5 Procrastination Tips Writers Can Really Get Behind With

  1. Read the newspaper thoroughly while eating breakfast. Beside the news, be sure to read the book reviews and the funnies. It’s important to know who’s being published and by whom. And the funnies help you keep your perspective.
  2. Those dishes aren’t doing themselves. Before tackling revisions, better get the dishes out of the way. That food will be congealed and disgusting later.
  3. Don’t be antisocial. It’s been days since you’ve scrolled (and trolled) through Facebook and Twitter. How will you ever build an author’s platform if you don’t keep up?
  4. Pay a few bills. If you leave them, they might get lost among the stacks of How-to Write-More-Effectively books you haven’t finished.
  5. 15 minutes isn’t enough time to do anything. Better to start fresh tomorrow. Whoa! Where’d the time go?

Do you have any tips for how to be a better procrastinator?

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The Perils of Being a Writer and Other Favorites

This month marks WordSisters’ three-year anniversary. To celebrate, we’re sharing a selection of blogs—our favorites and yours.

crazyquiltWe hope our new readers will enjoy getting to know us better. If you’ve been reading WordSisters from the beginning, we hope you’ll enjoy rediscovering some of our perspectives on parenting, families and relationships, working women, and the writing life.

On Losing My Ambition (Open Letter to 35-Year-Old Hiring Managers) 

My friend C. mentioned that after years of freelance writing, she was interviewing to be a marketing communications manager—a position she’s eminently qualified for. During the preliminary phone interview, the interviewer expressed concern that C. wouldn’t be satisfied with being a mid-level manager. We both burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. More

The Perils of Being a Writer

“I knew it,” she says. “I knew it! I knew you were going to say it one day!” She jumps up and runs out of the room.

“What!” I say, alarmed.

I look down at the writing on my laptop and immediately know what happened. There in black and white it says Antonio and Crystel aren’t my children….More

It’s a Good Day When I Kick Somebody in the Head

I started Tae Kwon Do, at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do School when I was 50 years old. Yes, it was an age thing, time to do something new, challenge myself, and show the world that I’m really not all that old. More

Competing with Friends for Writing Awards

Earlier this month, I applied for an Emerging Writer’s Grant and a Loft Creative Prose Mentorship, knowing full well that I’m competing with my good friends for these honors. I really want to win. So do the women in my creative nonfiction writers group. More

Your Moms Can Get Married Now

I imagine someone at school saying that to Antonio and Crystel and them responding, “Huh?” As far as they are concerned, we are already married, and Crystel, much to her chagrin, wasn’t a part of the wedding that we had before she and Antonio came home from Guatemala. She can hardly believe that we had a life before them. More

God Bless Middle-Aged Daughters

As I walk into the skilled nursing center where Mom is rehabilitating, I see other women like myself and think, “God bless middle-aged daughters.” We’re the sensible, competent women who make it all happen. More

When we launched this blog, we envisioned making new friends and sharing our perspectives. But the reality of our weekly conversations with you has exceeded our expectations. Thank you for reading WordSisters and sharing your thoughts!

What’s Behind the Wage Gap Between Women and Men?

Recently, my son mentioned that he’s decided to ask for a raise. My immediate (but unspoken) reaction was caution: Don’t rock the boat. Look what a great learning opportunity you have. In this economy just be grateful to have such a good job. That mindset exemplifies a gender difference—women often are afraid to ask for a raise or insist on a promotion.

When I think about my son’s situation more objectively, I realize he’s right. For the last nine months, he has been doing a product manager’s job without the official title or the additional money a product manager would make. Higher-ups in the organization have publicly recognized his efforts, so it is a good time to ask for a raise.

I was surprised to realize how ingrained my caution is. Because I’m aware of women’s tendency to be self-effacing, I thought that mindset no longer had power over me. And yet, I can recall times that I’ve devalued my contributions. I know that women worry about being disliked if they advocate for themselves—I’ve done that, too.

Reluctance to rock the boat is one of the reasons why women’s salaries continue to lag behind men’s.

The pay gap figure that’s often used is that the median earnings of full-time female workers are 77 percent of the median earnings of full-time male workers (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Often women aren’t confident, effective negotiators. Many times women feel grateful for the job—lucky to have it at all—instead of recognizing the value we contribute. Or women want to be liked and worry that pushing for what we’re due will be seen as being aggressive. There are good reasons for women’s concerns.

A recent New York Times article describes research that validates the persistent, and often unconscious, perception that women who ask for raises and promotions are unfeminine and demanding.

Linda C. Babcock, one of the researchers the article cites, addresses the “apples to apples” argument in her book Women Don’t Ask. When comparing the salaries and negotiating experiences of single men and women who had just earned MBAs, she asked, “When you got your offer, did you attempt to negotiate?” She found that about 7 percent of women attempted to negotiate, while 57 percent of men did. Of those people who negotiated, they were able to increase their salary by over 7 percent.

There are other systemic reasons for the wage earnings gap. Here are some of the common counter arguments rationalizing it:

Women often take more time off – They are more likely to interrupt their careers when they become parents, and they are more likely to be the default caregivers for sick children and parents.

Although I couldn’t find evidence to conclusively confirm or disprove it, this assertion feels true. The trend is certainly true of the women I know. Obviously, if a woman works fewer hours and/or her family leave is unpaid, she will make less money in a year when she has heavy caretaking responsibilities (whether or not she should be responsible for more of the caretaking is a different issue).

But it doesn’t make sense for women to be penalized long-term for shouldering that responsibility. For example, 10 years’ experience should be 10 years’ experience, whether the employee is a man or a woman. If a woman works full-time for five years, then takes off for five years to be with her children, then brings her skills up to speed and returns to full-time work for an additional five years, her pay should be that of a person who has 10 years’ experience. The interruption shouldn’t have a lasting effect, but often it does.

Women often enter lower paying professions such as teaching, nursing and food preparation, and that’s why they earn less.

The low-paying profession argument deserves a closer look. Female elementary school teachers make 90.9 percent of what men make and female nurses make 85.6 percent of what their male counterparts make (Institute for Women’s Policy Research IWPR #C350a). That’s still a wage gap.

Women in high-paying industries also lag behind men. Female physicians and surgeons earn 71 percent of what males in those fields earn. Female lawyers earn 77.1 percent of what male lawyers make.

The size of the gap may vary, but the fact of a persistent wage gap is undeniable.

The gap grows during the span of a woman’s career. If a woman doesn’t make the same salary as a man at the beginning of her career, she is very likely to be playing catch-up at her next job. The lag will compound over the course of her career.

What makes pay equity even more challenging is that employees don’t know the salary range for their positions. Many employers have spoken or unspoken rules that forbid inquiring about coworkers’ salaries, so employees can’t ask without fear of retaliation. The Paycheck Fairness Act 2014 is intended to make it easier for women to know what their counterparts are being paid and give women the data as well as the legal clout to insist on equal pay. But even if salary transparency were legal, discussing income is nearly taboo in our culture.

As history and other anti-discrimination laws have taught us, changing hearts, minds and cultures is even harder than changing laws. Addressing women’s reluctance to negotiate and employers’ subtle bias against women who do seek raises and promotions are the real challenges.

On Losing My Ambition (Open Letter to 35-Year-Old Hiring Managers)

Recently I had dinner with my friend C., who mentioned that after years of freelance writing, she was interviewing to be a marketing communications manager—a position she’s eminently qualified for.

She confided that during the preliminary phone interview, the interviewer expressed concern that C. wouldn’t be satisfied with being a mid-level manager. Perhaps C. would be uncomfortable taking direction from the younger director of the organization. C. paused during this anecdote, with her eyes wide and eyebrows raised. We both burst out laughing and couldn’t stop.

“Being the director is the last thing I want! I just want to do the kind of work I’ve been doing . . . but someplace else. For me, learning the rhythms of that office will be challenging enough,” C. said and paused for a sip of white wine.

“I know! I just want to do interesting work with coworkers I like and be respected for what I know,” I said.

I’m not sure when I lost my ambition for climbing the corporate ladder, but it’s been gone for a while.

womanclimbingladderEven saying that feels odd. I have always cared about my career, and I’ve gone to some trouble to have one (got a graduate degree, made several cross-country moves in pursuit of jobs, been a working mother). But I simply no longer have a driving need to be promoted. Unlike Sheryl Sandburg, who encourages working mothers to be all they can be career-wise (see Lean In), I leaned back a long time ago.

When I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, my career was my main focus. But my priorities broadened after my sons were born. Instead of pursuing a classic corporate marketing or ad agency path, I launched my own freelance writing business. Would I have made different decisions if the workplace had been more flexible? Maybe. But having my own business worked well for me—stacked hat logo

a) It gave me the flexible hours I wanted when my sons were growing up so I could be a bigger part of their lives. They spent fewer hours in daycare. In the summer, I’d occasionally knock off early and we’d go on excursions—the beach, the zoo, or the park. When they were sick, I’d be home. I still had deadlines and needed to work late after my husband returned from his job, but it was easier to manage. Plus, I could volunteer at their school and go on their field trips.

b) With half a dozen clients, I could have the creative variety that’s often lacking for ad agency copywriters. Instead of being the head writer on the agency’s Visa team, I’d write for Land o’ Lakes, Visa, Radisson, Medtronic, Sears—whichever account was active that week.

c) As a freelance writer, I had more free time to write personal essays and memoir pieces—the kind of creative writing I’d always wanted to do.

I made choices that supported the life I wanted; my decisions did not advance a traditional career path.

Shortly after my second son was born, while I was still working full-time, I was offered the opportunity to be promoted from senior copywriter to associate creative director. It was hard to say no—at that point I still had traditional ambitions and wanted to advance. But I turned down the promotion, because between work and family, I was already at or beyond full capacity. I simply didn’t have the energy to do more and to do the job justice.

Several years ago, I chose to leave my freelance business behind (it stopped being as much fun and my sons were grown) and take a part-time job writing marketing communications for a children’s hospital. I’ve had several chances to go full-time and get back on the classic path to career advancement. Ambition flickered in my heart. I briefly heard the siren song of advancement, “You’ve got more in you–you’d be good at that job.”  But I leaned back again. New logo 2

I have other goals and responsibilities now—

a) Having the flexibility to help my siblings care for my 91-year-old mother in Ohio

b) Having fun with my husband who recently retired

c) Making time for my creative writing projects

As I told C. during dinner, “Hiring managers don’t have to be so worried about Baby Boomers. A lot of us don’t want to take over anything. Work is just one of the things we care about. We have a number of priorities.

C. and I raised a toast to that reality.