Time is the only resource we can use to produce creative work— time spent thinking, studying, practicing, refining, reinventing, gathering inspiration, resting and replenishing, learning from trial and error, taking care of our body (which is our ultimate tool). We must guard our time jealously, or else we will fail as creatives. Kevin Ashton writes:
Saying “no” has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. No guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know. We are not taught to say “no.” We are taught not to say “no.” “No” is rude. “No” is a rebuff, a rebuttal, a minor act of verbal violence. “No” is for drugs and strangers with candy.
Creators do not ask how much time something takes but how much creation it costs. This interview, this letter, this trip to the movies, this dinner with friends, this party, this last day of summer. How much less will I create unless I say “no?” A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? An experiment? Twenty lines of code? The answer is always the same: “yes” makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, gas tanks to fill, families to love and day jobs to do.
People who create know this. They know the world is all strangers with candy. They know how to say “no” and they know how to suffer the consequences.