the trouble with saying no

The Internet-Free Summer Vacation

by Susan Henderson on June 15, 2011

So I got a big talking-to from a couple of the people who care about me the most. The gist of it: I take on too much at the expense of my own work and family. There are only so many hours in the day.

Say a writer is supposed to meet a deadline and that requires focused work as well as tons of in-depth research. And let’s say that that writer’s kids are growing up before her eyes, and she wants badly to spend all of her free time enjoying the summer with them.

The problem? It’s saying those are the priorities but spending time interviewing authors, reviewing newly published books, blurbing galleys, trying to read and promote everything her friends write, and basically saying yes to things that can only happen if she pulls time from her family and gives up on the idea of making her deadline.

You know I’m talking about uncomfortable stuff when I start writing in the third person.

I’m learning to say no to requests from other writers and publicists and publishers, but it fills me with stress, and saying no takes more time and headspace than you think. Imagine you get twenty, fifty, one hundred such requests a week… that’s a lot of delicate, guilt-ridden conversations with people who are disappointed in you!

And so the radical solution is that one of those people who cares about me the most plans to take custody of my laptop for the summer and will keep it safely locked in a drawer at his office. All writing will be done by hand or by typewriter. There will be no email, no FaceBook, no Twitter, no blog.

But there will be a birthday party for the now-14-year-old, there will be a music tour for the 15-year-old, there will be a trip to Africa, there will be barbecues, there will be teenagers playing music in the basement, there will be dogs chasing after balls, there will be weeding in the garden, and there will be walks in the evening when the weather has cooled.

The more I think of unplugging, the more I love the idea. Maybe some of you will decide to do the same. Until then, I wish you all the very best of summers with family and friends and the pursuit of your passions. And I look forward to catching up with everyone once my kids are back in school this fall. xo

P.S. If you’re in Brooklyn Wednesday, *July 6th* (correction!) at 7pm, I’ll be reading for theĀ LargeHearted Boy Reading SeriesĀ at WORD bookstore with the amazing Caroline Leavitt. I would be thrilled to see you there!

P.P.S. Many thanks to Suzanne Beecher for featuring my book at Dear Reader. I am beyond honored to be included.

And with that, I am closing the laptop and unplugging.