A-Z Writer's Toolbox: NO

A to Z Disclaimer:

Like all craftspeople, writers need to keep a bag of tricks handy. A set of tools for the job (writing), if you will. Some of these traits or tools are obvious--like the need to have a hide as thick as a brick, for instance. Some are not. This month, I've been challenged to do a post every day of the week (excluding Sunday) that begins with a letter of the alphabet. I'm going to use this challenge to examine some of those necessary writing tools, both conventional and not. Hold on to your #2 pencil, here we go!

NOTE: I've added a page dedicated to my A to Z Writer's Toolbox posts. I figured I'd soon have a bunch of these things and it'll make it easier for you to browse any of the letters you might have missed. You can find a link to the page under the, "MORE STUFF" heading at the top of the right-hand column of this page.

N and O are for NO

There are few more versatile words in language than the simple two-letter juggernaut known as 'NO'.  With that one word we can deny or affirm the mightiest of emotions, make menial or life-altering choices, or simply abstain from any kind of complex thought that a wordier answer would require.  Don't believe me?  Think about the range of complexity involved in the following question/response examples:

You want cheese on your hamburger?  No.  
Do you love me?  No.  
Have you every tried to Polka?  No.
Do you believe in God?  No.

No is a word that can have as little presence as that of a fly on the backside of a hippo, or bare the conceptual weight and enormity of a mountain.  In fact, I'd wager that this tiny word (or some variation) has started more wars and broken more hearts than any other word ever uttered.  It's also probably one of the most commonly used words people use throughout a given day.  (Ever tried counting?  Don't, it'll make you crazy.)

Writers are in the business of using powerful words.  They are also in the business of using only one word when one word will do.  Consequently, NO should be an especially loved word for wordsmiths.  But this Toolbox entry isn't about applying the word NO in our writing, it's about applying the word to our writing identities.  It's about using NO as a governing principal in our writing life like a mantra of self-preservation and guidance.

I'm going to list several ways we can/should reply NO in our writing lives.  Feel free to add some more in the comments!  

Writers should say--

NO to that nagging thought that we aren't good enough.

NO to being afraid of sharing our work with others.

NO to people who don't believe in us.

NO to checking our e-mail, Facebook and/or Twitter more than twice a day.

NO to taking the easy way out.  In good writing, there isn't one.

NO to that new idea when we haven't finished our first one yet.

NO to addictions other than writing.  

NO to the friend who wants us to go to the movies when we should be writing.

NO to junk food when we're chained to our desks.

NO to the jealousy monster that wants us to resent our cohorts for their success.

NO to 'wanting' more than 'doing'.

NO to thinking we're ever 'good enough'.

NO to accepting NO as the final assessment of our writing abilities.

NO to the idea that there's only one type of success.

NO to EXPECTING people to love our writing when we should be MAKING them love it.

NO to neglecting our sanity for the sake of our writing.  

NO to bad writing habits. (Adverbs, passive voice, clause boo-boos, etc., etc., etc.)

NO to thinking we don't need the opinions of other writers to get better.

NO to comparing our writing to other writers. We should focus instead on beating our OWN best efforts.

NO to giving up.




  1. I always look forward to your posts and this one was especially good. I would elaborate but I need to say NO time. I must write.

  2. Dang this is the second time I've been on the net today and I haven't written anything yet. ouch. I have been humbled.

  3. I'm making good work on that list of yours EJ - aside from the 4th one... It's where I go when I need some down time from the constant 'I can't think of the next sentence' mindset!

    Great post, as always!

    A xxx

  4. Great list! I think #1 is the hardest, but #4 is up there too, as everyone before me has already commented!

  5. I gave up junk food recently and it has helped my writing. I'm able to focus better. Great list of things to say no to.

  6. Excellent points! ...but I've been hearing my two-year-old yell "No!" for the last three days, and I'm honestly starting to hate that word :) I like "No to giving up." That's a particularly handy one for me!

  7. I have awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award.
    You can pick it up at http://halligomez.blogspot.com


  8. "NO to taking the easy way out. In good writing, there isn't one."

    Loved this sentiment. But then I'm rather fond of the entire list. Even if I always fail miserably at the fourth one...

  9. Yes. Yes. Yes. To the No word, I mean.

    Fabulous post!

    Ellie Garratt

  10. I'm not sure about the junk food bit...

  11. Happy Birthday Wesley! Hope you have a wonderful day and make lots of plans for the coming year!

  12. I am working my way through the list. I hope you had a wonderful birthday with your family and I look forward to the rest of your posts. Can you believe it is almost over?

  13. Amazingly, I have been thinking about writing about this same topic with a different twist.
    Thanks for the positive post.

  14. This is a very useful tool. Do they sell it at Home Depot?


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.