was reachable but, when there was a problem, she didn't have the extra time to actually sit down and do her job as a producer.
I remember thinking, as a director working with her, that this wasn't fair to me. It wasn't fair to the actors, it wasn't fair to our entire team that our producer was so busy with other projects she didn't have the free time to actually give quality time to this project.
This experience was a game changer for me, and made me rethink the power of saying "No". That saying "no" isn't something you need to do just for yourself. It's also something you need to do for other people.
Thinking back to the projects I did while I was saying "yes" to everything, I realise that the work I was doing was sub par.
Since saying "no" to projects, I've been involved with less projects. But, the ones I am involved with, I can be fully invested in.
This is such an important thing.
I think young artists often think about padding their resume. But what they really need to think about is their reputation. The people you work with will respect you more, and think much better of you, if you only say "yes" to projects you can fully commit to. They'll be thankful you said "no" when you did, even if they hoped to work with you.
Why? Because every time you say "yes", they can trust that means 100% YES!
Quality over quantity and all.
So, to all the young artists out there: don't think about the "power of no" as a selfish endeavour. Who think they can stretch themselves as thin as possible and still get everything done: consider saying "no" for the people who work with you.