Monday, April 9, 2012

Writers, pay yourself first


Pay yourself first. I heard this advice the first time years ago about financial matters. My husband and I were newlyweds with two incomes. A friend of his needed people to practice his financial spiel upon.

We volunteered, thinking it would be an evening that could have been better spent. Instead, we heard life-changing news. Pay yourself first.

The financial planner said that to get ahead and look to the future, you have to set money aside before you pay your bills or do any other spending. That simple advice stuck with us, and we took it to heart.

Recently, I realized I need to apply that concept to my writing. With a few books out, a few in the hopper, and more burning to get out, distractions abound.

Some days I can spend two to three hours answering my email, visiting the blogs of friends, or sending out a few words here and there in cyberspace. But if I do that first, I lose track of my quality hours of writing – those muse-happy first hours of the day.

On those dilly-dallying days, my writing goal of 1,000 words a day on the new book might as well be a million words. I can’t get it done.

How many of us have said that?

How many of us repeat that sentiment frequently?

Pay yourself first means to take a view of the big picture. You want to keep releasing books? You have to write them first. Put those words in the story bank. Build for your future.

I’ve had to be more rigid about social media hours in the morning. I still check my email – heck there might be a contract in my inbox, ya know? – but if there isn’t something of life-shattering urgency there, I shut down the email program. I’m not allowed to turn it on again until the daily word count is done.
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No Facebook or other programs either.

Pay yourself first means being disciplined about your writing time. It means keeping that long-term goal visible instead of getting caught up in the social media whirl. Sure, the online stuff is fun. Sure, those people are good friends, but they won’t mind if you “Like” their posts or make witty remarks a few hours later.

Pay yourself first. 

I can’t say that phrase enough. Invest in your writing future.

Maggie Toussaint
New: Murder in the Buff and Death, Island Style
Check out all my titles at www.maggietoussaint.com 

60 comments:

  1. Maggie thanks so much for your catch phrase. I find myself doing the same thing - paying too much to social media and not enough time to writing. (I'm also working hard on my weight watchers which is taking time out of my writing.) I need to back off the emails and social media and get to the business of writing. I'm going to be working on that first and "pay myself first."

    Smiles
    Steph

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    1. Hi Steph, One of life's hardest lessons is that you have to spend time taking care of yourself. Moms especially get caught up in the going and doing cycle for others, and we need to remember that our health and well-being matters.

      I still get off-track, I wouldn't be human if I didn't, but I've got that starlight of "pay yourself first" to guide me home. Maggie

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  2. Maggie -- Great advice for writers. It's hard not to get sucked into the promo machine, but that can eat up way too many hours of time. "Pay Yourself First" is a great tagline to keep in mind.

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    1. Hiya Karen! At times I think the promo machine is evil, other times I think its a necessary evil, and still others I am amazed that an introvert like me can keep up with all the promotion that goes along with publication. I need simple mantras like this to keep my head focused on the end-goal. Enjoyed your visit. Please stop in anytime!
      Maggie

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  3. Maggie, how true and appropriate with all the social media luring us away from our writing. Love the "Pay Yourself First" idea.

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    1. Hi Jerrie, That social media sure has a strong siren call. I know when I am stuck on a writing point I think to myself that I could just click over and unfreeze my thoughts with this and that, but that never works. It's best (for me at least) to stay focused on one task at a time. Thanks for the comment. Maggie

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  4. Maggie,
    Fabulous post about a NECESSARY topic. Discipline in writing is a must. I'm tempted to procrastinate diving into my daily new pages, but like you, writing MUST come first. Remember Margie Lawson's January running class we took on becoming organized? The topic of priorities was pounded in, along with focusing on a couple of 'Star' line items. Then, after they're done, you move to your Superstar list. :) For me, this breakdown allows me positive focus along with a feeling of achievement daily. Thanks for the vital reminder. Wishing you continued success! *Hugs*

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    1. Hi Diana,

      It's great to be taking this writing journey with you. Having someone who needs the same prompts, pushes, and reminders helps me feel like I'm not a complete bozo. I can get a lot done, but only if I stay on task. Seems like that should be a no-brainer, but I need that reminder on a daily basis.

      Thanks for the visit!

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  5. Great advice, Maggie. I can only write on weekends, but those 1,000 words come first--before anything else in the day. I love the way you tie it into the "pay yourself first" concept. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Nancy, With a narrow window for writing, you surely need to jealously guard that time. It means a lot that you think this advice is helpful. Now that you know the way, be sure and visit often!
      Maggie

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  6. Maggie, excellent plan. I bumbled my way into it, but perservance is necessary, especially in training family and friends. Somewhere I read that Erma Bombeck told a friend she couldn't go out to lunch because she had to write a book. No exceptions.

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    1. Hey Georgia,
      (I love your name, by the way!)Family and friends don't understand that interruptions disrupt the entire story universe. Getting back to the pre-interruption spot isn't always possible, or at least it isn't with my Muse. Once she's off-task, I'm at her mercy. Family and friends must be trained. Love the Erma quote.
      Come again! Maggie

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  7. Absolutely, positively! Great advince, Maggie. I admit I'm better at in in my financial life than my writing life, but I'm think your wisdom is priceless. Pay yourself first. Love it!

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    1. Hi Keely, It's always so fun to see you on the net. This idea of pay yourself first, in terms of writing, just sort of dawned on me after two days of seemingly frittering away my time online. I feel better when I write. Therefore, I need to commit to it. Bet you're the same way. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Maggie

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  8. Maggie, thanks for the easily understood transition! I think I may have been fooling myself that my "writing time" is after two o'clock. Let's see what happens when I burn that idea. ;-)

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    1. Peg, The key to this is knowing when your creative time is and then putting mental fences up to keep the other stuff out. I wish you luck with your writing endeavors! Maggie

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  9. Maggie,
    Thanks for the post. Just what I needed to hear, cause I've been getting off track lately and getting lost in social media hoping to generate sales, but not getting any writing done. Time to rethink my priorities.

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    1. I feel your pain, Kathy. It's so easy to get derailed. We need to make an effort to stay focused. Good to hear from you, friend! Maggie

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  10. Thanks for this. I get sidetracked way too easily and procrastination is practically my middle name.

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    1. Kate,

      I had an earth-shattering revelation the other day. No matter how much time I spend on promo, it will never be enough. Someone's always doing something more, something bigger, something more eye-catching, etc. I made myself take a deep breath, and then took stock. I do promo. I make a plan and I stick with it. I don't need to chase after every Twitter opportunity. I don't need to make multiple FB posts each day. And so on. Especially if I haven't finished my writing for the day. That's where I draw the line. You need to reflect on where your line is.

      Wishing you all the best! Maggie

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  11. Maggie--very true, for most people. Me? I've never nailed down a particular time of day to write. I'm never very sharp or with it in the mornings, plus I often go someplace in the mornings. The afternoons, though, are my down time--I'm lazy and draggy until about four o'clock, then I pick up again. That's when I do some writing, but that's not good all the time, because I make dinner every night and we eat early. Ahh, so actually my best writing time is from 7-8. I can't even say why. I do wish I could write in the mornings....but can't do it.
    You've given us an excellent point to ponder.
    And you've sort of give me my next post!
    Thanks for sharing this bit of wisdom--I needed to think.

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    1. Celia,
      That's the first step - knowing when you're creative. You're on the right track here! Glad I could help you think out loud.
      Maggie

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  12. Enjoyed this post. I need to get back to writing first thing in the morning.

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    1. Joanne,

      I hope you find your stride with writing. It isn't always an easy thing to accomplish. Best wishes!

      Maggie

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  13. I certainly need this advice! Thanks, Maggie.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Jacquie. I hope you guard your writing time against invaders! Best wishes, Maggie

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  14. Great advice - in both areas! I need to learn (or relearn) the art of writing first and balancing that with the rest of my day - especially with so much to do on The Wordsmith Journal Magazine.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Good luck & God's Blessings.
    PamT

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    1. Hi Pamela, Balancing is a tricky act. I know I sometimes get smug about accomplishing my goals, but then something extra gets tossed into the mix and I'm all out of balance again. New promotional markets open up and I want to try them. If not, I'd still be stuck on MySpace. I welcome new opportunities, but then I have to figure out which things to adjust to make it work again. Blessings to you,
      Maggie

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  15. Great advice and very timely for me. I'm working to finish my current WIP before my daughter is out of school for the summer so I can have it ready to query by late fall when my first releases. It's a tall order, and social media takes so much time. It may be important for sales, but we've got to have the books first. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Hi Stacy, I feel your pain. I have an outside event compelling me to finish this book in a timely fashion, so I'm working against a deadline as well. I hope you achieve your goal!
      Maggie

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  16. Maggie, that's the best advice you could have given me. It's time I pay myself, and start writing before checking email, FB, twitter, blogs... Thanks.

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    1. Mona,

      Being analytical like me, I knew you would grasp this concept. I hope it helps you achieve your writing dreams.

      Thanks for the visit! Maggie

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  17. Interesting idea, Maggie, but it wouldn't work for me, as my brain is simply not in 'creative mode' in the mornings. I can answer emails, visit blogs (like now!) and deal with FB, Twitter and yahoo groups, but my creative writing always comes in the evenings. I've always been a night-owl, so maybe that explains it. I get my 'second wind' about 9pm, and then I can write!

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    1. Paula, for you night owls, the paradigm would shift to evening. During your prime writing hours, whenever they are, make a deal with yourself that you won't do social media, that you will only write. Perhaps you are already disciplined enough? If so, kudos to you!
      Maggie

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  18. I know I know I know!!! Advice I give myself every morning but then fail to heed it. I used to write short crisp email replies, now I write full letters. I used to open my ms and rewrite whole scenes, now I look for internet images to remind me what my wip characters and settings look like -as if I don't already know. I balk at opening my first draft file because it is all Tell (thanks to the 2006 NaNo win). I worry that if I pay myself first I might fritter away the other necessary calls on my time, like promoting my Muse books and interacting with other authors to help them promote theirs as well as reading and reviewing their books. Don't say that means I've stopped being a writer. I know it sounds like it. It just means I can only do one thing at a time.

    Your post is timely. Perhaps it is time to do my thing. I did print out the wip ms so that's a start. lol.

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    1. Wendy, If it feels discouraging because the whole first draft is a 'tell', set up modest increments each day for edits. As in, today, I will work on page 1 and page 2. Once you get in the mode, after a few days, you'll be better situated to edit and your task won't seem like such a chore. It's the getting started that's daunting. Wishing you all the best! Maggie

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  19. I briefly check my emails in the morning but the main job of writing is done in the afternoon. Then I will do my writing or typing first, and only when I have done what I set out to do for that session will I go on the web and check emails, and do the round of social media sites and blogs.

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    1. Hi Julie, sounds like you have your routine down pat. I admire your discipline! Best wishes, Maggie

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  20. Hi Maggie,

    How right you are. We all succumb to the promo advice. You have to promo! You have to promo! You have to promo! Unfortunately, we usually wind up promoing at the expense of writing.

    While promo is necessary, we usually do it to excess. After three years of unproductive promo, I've come to the conclusion that the only way I can do enough is either to spend all my time promoing, or pay someone big bucks to do it for me. Neither option is acceptable. I've decided a better strategy is to write more and build up my inventory and cut the promo to the minimum.

    The "common wisdom" about you have to do more or different promo for your book to sell is a disservice to writers, especially new ones. Anyone can promo, but only I can write my stories. Put the writing first.

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    1. Linda, We are singing the same song. Promotion is necessary, but how much is enough? It's like feeding a teenage boy, the amount needed to do the job grows daily. We write the books, put them out there, spread the word, and then get going on something else. Promo is like a merry-go-round on crack, an ever spinning whirl that seduces you with self-importance. Humbly yours, Maggie

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  21. Maggie,

    I so agree! When my novel was near completion, I started trying to get into the social aspect--online groups, website, blog--and now find them taking up my precious writing time. Thank you for your timely advice! I'm going to get back to writing FIRST!

    Cindy Smith

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    1. Cindy, as authors we need a bit of an online presence, but we're only as good as our work, therefore the work has to get done. Almost a catch-22, really. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Maggie

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  22. Excellent advice, Maggie! Thanks for sharing your perspective. I've found the same thing holds true for me. I've starting investing my best time in my writing - and amazingly the world did not come screeching to a halt because I wasn't on facebook first thing in the morning. LOL

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    1. Regan, I'm so glad we're on a parallel journey. Wishing you all the best with your writing! Maggie

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  23. Sound advice, Maggie. And just in time. With my first book coming out in August, friends expect me to become more active in the whirl of social networking. Time that should be spent finishing my second book in the series. Their intentions are the best, but I have to invest my time where it counts the most.

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    1. Hi Carole, The big challenge is trying to do both, but to focus on writing. I bend my rules slightly for the two weeks following a book release, then I get right back on my steady work diet. You will find the blend that's right for you. Best wishes, Maggie

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  24. Great advice Maggie! My strategy is to confine myself to one online activity I really enjoy - it's an English Bloopers site on Facebook that never fails to make me laugh out loud and since most of my friends there are from India, where my new book is set, it serves a dual purpose of keeping me in touch with their amazing sense of humor. After relaxing this way it's easier for me to get to work...

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    1. Hi Joyce, How nice that you take care of your Muse first and then plunge right into your writing. Best wishes with that new book! Maggie

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  25. Great post. Best advice I've had in a long time. Now, I just have to put it into effect.

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    1. Hi Sandy, I have notebooks full of good advice. Find a good strategy for protecting your writing time and stick to it! Thanks for the comment. Come again, soon! Maggie

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  26. Absolutely on target. Social media can suck up time and brain cells that we need if we want to continue to be publishing writers. Thanks for the reminder - I'm sharing the link and getting off line!

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    1. Hi Sheila,
      I knew there'd be comments out here today, but I waited until I was done with my writing today to click over to blogger. I'm still a work in progress, and I'm sure many writers feel the same way. Thanks for the visit! Maggie

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  27. Maggie: This was summed up for me at a meeting or conference somewhere but I can't remember where LOL. The way to success this writer said is "B.I.T.C.H." That means, "Butt In The Chair, Honey" - your typing chair that is. If anyone else can place it, let us know - it is definitely good advice, not profanity :-)
    Best to all of us,
    Jackie Griffey
    Author of The Maryvale Series

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    1. Hi Jackie,
      I've never heard of "Butt in the Chair Honey," but it makes sense. You have to put the time in. There are no free rides in publishing. Thanks for sharing that with us! Best wishes with the Maryvale Series. Maggie

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  28. Maggie, thanks so much for the reminder. I gave a talk about this subject to our RWA group in New Orleans in January. Guess I needed a kick in the seat to remind myself!

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  29. Great reminder Maggie and one I've been heeding more of late. Thanks.

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  30. This has just changed my life! Logging out now and writing my quota. Brilliant!

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  31. Absolutely right! Even if others think you're selfish for "disappearing" to do your own thing or for not keeping up with everyone else, it's a necessity. The best marketing is to have books out there.

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