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✋ Saying No

The Test and finding the right path.

David Gane
David Gane
4 min read
I ventured out onto the lake to look at the ice fishing shacks. They were huddled together in little communities, connected and divided by where the roads had been plowed.
I ventured out onto the lake to look at the ice fishing shacks. They were huddled together in little communities, connected and divided by where the roads had been plowed.


My name is David Gane and this is my newsletter where I share lessons learned over my creative practice and life. Thanks for reading.

The story of the giant XXXX

One of the best decisions of my writing career was saying no to a job.

My writing partner Angie and I had been working with a film producer, sending him several scripts in the hopes that he’d option one.

Although he never committed to any of them, we must have proven our worth because he asked us to write a script based on another producer’s treatment. Even better, he was going to pay us for the work!

The project didn’t take us long. We quickly built an outline and had a solid draft within a month. We sent it away and everyone seemed happy with the work.

Shortly afterward, the original producer came back to us with another project, a horror idea that was built around a dumb dirty pun.

I won’t give it away completely, but it was based on an abnormally sized animal that attacked people. Whenever the creature appeared, people would point and say, “Look, a giant (insert sex pun).”

As I said, it was dumb, and I hated the idea of wasting my time writing it.

But money is money, so we still considered it.

However, the producer had other ideas. He didn’t want to pay us and wanted us to do it for “exposure” and “for the chance of potential profits.” 🙄

Even after that, we still didn’t turn it away (although we probably should have) because we wanted to avoid burning a bridge, so we weighed our options.

However, in the end, our hearts weren’t into it, and we said no.

A line in the sand

That decision is still a defining moment for me.

For nearly ten years, Angie and I had written film scripts together and sent them out to producers. We had interest and a few options, but nothing was ever bought and produced.

Then the film industry was gutted in our province, and we decided to try a new path. We wrote and self-published a novel. Although we weren’t making significant money, it had been a successful release and readers told us how much they liked the story.

It felt good.

But the temptation was still there to write the dumb script. Sure, we wouldn’t make any money, but there was always the potential of something better down the line.

Yet, after we said no, I never looked back.

It drew a line in the sand about our self-worth. We knew what we wanted and what we didn’t.

More importantly, it taught us to no longer wait around for someone else to give us permission. If we wanted to try something, we’d just do it. Whatever happened, good or bad, it was on us and no one else.

In the end, this choice allowed us to grow.

The Test

This decision reminds me of something I became aware of a long time ago: The Test.

It’s that moment we all face when we are tempted by the new shiny thing, and we have to decide if we chase after it or stay on the path we are on.

It could be a new relationship, a new career, or a new life. Whatever it is, it calls to us, and we have to choose.

Every so often we need to say yes because the new thing is the correct choice. The old thing is bad, weak, or hurting us.

But frequently, the new thing is only a temptation because it is shiny and new. And more importantly, it only serves as a distraction from the path that actually makes us happy.

So, it requires us to say no.

The shiny thing goes away, but then a different shiny thing comes along—but this time it’s a little easier to say no.

And eventually, after enough new shiny things cross our path, the temptation goes away, and we finally master the Test.

But how do you know?

I hesitated on answering this question, mainly because my initial answer was to say “Use your gut and check your intuition.” It frequently knows exactly what the right choice is.

However, I don’t know your gut, so this seemed like terrible advice.

But, I was reminded of this quote from Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection:

Intuition is not a single way of knowing—it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason.

If you trust your gut, you’re guided by what you’ve already learned—even if you’re not quite aware of it. So, perhaps you do already know the answer to The Test.

The other thing is that sometimes we need to lean into our fears. Yes, they can be scary, but often I find that the thing I’m most scared of is often the correct choice.

Saying yes

And lastly, there is the possibility that we need to leave the path we’re on.

We’ve stayed true to it and avoided temptation, but the time has come. We’ve outgrown it, and it no longer makes us happy.

And so, when The Test happens, we need to say yes.

Again, it is scary and uncertain, but in the end, trying the new shiny thing allows us to continue to grow along our journey.

Distractions and other things

  • 📖 Reading: After glowing praise from my daughter, I read Sally Rooney’s Normal People. Never have I had such a strong wave of emotion as I finished the last sentence of a novel. I also finished up The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr. I really enjoyed the neuroscience behind it, but there are a few paragraphs that I’m still uncertain about.
  • 📺 Watching: Season 4 of The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel left me wanting more. Also, Episode 7 had me laughing and yelling.

Thank you

And thank you for reading

As always, I appreciate you signing up for the newsletter.

See you in two weeks!


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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