Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Why Your Writing is Important – guest post by Cat Lumb

My guest today is womagwriter, author and writing coach Cat Lumb.

Why Your Writing is Important

As writers, it’s easy to put off our writing for another day. Especially when other people are vying for our attention, tasks need completing, and there’s always just ‘one more thing to do’. We postpone our solitary session in front of the page because our friends or family need us - a quick favour, or phone call, or trip to the shops. Every distraction is a reason to step away and one more delay to our writing progress. 

As a Writing Coach I see this often in my clients’ lives. Because their writing is only important to them it gets pushed down the to-do list. We justify it because there isn’t a looming deadline, and the consequences of not writing that day seem less impactful on those around us. After all, it’s just ourselves we’re letting down, not anyone else. And we do this so much that writing rarely reaches the top of the endless list of things we promise to everyone else first. 

But why is it that our own writing dreams are less important than a trip to the supermarket, a phone call with a friend, or that unanswered email?

In part it’s because it’s easier to neglect our writing than it is to ignore a human being. We don’t want to let other people down, and our writing will always be there for another day, right? While our dream might be important to us, it’s not to anyone else, and it’s certainly not urgent: not like the cacophony of demands from people around us. 

So we put it off, and hope that we can get back to it another day.

Except, of course, tomorrow is exactly the same as it was yesterday and today, and in a world of instant and immediate communication it’s assumed rude to ignore a message for more than a few hours. 

Yet, whenever we ditch our writing we feel disappointed in ourselves. We take it as a sign that perhaps we’re not meant for writing, and that our dream is just that - a dream, a fantasy, nothing that we deserve given we can’t seem to sit down to it. Because it can feel selfish to take an hour or so out of your day to indulge in your imaginary world. How can you defend spending time with characters that don’t exist off the page when your kids, pets, or family - very real, tangible beings - are calling for you in the background.

But if our writing time is not important enough for us to protect it from all the distractions in our lives, why should other people respect that time we spend writing too? The more often we dismiss our writing ourselves the more regularly people assume we aren’t serious about it.

This is why one of the first things I embed with my clients is the statement: “If my writing is important to me; it’s important.” No justifications or explanations necessary. 

Writing is precious and therefore we need to take care of it. Even when those around us can’t understand it, we have to advocate for our dream because nobody else will. And the best way to do this is by putting clear boundaries in place around our writing time. 

Imagine a life where you don’t delay your writing dream. When instead of saying ‘Yes’ to something someone else is asking, you say ‘Not right now, because I’m writing’. How much more progress would you make if those in your life respected and accepted your writing time and therefore didn’t interrupt or distract you from it? 

The only way this can happen is if you see your writing that way too.

So, the next time you find yourself promising to write, and then never showing up for it - remind yourself that your writing dream is important, it deserves to be protected, nurtured, and permitted to grow. If you believe that your writing is worthy of your time and act accordingly, others will respond in kind. Then perhaps that dream will have a chance to become a reality.

Say it with me: If my writing is important to me, it’s important.


Try This: 

As The Write Catalyst I advise this simple exercise to review how you prioritise your writing time in advance - making the decision ahead of time means it’s easier to carry it out in the moment.

Make a list of the things that are MORE important to you than your writing dream (medical emergency, time with children, paid-work). Then make a list of all the things that are LESS important than your writing dream (housework, doom-scrolling, gossiping on the phone). 

The next time you are scheduled to sit down to write the ONLY things you are allowed to prioritise above it are those things on the MORE list. If someone calls you for a chat, or the kitchen needs a tidy - those things don’t count; go and write instead! 


Cat Lumb is a writer with published fiction in Women's Weekly, Writing Magazine, Comma Press and on Amazon - including her debut novel In Lies We Trust which reached #16 in the Spy Thriller bestseller list in March 2021. She is also a Writing Coach under the alias The Write Catalyst, and supports writers to finally write that novel they dream of using positive encouragement and her decade of writing experience. She also offers advice and support through her blog and social media communities, in addition to online Masterclasses and 1:1 Coaching offers.
Check out her blog: 
Join The Write Catalyst Facebook Community; Follow The Write Catalyst on Instagram; or find her on Twitter.


Sharon boothroyd said...

I'm afraid you do need to be pretty self- motivated and disciplined, and set aside time to write regularly, in order to succeed.
Pep talks are great but if that discipline and motivation slips away, for whatever reason (and confidence can dip) then the only person who can right that is yourself.
Having writing buddies who also write for your genre and market, that are kind and generous enough to help and support you, can work really well. It has for me.
I've never found it easy to neglect my writing, but we don't have children or grandchildren to look after.
Even when I was starting out, and had reject after reject, I set aside time every day, as it was such an important goal for me. It still is (By the way, I still receive rejects!)

Eirin Thompson said...

Another interesting post - thanks to Cat and Patsy for this; I always find it intriguing to learn about how various writers work. Meanwhile, great news from The People's Friend, yesterday - they are expanding their Specials to include even more brand new short stories. (A new Special is published every three weeks. It used to carry fourteen new stories in each issue and this is now increasing to twenty.) You can check this out on the Friend website, in a blog post from Fiction Editor, Lucy Crichton.

Maria said...

A good post Cat - Guilty as charged.
Lots in your post to think about...

Sharon boothroyd said...

Yes Erin, that's great news. I often read your womag stories and really enjoy them.
I envy your versality across the board.
I can't seem to crack TPF. I've got close a few times though!

New girl on the block said...

Thank you for this post. I definitely find it difficult to prioritise my writing, and tend to fit it in between other activities. Need to remedy this!
Interesting to hear about TPF. Like Sharon, I have yet to crack this market. I'm thinking of sending them my pet story which I entered for the March competition in Best, and am assuming was unsuccessful.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good point - if we don't place emphasis on writing and make it important, no one else will, either.

Marian said...

I really enjoyed this post and found it very helpful helpful advice. Thank you so much.

sheelagh said...

Great post thanks Cat & Patsy, I really need to make a time and sit down every day, perhaps a set time might work best for me, like early in the morning before I can get distracted. The other thing that really distracts me is my phone, emails etc think I'll also need to make a pact to turn everything off for a couple of hours. When I think of the amount of time I waste checking my emails etc I imagine I could have written several novels with that time..arrh

Marguerite said...

Thank you for this post, Cat and Patsy. I am almost at degree level in Procrastination but I do have fits and starts. It would be better to set more of a routine. Some of my distractions are weather dependent - so need to work round that too.

Eirin Thompson said...

Sharon - thanks so much for your very generous remarks. If you are S. Bee, then I have read and enjoyed your stories, too! (Are you?) I'm sorry that you and New Girl have not yet had publication in The People's Friend. I hope 2022 will be your year, both of you! Can I very gently suggest that, instead of trying to 'crack the market', you relax a little and allow yourself to have some fun, writing a story that you would enjoy reading? I appreciate that you are viewing the situation as a professional, but perhaps it is possible to put on the 'business' hat in between times and wear only the 'creative' hat while engrossed in writing. I am absolutely not setting myself up as an expert, and I don't believe there is any magic formula, but it strikes me that the 'Friend' team and readers are particularly keen on character-driven tales and do not necessarily crave clever-clever stories with a killer twist. Showing character via dialogue seems to work well for me - for solo figures, the chat can even sometimes be with a cat or dog. I suppose I don't always know for sure why I have stories accepted or declined, but I think a touch of humour seems to go down well (I can't tell a joke in real life, at all, but seem to find it on the page); however, I can identify stories of mine which were declined, where I think I made someone a 'victim' of laughter - I had drifted into nastiness, and it didn't work. I have written stories about all sorts of characters, from homemakers to superstars, but in all cases I tried to find what was relatable in them. I suppose you could say I tried to find the 'me' in them. I say all this with great humility, and only with a view to helping, if I can. Please forgive if I am lecturing on ideas you have known for years. Patsy, thanks for the opportunity to share thoughts - much appreciated.

New girl on the block said...

Thank you, Eirin, for taking the time to write about your approach to writing. I think you might be right - I do often find myself in the mindset of 'I'm going to write a story for 'x' magazine', and this almost definitely leads to increased frustration on rejection. I've actually been talking with my little writing group about trying to move away from this way of approaching my writing, so I'm working on it! Thanks again for your advice, and I'll let you know how it goes!

Sharon boothroyd said...

Thanks Erin, for fab advice.
I don't tend to send TPF clever killer twists. I know that's not their scene, unless it's cosy crime (Which I've tried with as well!)
yes, I try to ease the pressure on myself. I do give myself breaks from subbing to certain mags now and again.
Erin, if you offer paid critiques of womag stories, please let know via Patsy.

marialynch said...

Such an interesting piece about something I'm guilty of. There are so many days when I have the best of intentions but the time to write just slips away. Thank you for reminding me I have a choice.

Eirin Thompson said...

Just popping back on to apologise to Cat for going off on a tangent, and to express my admiration for her super, user-friendly website, and her gift of encouragement. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Sheelagh said...

Useful tips Eirin thanks, I also have never managed to get anything accepted by TPF but hopefully this year will be my year. Have been on a break from writing for the past couple of months and am just getting back into it now. I actually find it quite therapeutic especially when I am enjoying what I am writing. I am taking Cat's advice on board as I really do want to make time for my writing so its onwards and upwards from here.

Patsy said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

It's good to know some of you found this useful and/or interesting.