Just Say No: When It’s Time to Give Up A Writing Gig
Was she overreacting? Being unprofessional? Had she turned into some kind of writing diva? Basically, she wondered if the editor’s demands were unreasonable or was she the unreasonable one? She’d come to the old “Is it worth it?” fork in the road to publication.
It’s never easy, the “Is it Worth it?” impasse. In the beginning of a writing career, the idea of turning down a project because it’s not worth the time or money is…well, it’s unthinkable. Plenty of writers would give anything to snag a paying gig, and so, more often than not, the newbie writer puts up with the headaches and hassles.
But then comes experience. And with experience, a writer can afford to say no to those projects that aren’t worth it. And yet, it’s still stinkin’ hard to say no, isn’t it? Maybe it’s because we remember all too well the dry periods when we had no work. Or maybe it’s because we have friends still struggling to get gigs and we feel bad, turning down a job when they’re chomping at the bit for work. Or maybe it’s just all those writer insecurities we love to embrace.
I’m not sure why saying no is so difficult for us. But I have a couple of strategies that I use when I’m having a hard time, trying to decide whether a gig’s worth it (or walking away from a gig that’s become way too demanding). No matter where you are in your career, these strategies can help you, too:
1. Talk it out with a writer friend. Sometimes, we’re over-stressed and overworked and we really are overreacting. But we’re caught in the middle of the firestorm. Grab a friend and have a lunch, or a nice long phone call, or even a couple of ranting emails. Get a fresh perspective (and a second opinion).
2. Give yourself a day to thoughtfully consider options. Take a deep breath for twenty-four hours and do something else. When you come back to the situation, you’ll see things more clearly.
3. Ask “Is it worth it?” Yes, I know that sounds a bit simplistic, but there’s really a lot that goes into that question. Is the gig moving your career forward? Or is it just for the money? Is the money worth the work involved? Do you enjoy that kind of writing? Or is the project sucking the soul out of you? Can you see any positives with the gig or just a whole bunch of negatives?
4. Once the decision is made, do you feel good about it? Again, I know it sounds obvious, but if you feel relieved and you can finally sleep, you’ve made a good decision. If you’re still stressed and want to throw darts at somebody’s picture, then you do not feel good about the decision you made. Try again.
Yes, writing is a great job, and the idea that someone will pay you to do what you love is awesome! But sometimes, the job is simply not worth the payout. And it’s okay to just say no.
(And just for the record, my friend walked away from that gig. And she’s a much happier writer now!)
~Cathy C. Hall