Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pay Yourself First

I have officially gone the longest time without writing forward on my writing projects--I think it's been a full month.

I came across this post by Anna Staniszewski, who quotes another rockstar author, Jo Knowles:

"Always make writing the top priority in your life even if that means other things have to slide."

Quite honestly, I thought that quote was pretty harsh. Maybe it was just my mindset at the time, but I thought to myself, "I can't put writing first." I'm a mom. A wife. I compete in races so I stay in shape (because deadlines and accountability work for me). I volunteer for a local educational non-proft, help organize a writing conference, help teach at our church Sunday school, and last March, I created a non-profit writing community.

My days start out with me trying to figure out what is the BIGGEST fire to extinguish. And I'm pretty sure that you are all just as busy as I am. I mean, there are only so many hours in a day, right?

So my writing slides to the back of the to-do list.

But the universe started whispering to me. With Anna's post, and then with this post by another of my favorite authors/mentors, Erica Orloff--and what a beautiful post it is!

We writers lament about time management. But maybe we should take a page out of the financial management world.

When talking about finances, experts tell us to Pay Yourself First.

In order to get a future as an author, we need to start prioritizing and paying into it. Paying into our future. And if you are a writer, but you are not paying into your future--into your dream--then that dream will never happen.

So, that's my goal. I'm going to start getting my writing done first--just a little, before I do anything else. Because if I put aside a couple hundred words here and there, pretty soon, it'll grow to be a whole book.

And that's my future.

(Also, I get really crabby when I don't write.)

How do you envision your time/project management? How do you protect your writing future?


  1. Oooh, excellent post - and timely for many of us, I'm sure. I've been bringing my laptop into work to get as much done on lunch breaks as I possibly can. I work on a college campus, so there are any number of quiet corners to hide myself in!

  2. I've read this quote and had the same initial reaction. Between werk, getting to and from werk, being a husband, father, homeowner, musician, warm lap to six cats, and writer there's no way Writer is going to come out on top.

    My lasting response is a somewhat more holistic one -- all of the facets of my life that I value must live together in a healthy balance. If my writing isn't getting the attention I want it to, I have to be disciplined* and re-adjust my priorities and actions.

    That's my unasked for 2¢. : )

    -- Tom
    * I define discipline as "Remembering what you want and acting upon it"

  3. Needed this post today. Thank you Heather!!!

  4. I never thought I'd get my book done, just writing in the chunks of time I could carve out in between work, kidlet and the house, but I finally did! You definitely have to set some things aside to do it- like unswept floors going unswept a little longer and not picking up every toy and putting it back up. B/c really, it'll just be there again tomorrow! ;)

  5. (third try posting this, hope it works!)

    I kind of think that quote has been taken a tiny bit out of context. ☺ What I meant was that I put it before chores (washing dishes, etc.) and Facebook and Twitter and phone calls from relatives and promo stuff and answering e-mail and other distractions. I try to treat my writing like any other job. When I'm working, I need to be working. Once I decide how many hours a day I need to work, I try to schedule my time around that. It's challenging, but it shouldn't be any more than I would do for a hired job. At the end of the day, I ask myself, "Would I have been fired today?" This really helps me put it in perspective. It helps me treat myself and my writing seriously and with respect. But family certainly comes first. :-) If you can write 500 words a day (which can be done, with practice, in about 20-30 minutes quite easily), you will be amazed at how quickly the words at up! It doesn't take much. Best of luck!!


  6. Becky--I love the idea of writing in the quiet corners of our lives--whether physically or figuratively! That sounds lovely.

    Tom--I LOVE that definition of discipline! I love how thoughtful you are in all areas of your life. Definitely an inspiration.

    Ansha--I need this post EVERY DAY. :) Sending support and balance your way!

    Fida--I'm glad it resonated with you--thanks for stopping by.

  7. Leandra--I really don't need more permission to not do housework, as my neighbors can attest. But, yes. Some things can definitely wait. I'm so glad of all that you got accomplished just by a little bit each day. Forward progress is so essential, even if it is in tiny tokens!

    Jo--HELLO! :)Thanks for taking the time to post (three times!) until it stuck. I appreciate the context for your quote, that makes it a much more swallow-able idea. However, sometimes I need a kick in the pants to not lose the thread of the ms that I *should* be querying right now, and that quote sitting on Anna's blog did that for me, so many thanks! I LOVE the idea of asking yourself if you would have gotten FIRED from your job today. A really good technique for creating the professional attitude for our writing careers! Thanks for filling in the atmosphere for your quote. :)

  8. I think one reason we have to remember to put writing first (before the less important interferences as Jo clarifies, obviously not before the needs of young children!) is because it's so easy to set aside. There are way too many distractions of a lesser nature that slide into focus, pushing the writing aside. Exactly why we need reminders like this!

  9. I have to admit that I don't prioritize it like that. I should treat it as a job, but so many other things do get in the way. The last few weeks I have been concentrating on the writing career more, and I feel so bad when I'm glued to the computer when my kids are home (I work full days now) so just try and get some done in the later evenings.
    It's hard!

  10. A wonderful post, Heather. And you are one of the few women I know that are at what I call the "superwoman status" because you join in with and do so many things it's mind boggling and utterly impressive! I just wish I lived closer to the Writer's Loft to join in! :)

    1. I second the "superwoman status." I don't know how you do everything and manage to stay so positive and supportive for the rest of us, Heather. You deserve a cape!