"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Guest Post***The Roar Series**Marla Beck Coaches Writers to Peak Performance

The Time-Management Trap that Keeps Women from their Writing

As a professional life coach for writers, I've peeked into the lives of many talented freelancers, academics and aspiring women writers who really want to finish a novel, book proposal or other writing project. Trouble is, they just can't seem to find the time they need to write!

If this sounds like you, read on to discover the biggest time-management trap that keeps women from their writing. With a simple shift in your perspective, you may be surprised to find how easy it is to begin writing again.

The Trap: "I've just gotta' catch up before I can sit down to write."

Are you the kind of writer who needs to empty the dishwasher, finish your paid writing assignments, return every phone call and fold the laundry before you give yourself permission to sit down and work on your own writing?

Got news for you, sister. You'll never be caught up with day-to-day tasks. Waiting until you're "all caught up" is your mind's brilliant tactic to keep you "busy," keep you safe...and keep you from your own writing. (Ask me how I know!)

The Solution: Pay Yourself First

It may seem paradoxical, but "paying yourself first" is the key to moving your writing forward and working more productively during the rest of your day.

Try using this strategy for one week. Get up half-hour earlier if you have to. Ignore your to-do list and turn off your phone. Let yourself write for just thirty to sixty minutes a day.

As you pay yourself first, you may notice your mind pipes up with a host of seemingly convincing reasons why you actually shouldn't be writing. The trick here is to observe, but not buy into, your resistance. Common scripts to watch out for include thoughts that tell you shouldn't be writing because:

your writing "stinks,"
• you need to be working on paid writing assignments instead, or
• you aren't yet a good enough writer and don't "deserve" to take yourself seriously.

It's natural for your mind to try and derail you, so don't think that if you have these thoughts, you're doing something wrong. As you learn to pay yourself first, your job is simply to notice these scripts for what they are (derailing thoughts) and to persist in showing up for your writing anyways.

Try It!

"Pay yourself first" for one week and watch your word count add up (and your overall sense of happiness grow). If you're like many of my coaching clients, you'll find that this simple practice will energize you, help you experience a new sense of integrity, and create a solid foundation for creating even more time to write.

Professional Life Coach for Writers, Marla Beck, MFA, CTACC, helps seasoned freelancers and other writers to balance their lives and reach their writing goals. For more time management tips for writers, subscribe to The Relaxed Writer, a free monthly e-zine, at www.CoachMarla.com. Read more articles on productivity, creativity and life balance for writers at Coach Marla's blog, www.TheRelaxedWriter.com.

Pen and Prosper welcomes your comments on this post. What are your typical time management traps and how do you handle them? Do you have a system for approaching and completing your writing projects?


  1. Good morning:

    Male writer here, but also one who has often tried to "catch up before sitting dowm." Or, while sitting down, tried to catch up with bills and email INSTEAD of writing.

    I'm in the process of a novel rewrite and have been leaving that for the END of my writing day. The problem? Fatigue sets in, and the rewrite gets ignored.

    Ms. Beck's advice is good. Perhaps work on the rewrite (and for me, this isn't arduous) first, and then hit my paid assignments.

  2. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 3, 2010 at 5:46 AM

    Thanks for writing, Steve. Good to hear from you.
    I appreciate your input here. Much continued success on the novel. :-)

  3. This was just what I needed to hear! Thank you for the sound advice. I'm in the middle of a novel rewrite, and my progress has slowed to practically nothing. With a toddler in the house and all that goes with it, writing has become the last item on a very long To Do List. Now I'm rethinking my schedule and will start the day "paying myself." Thank you!

  4. Jennifer, thanks so much for this opportunity! The post looks great and I'm happy to connect with you and your readers.

    Here's to a thriving writing life (and great, new friends in the blogosphere),

  5. @Steve, re: the tendency to "catch up before sitting down" - so well put! I'm glad to hear you're going to try my suggestion and work on your novel before your paid assignments. Please let us know how it goes!

    @Amy, My little one is almost 3, and I hear ya' re: the challenges of prioritizing our own creative work with a toddler in the house. That said...go for it!

    Try "paying yourself first" for a week and see if you don't find that investing a little time in your writing life makes you a little bit happier, a little more patient, with your child. (Works for me.)

    For other ideas on the topic, check out this post on The Relaxed Writer:

    "Pay Yourself First"


  6. Thanks Marla!
    So true!
    I'm somewhat aware of persistant resistance. It is a wonderful thing to study. Such creativity! Responding to posts is also a way to get derailed... I love your suggestion to get up earlier and just write. This is what it will take for me to get my two children's books ready to submit.

  7. Very good post. There are a million reasons (excuses) to not write for many people. Its like exercising...just 30 minutes a day can go LONG ways.


  8. Brent,

    Thanks for stopping by. I like the analogy about exercising. B/T/W/ Love the design of your site.