Start Saying Yes

Turning down opportunities is easy, but embracing them can open up more and help writers grow.

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Opportunities can come up at any time, whether expected or not. For writers, these will regularly involve writing, albeit not necessarily according to what we would usually pursue.

It is easy to turn down offers to write: too busy, too much going on, not enough time, other commitments. At times, these are legitimate excuses. Often, however, these will be easy get-out-clauses to prevent us leaving our comfort zones and trying something new. Fear of failure, or of the unknown, can be crippling. Instead of listening to it, sometimes it is worth just saying yes.

In his 2005 memoir Yes Man, Danny Wallace said yes to everything for a year. Much like Luke Rhinehart’s The Dice Man—in which a character lets chance decide his every move—Wallace gave himself wholeheartedly to the concept of agreeing with everything that came his way, including an eventual film deal. Now, I am not suggesting anyone take it to those extremes, but the principle certainly rings true. Saying yes to what we might easily dismiss can be both liberating and beneficial.

If you are writing a novel—an all-encompassing task that monopolises your attention—and you see a call for submissions for short stories (especially one that pays for accepted submissions) then why not give it a go? Next time writers’ block hits, or between drafts as a palette-cleanser, write a short story and submit it. The worst that will happen is it might be rejected, and if so then there are thousands of other places you can submit it to. You keep sending it out until it is accepted, and in the meantime get back to the novel.

In the same way, if you usually write fiction, but see an invitation to send in a poem to a journal, why not try writing one? Perhaps, as a poet, you’d never considered writing short stories, but then what’s stopping you? Writers write, no matter the discipline.

For some, the idea of writing an article or non-fiction essay on a subject might arise, in which case, what is the harm in trying? Whether a craft essay, an opinion piece, a guest blog post, an article or a response to an editorial, or even just a collection of thoughts on a current topic, it is worth writing. Not only will it strengthen those writing muscles and increase your skill as a writer, it might also get published. And if, after sending it to your preferred publication, it is not, then send it elsewhere or self-publish through a web-based publishing platform or blog. At the very least, it will increase the web search hits on your name. More likely is the chance of sparking conversation and building a reputation for yourself, so when your book (or whatever you are working towards) eventually comes out, more people will have heard of you, and therefore the likelihood of more sales increases.

There are other opportunities for writers as well, such as reading or performing a poem or short story at a local event or open mic night. If getting on stage scares you, prepare. If you’ve never done it before, push yourself.

The opportunities that we—as writers—are given are amazing. We can use our words to captivate others, take them to other worlds, share tales of strange characters, express emotions they might not be able to express verbally, offer thoughts and opinions from a platform, and share our voices in a way that resonates with people. Instead of turning down these chances—and potentially missing out on personal and professional growth and empowerment, as well as sharing more with others—we should all start saying yes more. Yes?

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Seb Reilly is a writer, fiction author and occasional musician. He lives by the sea in Thanet, Kent, with his family and two cats.

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