“Creative People Say No” is an article has been making the rounds this week, about how creativity demands focus and time and suffers when it’s interrupted by extraneous jobs and tasks requested by others. The overall message works as a pique to get you to realize that you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything, and that doing so may prevent you from realizing your goals. That’s good advice. The problem is, that advice doesn’t work the same for everyone.
The article describes a researcher who tried to interview creators about their process, and who was struck by how many said ‘no’ to his request. But if you read the summary carefully, you’ll quickly realize that many of them said ‘no’ via assistants or agents. Of course, it’s much easier to say ‘no’ (or ‘yes, with strings’) when someone else does the negotiating for you, which leads to the excellent advice: be successful, wealthy, and confident already, then say ‘no’ via proxies.
Here’s a different idea about how creativity and success works: you have to say ‘yes’ for a long while before you can earn the right to say ‘no.’ Even then, you usually can’t say ‘no’ at whim. By the time you can say ‘no’ indiscriminately, then you’re already so super-privileged that being able to say ‘no’ is not a prerequisite of success, but a result of it.