Pay Yourself First

Back in the olden days, when I first started working, I remember getting advice on how to save money. People would tell me, “Pay yourself first.” That is, set aside the amount of cash you want to save BEFORE paying the bills or letting yourself splurge on that fancy dinner out.

In the decades since I learned that little piece of wisdom, things have changed a bit. Managing your money has become more complicated than trying to remember the rules of a game you’re playing with a capricious child (you know, the kind of kid who keeps declaring, “It’s MY turn again!”).

But there is one place the old “Pay yourself first” line DOES still apply: in writing.

Before you start whining that I’m not making any sense, hear me out.

No, I’m not talking about paying yourself actual money. I’m talking about time.

All too often, my writers complain that the reason they can’t finish that first draft of their novel or get their collection of short stories ready for submission to publishers is a lack of time. And sure, I get it. We’re all busy, now more than ever.

But we all also have a lot more time than we realize; we just need to use it wisely. And that’s where “Pay yourself first” comes into play.

I have a pretty demanding schedule, between running Blydyn Square Books, working with my coaching clients, and writing at least one full-length book a year. Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with it all, I admit that I start to let things slide. Maybe I’ll skip my morning run to try to save an hour, or I’ll only write 1 page instead of my standard 3, to try to give myself a little extra time to deal with all the other tasks on my plate.

It never works.

Why?

Because as soon as I start putting other people’s needs ahead of my own, my entire world falls apart.

You skip exercise and you end up feeling lethargic or even become actively ill (it takes precisely two missed runs for me before I turn into a moody, sniveling mess).

You skip your writing time and you start to forget just how much writing is a part of your identity.

Before long, you just don’t feel like YOU anymore—and then you’re no good to anybody.

That’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself as a writer.

Create your writing routine and hold on to it like grim death. Protect your writing time, no matter what tries to get in the way.

Even if all you can manage is a 15-minute block of time scribbling at the kitchen table before dawn, while the rest of your family is still asleep, guard that time with your life.

Because writing IS your life, if you’re really a writer, and without it, you’re only a shadow of your true self.

Always pay yourself first.

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