Are We Undermining Our Own Writing Success?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Roper

I rarely reread books, namely because there are so many new titles I want to consume and only so many hours in the day. But, there are a handful of books I read and reread namely because they are areas I struggle in and so reinforcement is tremendously helpful.

The three books I seem to cycle through the most are actually about money and investing: Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and (even though it is an older book) Stanley and Danko’s The Millionaire Next Door.

There are plenty of money manuals that promise to make me a gazillionaire overnight with no effort on my part and those kinds of plans frankly give me hives.

The books I prefer are far more salt-of-the-earth and they say the same things, though in different ways.

Fortunes made on a winning lottery ticket are rare and never last. Slow and steady wins the race. Never underestimate small actions done daily.

I know this. I know all of this stuff. So how is it I so easily get off-track?

Perception Matters

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What is so fascinating particularly about The Millionaire Next Door is the very people we would think have vast investment portfolios actually are far more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck. Conversely, those who actually have accumulated substantial wealth often don’t “look” wealthy at all.

Here I was beating myself up because I use coupons and buy everything on sale.

What am I doing so wrong?

When I reread these books, I realize that I’m doing a lot more right than wrong. What I perceive as a truth actually isn’t (it’s a consumption shill propagated by pop culture). Most genuine millionaires don’t have a fleet of new luxury cars. They have a solid IRA instead.

But because my “vision” isn’t correct, it is then really easy for me to start accumulating bad habits that undermine my goals.

Well people with clean homes have maids.

NO, they wash their dish after eating!

In Regards to Writing

Often we writers can fall into similarly skewed thinking when it comes to our profession. We have a flawed perception of what a successful author looks like…and this opens the door for the little foxes that spoil the vine.

A successful author would publish her first book and be a runaway success with no social platform.

Noooo, that isn’t an author. That is a unicorn. A tortoise isn’t glamorous, but it is at least real.

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In our minds, we can believe that we would do far more writing if we simply had more “time.” Since most of us don’t have the luxury of getting up, having coffee and simply creating all day long, we then fail to invest at all.

We will invest “one day.”

We believe that because we also hold a day job and “only” have an hour to spare in the mornings, that our situation is hopeless. The consequence is we end up squandering the most valuable resource that is available to all living humans.


Why I love books on fiscal responsibility is I hold a core belief:

Small truths reveal larger truths.

If I am not managing, planning and budgeting my money, odds are I am not doing that with my time either. I find that often when I work on habits in one area, other areas also improve. When I zoom in on waste in one area, I become aware of it in others.

If I fail to plan the meals for the week, the consequence is a lot of food I throw away. We end up eating out or rushing to grab a bite because I didn’t put dinner in a crock pot and I am tired and cranky and In-N-Out Burger is just so darn convenient.

The end result is I nickel-and-dime myself $15 and $20 at a time.

When we look at how we are spending our time, are we leaking it away 15 and 20 minutes at a time?

Planning matters. Using time deliberately is vital.

If I fail to plan my time for the week, I’m all over and time goes swirling down the drain. In fact, failure to plan can cost me BIG. For instance, last Tuesday, instead of getting my next day planned I was “tired” and decided that Facebook and watching Dr. Who was preferable to preplanning.

Wednesday morning, I was in the middle of working and feeling great about my progress.


OMG! Spawn’s camp has a field trip today! I totally forgot! And they leave in 20 minutes!

In a mad rush, I swooped the one remaining Lunchable into a Sprout’s bag so I could dash like a crazy person to get him there in time for the bus.

In my haste, I unknowingly threw my cell phone in with his lunch.


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That three-second mistake (that could have easily been prevented with ten minutes prep work the night before) cost me an entire day and easily ten years off my life from stress.

A three-second error cost me four hours hysterically hunting for my phone and then two more hours at Sprint replacing the missing phone with a new phone. Then when the school found my phone? It cost me another two hours returning the new phone I didn’t need and reactivating the old one.

And a $35 restocking fee, or what I fondly refer to as a Stupid Tax.

How much writing could I have accomplished with only ten minutes of preparation the night before?

How Much Stupid Tax Are We Paying?

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When it comes to time, boundaries go a long way. Now, I’m no proponent of cramming activity into every waking second. But we can start truly seeing our days instead of merely wandering through them as bystanders.

Just as many of us hemorrhage money through tiny holes and unseen leaks, the same could be said of our time. But not being stupid with time is not the same thing as being wise with it, either.

Are We Investing Wisely?

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Many people believe when they have money, they will invest money. But if we take a closer look, those who have money, have it because they invested it.

Not the other way around.

Many writers new to the profession see building a brand and a social media platform as a wasteful use of time because they don’t yet have a books to sell. Problem is, in this publishing climate, trying to build a platform after the book is almost a formula to fail. They will spend valuable time (later) that could have been used to write more books and better books scrambling to claw sales from the ether.

They believe they don’t have time, and yet a really strong brand/platform is rather simple to build over time with small and consistent investments in the right places.

Where to Invest?

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Instead of investing an hour a day on Facebook and Twitter, could I spend that on building an author blog? Being an expert tweeter does nothing to improve my skills as a writer. Facebook content can’t be eventually harvested for a book (that can make money or be used as a loss leader/promotional tool). Search engines will never direct new fans to my author site with my clever Instagram pics.

So instead of feeling overwhelmed that we don’t have an entire Gucci wardrobe a bazillion SnapChat fans, can we be patient and consistent with our small IRA account blog that we know with time and consistent investing will reap amazing returns?

This is a snapshot of my blogging stats. WP didn’t even bother measuring my first two years because they were too small to register. In 2009 I had roughly 6,900 views. By 2013, a half a million.

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Though looking at raw numbers, my overall traffic has gone down over the last couple of years but numbers can be deceiving. In 2010 I published a total of 95 posts and received 62,000 visits. This year I generated over 220,000 visits with only 60 posts, meaning I am doing more with less.

I’m gaining an advantage of compound interest (archives and following) which frees me up to now finish more books because now my blog is doing far more work for me than it did at the outset when I was new.

That was great because we’ve had a horrible couple of years with illnesses and death and it has taken a toll on how much I could physically do.

But the cool thing was, because I invested what little energy I had in a blog, my brand not only remained in tact, it actually grew much larger even though I wasn’t there to micromanage content (like I would have had to on all other social media sites).

The effort I could continue was effort that would pay dividends. When I had Shingles, I wasn’t tweeting a lot, but by gum I could post a blog. Now that I have weathered these storms and am back writing like a mad person, I don’t have to waste time reclaiming lost territory.

My blog is strong and so is my brand. Now to get my @$$ in gear on the books.

Because books can do the same thing. Most authors who make a good living aren’t banking everything on the sale of one book. They are investing their time and focusing it on multiple titles.

If we are focused, can we spend an hour a day on the novel. Just one hour. Instead of waiting for the magical, mystical tomorrow, can invest that today?

What are your thoughts? Are you happy you don’t have to try to be a unicorn? Do you find yourself buying into popular myths about what’s required to write novels (I.e. eight hours uninterrupted time)? Do you feel guilty because you aren’t on every single social media site? Are you relieved to know that is actually a bad plan? 😀  Are you leaking small amounts of time away and they are adding up big? I bet you’ve never put your cell phone somewhere stupid 😀 .

Are you actually excellent at managing your time and have tips to share?

***Btw, I do actually have a blogging class coming up 😉 .

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out the other NEW classes below! 

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th) will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that 😉 .

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages August 12th

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is 90 minutes long, 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

Your First Five Pages Gold Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique your first five pages.

Your First Five Pages Platinum Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique of your first twenty pages.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook



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  1. Truly great content

    • Twyla Dawn Weixl on August 11, 2016 at 11:52 am
    • Reply

    Dear Kristen,
    Your combined approach to investing time and money with the same consciousness and dedication somehow triggered actual willingness in me to not procrastinate any longer about writing an author’s blog. I do want to write words that are worth more attention and life span than the temporary world of Facebook. Imagine if the words in your favourite book evaporated after a certain length of time. The very idea makes me sick. So a blog it will be and I am signing up for both sessions right now. Thanks for the nudge, you expressed very well the importance of writing as if you really mean it, as if it’s forever.

    1. Well the great part of the blog is with some direction, you can eventually turn that content into a book. Granted you might still be working on novels, but you will still be getting publications under your belt in the meantime. I am a huge fan of blogs (um, duh) but to me it makes the most sense. Writers WRITE. Our business is words. We can’t reinvest time and effort on other social media sites like we can the blog. And though it seems that blogs take “so much more time” which is true if we compare it to tweeting, the investment can really be worth it. If nothing else it makes us stronger writers.

      So happy you will be joining me!

  2. Love the hello pic at the top! I’ve been thinking a lot of the same things lately and evaluating how I end up with days misspent. Timely observations! I’m also reading a book about performance which relates that time and effort are not the most important elements to performance. Instead it’s energy management. Just started the book so that’s all I can say at this point.

  3. Love this post. It’s so true. Investing in my writing and myself as a writer makes me feel a lot more in control than waiting to one day transform into a unicorn.

  4. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
    This is very timely for me and I’m sure for many writers. Reblogging on Archer’s Aim.

  5. I am excellent at managing my time – from time to time. I actually find myself most effective when I have heaps on my plate and *have* to be organised or achieve nothing… When I have more time at my disposal, I fool around a lot more rather than getting more done… I often wish I could get a rebate on my stupid tax!

    1. Same here! I had a list of (non-writing) things to accomplish today, which got finished in the morning, and since then I’ve, er… um…

    • Kessie on August 11, 2016 at 11:56 am
    • Reply

    I just finished reading The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. He is a big proponent of small daily actions that compound over time. He also has a bunch of really great ideas for other ways to make your life better via compounding. I’ve been experimenting with spending the time I would waste on Facebook on writing instead. It’s doubled my productivity, easy.

    1. I’m adding this to my TBR – thanks!

  6. I schedule my writing tasks. Of course, I’m a full-time writer in the summer and a full-time writer and substitute teacher during the school year. Either way, I have a weekly calendar that says the projects I’m going to work on and usually either a word count (for novels) a set number of chapters (for NF projects) or a number of posts for my blog (8 posts which is roughly four weeks of the blog). Then I do my SINGLE household chore for the day (today it was vacuuming) and head into my office to work. Which is what I should be doing right now.
    So in the spirit of adhering to the wisdom in this post, I’m heading to my desk. No more blogs or FB for me until my lunch break.

      • brendaattheranch on August 11, 2016 at 3:08 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks for the book rec. I’m borrowing that one from the library.

  7. I work to a timetable. Thus, yesterday, I finished the rough draft of Me-YEOW!, which will debut in December, but I need ‘space’ before I give it an initial editing read/rewrite. Thus, today, my focus is marketing the first book of that series & my focus is generating more reviews. Thus far, The Red Claw ( ) has 9 reviews on Amazon – 10 is my current goal, but I’d love 100 😉 If you love cats and are interested in doing a review, I give free ebooks in return for honest reviews posted at Amazon. Contact me at

  8. Reblogged this on Kim's Author Support Blog.

    • Jennifer Brown on August 11, 2016 at 1:07 pm
    • Reply

    Speaking of time, this article was perfectly timed! I’ve been knowingly wasting a lot of time lately because I hate revisions and have gotten bored, aggravated, and lazy with my current WIP that I am supposed to be revising. I KNOW I’m wasting time spending 8 hours a day scrolling FB, watching the Olympics, cooking, cleaning, and just about anything else I can do that is NOT my WIP. I feel bad about it. I keep thinking about how I wrote the first and second book between a full-time job, how much MORE productive I was when had far less time to spare. Now that I write full-time, I waste more time! Ugh! I can’t seem to shake out of this funk and break the cycle. Your article is very inspiring, but… I’m still dreading looking at my WIP. : Damn.

  9. Great post! Like you, the last few years have been difficult for me due to medical issues. Care for my house, my body, my writing, and my blog fell apart. This summer, my goal was to get back to work, but continuing low energy left me feeling sidelined and depressed. What I discovered that has really helped is working in intervals. Sure I don’t have the energy to work on my novel or clean my house for hours at a time, but I’ve started using a timer and I work from anywhere to 30 minutes to an hour and then take a break. It has worked miracles for me! The novel I planned to revise this summer is halfway done! And I’ve even made a dent in some long-term household projects. Not requiring large chunks of time for my goals has been both a lifesaver, mood-wise, and a real benefit in making progress in projects that matter to me!

  10. If you fail to plan you plan to fail.


  11. *Still frantically searching for the hidden “Kristen Cam” in my office* I swear, even though you live a few (just a tad really), miles away, it’s like you’ve taken residence in my head lately. I’ve been struggling with my blog BIG TIME and I think it’s because I’m confused on my brand and where I want to go with my page.

    Also, the fact that you illustrated wasting time in such a relatable way, I’m now super aware of the “time sucking” activities that I invest in daily. *hides face under blanky*

  12. Guilty.

    One thing that I’ve struggled with on the idea of blogging is the question of what to write about. The things that matter to me in the world, observations, whatnot… aren’t things that necessarily lend themselves to a wider audience. Which is part of why I post on facebook… the limited audiences I can choose if I know I’m going to be stepping in it with certain people, and the disappearing nature of the post. (It’s never really gone, but I know that most people don’t go scrolling through old years on their friends’ pages.)

    My politics will only appeal to half of the potential audience of readers. It seems so easy to put yourself in a box that will never be opened by a reader because of political beliefs. And politics is eating up all the interesting places in the world, as it is. I’d like to have a place to get away from the insistently all-consuming nature of that battleground, honestly.

    My spiritual beliefs… even fewer potential readers. I guess readers might find those interesting in a “wow, isn’t she strange” sort of way. My stories… well, yes, my stories. But they aren’t finished being written.

    My life? Well, I have raised a daughter with autism for the last 23 years, and my 26 year old son is a really interesting story in himself. But… and yes… I know…. no buts. But. They are now their own stories to tell. Not mine. I feel like since the kids are grown, it’s not up to me to publicize their lives. They are adults. The choice of how much of themselves they share with the public should be theirs. I shared a lot of them when they were young, as all parents do, of course. Now, not so much.

    Hubby is an engineer. He says funny things sometimes, but he doesn’t really do “unusual.” He leaves the weird stuff to me. The personal stuff about me, in my own life, can be interesting enough, but without context its meaning gets lost. And then what’s the point? Maybe this is why people resort to cat-blogging.

    So I can spend time developing the platform, and I have done a bit of that. But I don’t have a clue what I really actually want to put on the platform. I’m building a scaffolding with no plan on how to dress it. I want to dress it with the books. I need the books to be finished in order to do that.

    I realize that coming up with a solution is up to me, of course. Defining the problem helps, though, so thanks for beginning the sketch. Filling in the rest of it may take a bit more mental digging.

    • brendaattheranch on August 11, 2016 at 3:13 pm
    • Reply

    I had lost interesting in blogging, partly because I was having technical issues with Blogger that were getting on my nerves, and partly because I started running out of ideas for blog posts. Plus, I just didn’t feel blogs were that viable any more.

    However, in reading several entrepreneurial books, interviews, and blogs 😎 such as yours, I’m reminded that I was mistaken in my thought that blogs were declining in use for business purposes.

    And I would definitely much rather blog then have to constantly spread myself over 50 million social media sites. The clincher was that I went back to read some of my old blog posts after about a year absence from it and I thought, “You know, most of these are pretty good.” So first step will be to establish a blog outside of Blogger and the next will be creating a more specific focus of my blog and begin developing the content. No time like the present.

    1. Blogger is a nightmare and I always recommend blogging of your author web site. Using the free sites like this one or Blogger present all kinds of problems. I have to now hire a web designer to merge this site with my author site. HUGE PAIN. But I did all the dumb stuff so y’all don’t have to, LOL.

  13. Reblogged this on Mystery and Romance.

  14. I have read 2 of the 3 financial books you mentioned. I didn’t follow them exactly, but we were able to pay off all of our debt (cars and house included) and we aren’t rich by any measure. It was a personal goal to live and be debt free so we’d have the freedom of choice that comes with it.

    On a side note, I am actually very relieved to learn an author can create a brand and have the right kind of presence without Facebook or Twitter or SnapChat. I’ve never much cared for anyof them. Guess I’m a Luddite in that respect.

  15. wow, those blogging stats put things into perspective. Thanks for sharing!!

  16. This is a great post! As I’m transitioning to a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve realized the value of every little minute of my day. Nap times are invaluable for “me” time, but that means I’ve got to stay energetic and press through chores while my daughter is awake – even if it means refolding the same towel three times. 😉 Even though I know all of this, I still find myself not investing my time wisely. I find myself filling up the nap time slot with random things.

    1. Give yourself a break, I lived in pjs when I had tiny children. In a few months things will ease up & you’ll be on your way. You’re doing great!

  17. I don’t Tweet or bleat, Facebook or faceplant. I write. I blog my own blog about writing. Maybe I’m actually doing something right because my instinct tells me that all the rest is glitter, and I prefer if not gold at least substance. Thanks for the perspective, Kristin. (Also, I appreciate the phone story – I was beginning to think you really were an indomitable Viking heroine.)

    • ratherearnestpainter on August 11, 2016 at 10:27 pm
    • Reply

    I do blog, but I also Facebook and I have begun to Tweet and Instagram. Oddly, I used to get more traffic from Google+, but none of my friends uses it, so I drifted away. I wonder what the general consensus is about it these days. Of the three social medias I participate in, Twitter does the least for me and Facebook the most. If I can just drive some of those FB people regularly to my blog, then I’ll be sitting pretty. But, as you mentioned earlier (and I wish I had read that before I began my blog) I am thinking about an author site instead of Blogger and I’m thinking that I might spend my time on that move before I spend time on any focused promotional endeavors.


  18. Pinterest is where I hemorrhage time. I go to look up a recipe I pinned and then all of a sudden “Oooo fall crafts!”. I have a planner where I’ve blocked time. I’m just not consistent and disciplined. I’m 31…I thought I’d be better by now. I am making baby steps, though. Thanks Kristen for a thought provoking post! God bless :).

  19. I agree with almost everything you say….. With the exception of Facebook.

    If you are careful, Facebook (as horrible as that place is during election years) can be used to build a fairly solid platform.

    With Timehop or their memories feature your content isn’t lost- you just need to be diligent about capturing the good stories along the way with copy and paste.

    In addition, I like Facebook because it has allowed me to quietly run social experiments on what readers respond to, so I can tailor stories to their interests better.

    However- you are absolutely right about The fact I’m losing out on search engine traffic. That really hit home.

    1. We don’t wholly disagree. I think writers NEED to be on Facebook too because the blog alone will be hard to build without some outside platform. The problem with too much dependence on Facebook is we don’t own our content and it could go crazy and take our platform with it. Facebook can’t be harvested for content that we could make money off of either.

  20. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog.

  21. Yes, blog… But about what? How I spy on my neighbors? Yes. I do. Don’t judge me.

    1. Actually that is why the class is useful. I help you define your unique brand and then we guide the topics organically from YOU. There is a lot to blog about just y’all get overwhelmed.

        • ratherearnestpainter on August 13, 2016 at 9:00 am
        • Reply

        Are you discouraging her from blogging about the neighbors? I think we should read what she has, first.

    • ratherearnestpainter on August 12, 2016 at 7:23 pm
    • Reply

    I won’t judge you; I’ll let you neighbors do that. And, I await notification of your spy posts.

  22. It’s true about investing in the right times and places. One book’s success or failure doesn’t mean much. The author’s making a living didn’t have the blockbuster book. They have many consistent books that sell decently. Don’t put it all on your first book. It’s the journey that makes the money and the fun of the work. Not your one blockbuster that gives you tons at once.

  23. Finally learnt to observe myself and see the choices I was making, like being a hater while choosing King games over writing words. Getting more done now 🙂

  24. Been hiding in the shadows for most of your posts, but this one really hit me hard because most of my ‘author platform’ frustration is FB and Twitter. I can’t seem to connect, I can’t seem to buy into the hype that most of my social networking time needs to be spent on these platforms that could (and usually do) change with the direction of the wind. I love how you promote the author blog as one of the important keys to success, because I think that is definitely where our strength as authors will rest – a blog requires writing, which is what we are good at, and it promotes us as authors. It also gives us a platform to share our ideas with the world without spewing vitriol (which seems to be the new trend on FB nowadays.) Great post!

      • ratherearnestpainter on August 15, 2016 at 10:42 am
      • Reply

      You can use your social interactions on Facebook, Twitter or the social media du jour to help drive people to your blog. That way you can take advantage of whatever the trend is.

  25. Great analogies!

  26. It’s surprising how much work gets accomplished in 1 hour. I’m guilty of poor weekly food planning too. Sacrifice is something I’m use to, me & my husband skipped luxuries, invested money into property & 10 years later we have sucsessfully grown a portfolio, by putting in a few hour a day on renovations. The same applied with building my brand, 5 minutes here and there have amassed a good following on social media, now it grows on its own. I will apply the same dedication to my writing & blog, thanks for the reminder & swift kick up the bum.

  27. I read this the day it came out – it hit home in a lot of ways – and I finally reblogged at

    Thanks, Kristen!

  1. […] goes on with specific writing/blogging-related comments, which you can read at her Warrior Writers blog, but does any of this hit home with non-writers? […]

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