It’s Okay to Say “I Can’t”

I started doing what will hopefully become regular creative freelance work last week.  When I first picked up what I’m working on, the shop owner said “see you in two weeks” and I told her that I wanted to try to get them done in one week and set a time to meet with her.  I had high hopes of having a fast turn around and bringing in oodles of cash to put towards savings and towards the business.

But as it turned out, I couldn’t do the job in one week.  I mean, I could have, if I had been willing to do a few all-nighters, but I couldn’t bring myself to wreak havoc on my system like that anymore.  It’s just not worth the stress.  And I was stressing.  I had this huge ball of it sitting on me.  I was stressing about the quality of my work.  I was stressing about my tools not working properly.  And I was stressing big time about not finishing the work in my self-imposed deadline.  I felt this intense pressure to perform, and I almost cracked beneath it.

I emailed the shop owner yesterday and told her that I do need the extra week.  And immediately, a lot of the stress lifted.  Over the next couple of months, as I gain confidence and get faster at my work, perhaps I can build up to a weekly turn around time, but if not, then that’s okay.

The trick to staying sane while trying to juggle many projects is being honest with yourself about what you can do, being kind to yourself when you need a break, and prioritizing your deadlines (whether they be actual deadlines from a client or self-imposed ones).  It’s like yoga, and you need to accept the present state of your body-mind.  There’s a time and a place for killing yourself over a project, but it shouldn’t be on a regular, weekly basis.  Life’s too short for that kind of stress.

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15 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Say “I Can’t”

  1. Hey Kat, I just started a guest blog blog and I wondered if you’d be interested in being one of my first guinea pigs? It doesn’t mean you have to write something fresh, all it means is that you pull something great from your archives and let me post it there. I’m hoping to have this great place to find blogs and to help bloggers find readers. What do you think? Talk about taking on too much, right?! For me too! haha. I just can’t say no sometimes to my own ideas! haha. You can find it on my page, it’s called Blog Roulette. Thanks!

  2. I finished writing a 20k story, handed it over to my wife and she didn’t like it. It wasn’t up to snuff as my usual works. The problem with my writing this time was I tried writing something I’m just not into, and it really reflected in my work. So yes, I tapped out lol. But I also learned a lot from this experience and developed a new writing voice style, so it wasn’t all for naught =)

    • Maybe it’s something that can be polished to be up to your usual standards? I think that’s important to remember, though, that we SHOULD be trying new things in our creative work, but when we first try, it’s not going to be quality right away. If a classical pianist got it into his head to start trying to improvise jazz, it probably wouldn’t sound very good. If a sculpture decided to pick up a paintbrush and paint for the first time, it wouldn’t be the same quality as his sculptures. But the experiment is still important.

  3. This is such a hard lesson to learn, isn’t it? I have been working on not over scheduling and over tasking myself to death, and yet saying, no, or not now is still one of the most difficult things for me to do. Great post.

    • I know that I hold myself to impossibly high standards. I’m better than I used to be, but my inner perfectionist always lies in wait to slip in and make itself known. I sometimes wonder where that desire to be everything to everybody comes from.

      • I would have to agree. I do the same thing, and then I wonder, If I took a day off, would anyone really care? Yep. I would.

  4. Hi Kat….I always set a deadline that gives me room for manoeuvre….and at the same time try to deliver before hand by having a target date in mind which is at least 2-3 days before the scheduled date…helps me ensure that the work gets done in time and keeps the client happy !

    • That’s a good way to do it! My husband always jokes that every time I say I’ll be done by a certain time, he has to add two hours. If it’s a multi-step job, that’s a lot of additional hours! I’ll have to start thinking about padding myself with extra days.

  5. Isn’t it the thing though – it’s hard to say ‘no’ and we all want to deliver so that we are loved and appreciated. I commend you for taking the decision to back off and look after yourself – you absolutely did the right thing and I bet the shop owner doesn’t mind one bit. A lesson to us all and I know lots of people who wouldn’t have had the courage to do that and just worked themselves into the ground. 🙂

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