On saying "no": creativity, self-care, privilege, and knowing your limits

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2015/10/20/on-saying-no-creativity.html

They’re all great, but that last one is priceless!

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One time as a kid I wrote to Reagan about something or other. I got a form letter and a photo. I thought I was ceasar himself :smiley:

But seriously @doctorow, if you ever want to do some gentle, mind blowing trolling, pop over to Questions and just ask, “What the fucking hell!?”

On the other hand, that’s probably a bad idea, and something you should say No to.


Say nothing.

Put it in your backlog…if it dwells upon you, think about it.

Think about it some more and, should you become possessed by such a fancy, answer it fully, wholly, to the best of your ability.

Or leave it at nothing.

My dad wrote Alan Alda during his early days on MAS*H once, and got a handwritten letter in return. I’d say that was a very decent thing to do.


I just stick to NO.

In reality, I rarely say no, but but I do make it clear where they stand in my queue.


My brothers were both printers in the 70s and they often printed gag business cards. A favorite of mine had this message : Your criticism has been duly noted. Now fuck off and quit bothering me.


Before the Simpsons existed, Matt Groening wrote goofy comic strip books. I bought Life In Hell and in the front there was a “Lolita fan club” address. I wrote in saying hey great book. Yes, actual snail mail. Matt Groening wrote me back. A handwritten “Hey kid! Thanks!” letter. It was awesome. I have no idea where that letter is. Probably trashed years ago.

Maybe answer a hey kid every once in a while. Don’t need to answer em all but one every few months or so. Why people are asking you to do stuff for them is beyond me. Fuck em. But hey kid!!! That’s different. Just smile and wave, send em something funny.


It’s probably best to put up a grumpy message on your website, telling potential correspondents what you’re not going to do (including doing homework for kids who aren’t related to you, reading manuscripts, or endorsing products); put the “No” up front, then you can decide when to be generous and feel good about it.


You have to earn the right to be a Professional artist with all the skills and experience that goes with it. Once you achieve that, you can call your own shots!

How do you say no?

I’m not in that privileged position professionally where I ever want to say no (let alone even getting asked). But, I have encountered a lot of people with professional stature who, instead of saying “no,” say “yes” when they don’t really want to, or really shouldn’t. Great! Plans get made, money gets allocated, but then, damn! He/she backed out! Arrrgh!

In sum: Instead of saying yes, then no later, please find a way to say no in the first place. Or else, stick to your yesses.


Reminds me of Thomas F. Wilson’s delightful answer card he gives to people who approach him with lots of BTTF questions.


This is a real problem in many fields, especially encouraged when dealing with customers. I’m kind of lucky because my customers are within the company but I’m quite often called arrogant and rude because I say “no” instead of “yes but”.


I’m more of a “yeah, no, I mean…hm” kind of person.

How about I learn to say, “No” so I’m not constantly overworked and stressed out due to saying “Yes” when people ask me for help?

And how about me asking for help instead of fearing the unknown answer?

Yeah, I need to work on those, lol.


That is a great card.

Science is the same. Saying No is an art form.

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