WHY IS IT SO HARD TO SAY NO?
Lately, I’ve been waking up around 6:30 AM and getting to my studio by 7 AM, with my phone on airplane mode, to make music with no distractions. I’ve found that after 10 AM, I have to start communicating with people, dealing with the business and admin side of my music. If I create music before the day comes roaring in, I feel fulfilled. Having that early window is what allows me to feel like I’m being the best artist I can be. It’s what allowed me to sit down and write the song “No”.
“No” came about over the summer. I had said yes to one too many things at once, taking on non-music jobs that were unrelated to my skill set and not delivering properly because I was afraid to say no. I’ve ended up letting people down because I said yes to things I shouldn’t have, when I felt like I would be letting them down if I said no. I became aware that I say yes to things that take me away from doing music full-time. I say yes to avoid conflict. I say yes even when it would be better for other people if I said no. I look back on my past and notice that this isn’t just a phase, it’s been my biggest weakness.
It seems like all of us have a hard time saying no, especially artists. Sometimes things seem promising like a show or festival, or a “special promotional package”, but they end up not being what we thought. How could we have had the foresight to see what the outcome would be? Artists are often asked to do things for free or even pay to play.
The decision to say yes or no to something has a lot to do with intuition. It can also have to do with the cost versus reward, which only we can know for ourselves. I look at people who are good at saying no and I realize that most of these people are successful because they aren’t taking on too much at once, or they’re just being more clear about communicating what they want. I always try to trust my gut, and when I don’t, I usually say yes to something that I shouldn’t have. Somehow I keep re-learning this lesson.
I’ve felt like I had to work side-jobs so that I could keep investing in my music. Arguably, I did have to do for some time. After pursuing music for almost 20 years, I’ve made the shift to full-time music. Fully committing to music is a big move. I think it’s crucial for artists to recognize when having a side-job is helping you get to your goal, and when it’s taking you away from where you wanted to be heading.
If you work at your music for long enough, there will be a time when it becomes your main job. If you do that too soon though, you might end up saying yes to a side job again. It’s important to know when that time arrives, and to step away from everything that’s in the way of your dream coming true. Making that leap has changed my life, and it involves saying no a lot, even when it doesn’t make sense to others.
I try to be at peace with the reality that being a full-time artist isn’t something that most people can relate to. It’s the songs we make that people relate to.
One night, I started joking with some friends and posed the question: what if you just answered people with a simple “no”? Why is that so hard to do? Why is there a social stigma around giving a straight-up “no” for an answer?
Often people will ask, “well, what are you so busy doing that you can’t do this? What’s so important?”
I wish I could respond with, “I’m actually going dumpster diving and then taking a long nap. It’s none of your business. My time is my time.” Usually, I just want time to create music and be the best artist I can be. That’s what’s important to me. This is what I want to tell people when they ask me, “what’s so important?”
I feel like everyone can relate to the “no” dilemma. We all deal with this, probably many times a day. Your boss asks you to stay at work a little longer. A client adds something extra for you to do after hiring you. Your friends want you to have a drink with them when you’re trying not to drink.
I should note that I do believe in being generous and showing up for people, especially when someone is suffering or needs help in an emergency. Happiness also comes from doing things that are important to others, but if we are going to feel right within, there has to be a healthy balance. In the case of an artist, we have to have time to create. If we don’t, what makes us artists?
EVERYONE CAN RELATE
It’s one of those songs that I just know is going to resonate with a lot of people. That’s only happened a couple times in my career. When I’m finished with a song, I usually show a handful of close friends. I can usually tell by their reaction if it’s going to go somewhere or not. “No” was an unanimous yes.
After dropping my single “From the Woods Remix (feat. KRS-One)” back in April, I’m really looking forward to releasing music again. I’ll be releasing singles often and working on multiple projects in the months to come. I even dropped my first NFT for the S.N.A.G. (Sensitive New Age Guy) music video 5 year anniversary. Over the summer I performed in my hometown in Massachusetts. It was my first show in 18 months. It was sold out and it felt so great to hit the stage again. I’m working on an epic live show for 2022 and feeling hopeful about the future of live shows and touring.
I hope this song helps people have confidence about making their own choices, trusting the gut, and following intuition to live the life they deserve.