Writers: Pay yourself first

I’ve heard it over and over again in the financial circles:  pay yourself first.  That is, tuck money away for savings and retirement before you do anything else.  From a financial standpoint, it makes sense:  you can always scrape by (well, pretty much), but if you don’t prioritize your financial future, eventually the it will be upon you like a hoarde of zombies, devouring all the scraps you have left.

However, invest now, and your investments will pay you back and then some.  Unless you invest in the stock market and it crashes right before you want to retire.  That kind of thing.  (So the lesson, when I eventually get to the point, includes investing wisely, okay?  Okay.)

As a writer, I have touched on this again and again, but it hadn’t really clicked with me until this week.  Monday, I knew that I should do my fiction writing first, and do my freelance work second.  I can always do overtime on freelance work, especially if I save the formatting tasks for last.  Formatting is pretty brainless; at least, it’s more brainless than trying to write fiction.

However, I did not; I did my formatting first, because I was feeling a money crunch.  (But when am I not, really?)  Result:  I never got around to doing any fiction.  I have seen the same things happen with my publishing tasks, too:  I can eat up all day formatting a story, picking out a cover, etc., and not get any writing done.

Writing is investment.  It doesn’t pay off now, or this week, or this month, really.  (For writers who work with traditional publishing, it doesn’t even pay off this year, or even next year.)  But if you don’t invest, you’re going to look back and go, “What did I get done today/this week/etc.?  I formatted more ebooks than you can shake a stick at.  I ghostwrote more books that nobody will ever know about.  I spent all my creativity on someone else’s project.  I paid the bills.”

Something to be said for paying the bills.

But something to be said for getting published.  Holding your own books (even if they’re on an ereader) in your own hands.  And, in fact, facing up to your private demons on a daily basis:  writing.

Today I paid myself first.  I’m probably going to have to work late to pay the bills, but it’s made all the difference in my attitude throughout the day (which, to be honest, stank from the first moment I got up this morning until about midway through the chapter of my book).  And then I’ll get up tomorrow and probably screw things up again.

But today.  Today I got it right.


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  1. Click. For some reason, until I read this post, that never occurred to me. You are so right. I don’t want to look back next year and see that I’ve only paid the bills. Thanks DeAnna. I needed that kick in the pants.

  2. Bonnie Hagan

    Wow. This is a great perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This post really resonated with me. It make so much sense!

  4. I mean, it *makes* so much sense. (typos! Arrgh!)

  5. Totally true! And this is why I write before work. I hadn’t put it in these exact terms, but yeah! There’s a sense of satisfaction that permiates the rest of the day once you know that writing time is safe. I used to try to squeeze in 500 words or so at the end of the day, only to find that by the time I got off work and by the time I’d made dinner, taken care of editing things, etc., I just wanted to sit around and watch TV or read. Now, I do the writing in the morning, and I can still do all that other stuff after work, but now I can do it without feeling guilty! :0)

    Thanks for sharing!!

  6. De

    Thank you, guys 🙂

  7. Liz

    Paying yourself first is so, so hard to do when you really just need to get paid, but you’re right: it does change your attitude.

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