Writers Pay Themselves First

Time is the rarest of commodities for all of us, writers or insurance agents or jewelers or stay-at-home moms. Each day has exactly the same amount of time whether it’s measured in 24 hours or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. There is no rewind button on the remote that will take us back in time. You can’t grow or manufacture more of it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.


As children, time was abundant and filled with carefree frolicking. The older we get the more we realize how valuable time is. Our lives become filled with deadlines and responsibilities that eat away at our reservoir of it.

The world and everything in it has the potential to become a distraction. They lurk around every corner, in every pile of dirty laundry, unpaid bills and trips to the grocery store. Anything that sits undone or unresolved or weighs on your mind can turn itself into the gremlin that grows into an unwieldy time-consuming monster.


No matter what your passion or project, it is easy to become sidetracked by the daily, obligatory detritus of life.

I have taken a lesson from the world of financial planners and the man who trained me in how to handle money, my father. They have always said, “Pay yourself first!” In the parlance of money that means salting away cash into your savings or retirement accounts for the day when you might need it. Today, it is quite easy to have your employer make contributions on your behalf before you receive your paycheck making that adage easy to fulfill. With time, it’s not as easy.

I use this same philosophy in my writing. I pay myself first in the form of time dedicated to my craft; and the satisfaction of knowing I scrabbled out two or four or 20 pages. No matter what is hanging over my head; that pile of laundry, the uncut grass, the overdue oil change or the bills that need paying, I always make sure I write for the allotted number of hours or pages each day. I’m not suggesting that you leave your bills unpaid or let your lawn grow to forest-like heights. Just make sure your writing takes priority. Set a daily deadline and work towards it each day before you let life’s gremlins take hold.


On the few occasions when I failed to follow my own advice, I am always filled with a great sense of dissatisfaction. It’s like the grime you feel when you run your tongue over your teeth on the rare occasion when you were too hurried or harried to brush them. It doesn’t feel good and you know you did not do something you should have, something that is good for you. I view my writing in the same way. If I do not write, I am bothered by my failure to work it in to my day. These lapses happen rarely now.


Make your writing a habit; a necessity. And it will become a part of you. That’s what it means to be a writer.

©Copyright David Perry 2015

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