Invitations are nearly always flattering. (Unless they’re the sort of “Dear Author” spam that implies the sender lacks the faintest clue about who you are, and/or they come from exuberant social networkers who invite their entire friendslist to every event in their lives.)
An invitation suggests that the sender values you and/or your work, and for that reason alone, it can be hard to turn one down. And when you say yes, you almost always get additional positive feedback: so glad you’ll be able to participate! can’t wait to see you! looking forward to your contribution! Etc.
When you consider turning down an invitation, it’s hard not to worry about the implications of the refusal. If it’s a professional request (especially one with $$ attached) you might face the traditional freelancer’s fear that if you turn down work, you won’t get offered more work ever again. If it’s a social invitation, you might worry about giving unintended personal offense by your absence. But if you keep saying yes to new things, you necessarily limit the energy and time you have left for everything that’s already a part of your life.
We talked a lot at the recent BGLiterary retreat about the importance of learning how to say no, and how difficult many of us find it. One strategy that came up (and if it was yours, fellow retreat attendees, remind me!) was to keep more conscious track of everything to which you have already said yes.
I would guess that for most of you, as for me, your current obligations would make a very long list.
So if you’re someone who has trouble saying no, or if you are, magpie-like, more attracted to new and shiny projects than to all of your hopelessly tarnished previous commitments, I suggest literally writing down all the things you’ve already agreed to do. If you find the idea daunting, that’s part of the point!
And yes, readers, like all the advice I’ve posted here, this is as much for me as it is for you.