Any reader of this blog knows I have more than my share of hobbies and interests. And I’m flattered that many of my friends and acquaintances appreciate the fruits of my creative curiosity. I’m glad to occasionally share what skills I have. Unfortunately quite a few of the requests make me, well, cranky. Because these things have been on my mind for a while and a recent incident brought them to the fore, I’m going to share a few tips that might be useful in dealing with this particular cranky creative. And they might even help when asking favors from others.
Plus, what’s the point of having a blog if you don’t use it to vent now and then?
Take no for an answer
The first time and immediately. Seriously. That is the only respectful response to being turned down. People try to convince me that my skills are up to par (because they assume my lack of self-esteem is the only reason I might say no?) or they simply keep repeating the request. Over and over. Repeated requests don’t change the reasons I turned you down. They just harden my resolve to continue to say no. And eventually (yes, it has been this bad) they result in my putting the requester in my mental box of bullies. You can be sure that means all future answers will be no as well.
Don’t tell me it will only take _______ amount of time
You don’t know how much time it will take. From the folks asking me for ‘only two hours of your time’ to accompany a local musical rehearsal when in fact it would have taken several times that amount of time in practice for me to feel prepared to accompany to the folks who think that the time spent taking the photos is all the time a photographer puts into her finished product (um, haven’t they heard of editing?), I am consistently amazed at how much people underestimate the amount of time they are asking me to spend on their projects. It’s always safest not to put the label on it. Because my mind immediately corrects the number and you end up, without ever actually knowing it, highlighting exactly how large a sacrifice you are asking me to make. This does not help your cause, I assure you.
Just like almost everyone else – I’m busy. I have plans. My normal routine packs 26 hours of to-do’s into every 24. If you want me 3 days from now, I can promise you that I am not ‘free.’ There is something on my calendar, even if it’s finally to do a little laundry and attempt to catch up on the very long list of minor fixes and repairs needed in my little condo. So you’re going to need to be extremely persuasive to make me change my plans. Plus, you may have lost your window because I might have needed more than 3 days to prepare.
And if I’ve known about your event for weeks but you ask for my help just a few days ahead of time you will at the very least earn my raised eyebrow and a mental note that the rest of the event is also likely to be disorganized. Give me the respect of plenty of notice and I’m far more likely to give your request some respect. Aim for two weeks minimum. But I do prefer three.
Now, if you call a few days ahead of time and beg me to fill in for so-and-so who had been slated to help but now cannot because her grandmother is sick in another state…well, I’m a sucker for a sob story and for anyone who put thoughtfulness and effort into planning something but watched it fall apart anyway. I’m likely to bend over backward to try to help in that case. So if you’re in a jam, tell me.
No, offering money doesn’t change my mind
I’m hesitant to add this because I know it doesn’t apply to everyone. In my case, I am very blessed to have a job that provides for enough of my needs and wants that offering to pay me is simply not going to change my mind. Specifically, I am not currently interested in taking my camera pro. The problem here is that what I lack is not money but time. And that’s what you’re asking me to give up. So if I were to take your money in exchange for my time, I would have to charge based on how much I value that time, rather than on my skill level or the quality of the finished product. It would be an eye-popping bill. Eye-popping.
No, offering dinner won’t change my mind either
I like to cook. I do appreciate others’ cooking but failing the ability to eat every night at Vermillion, I prefer my own cooking to anyone else’s. And even when pressed for time, I have meals I can make that I love that are freakishly quick. So no, your cooking won’t motivate me to change my answer from no to yes or to clear a spot on my calendar. Unfortunately, no one yet has offered to come over every night for a week and clean my kitchen and take out my trash. Or dig into those repairs. That would be some motivation. Sigh.
Consider the context
I have a handful of wonderful close friends. I would do just about anything for them. Please pay attention to see that sometimes the things I do are gifts for close loved ones and not necessarily available for everyone I know. So, to choose an entirely non-random example: when at the wedding reception for my dearest friend you discover I was the one who made the cake, do not think I’m available to make yours. Unless you’re already on my list. In which case you’ll understand that after I finished that cake I put away my decorating tubes and swore that was a once-in-a-life-time gig.
So those are my tips. I hope they were useful. Or amusing. Or at least explain why I’m so frequently prone to hanging up the phone and tearing my hair out. If you’re ever the target of my crankiness, please understand that it’s not you. Or rather, it’s not just you. It’s the fact that you are the umpteenth person who has pushed the wrong way across one of the above rules. That I’m constantly negotiating this sense of being taken for granted or taken advantage of to use the skills I’ve earned doing things I love. And though I know the audience on this blog is too small to make much of a difference, I feel much better having said my piece.