The Secret of My Success

When I was a teenager, I became addicted to my old school paper datebook.  I loved all of the columns, neat and full of “to do” lists and activities.  I adored the weight of it, and the way the different sections were all color-coded and orderly.  I remember opening it in math class, when the lecture was too boring to follow, and just staring at all that I had done and would do. For a girl with control issues, the datebook was a dream.  I could lay my life out on paper and force it to make sense.

My favorite days were the days full of multi-colored ink.  I felt industrious and accomplished, and yes, at 15, looking at all of the drama class rehearsals and after-school clubs, I felt pretty popular.  All of those columns and dates covered in my girlish handwriting were proof to my eyes of my involvement with other people.  When I had a full day, I wasn’t invisible.

My datebook is now electronic, but the feeling of accomplishment is still there for me when I see a day full of meetings.  I still love seeing an orderly progression toward the elusive state called “Done.”  My inner teenager adores the days when I have networking events that involve seeing the other “kids” in the small, cliquish world in which I do business.  I dress up, put on my lipstick, and charm my way through the room – all the while setting up more appointments for other days.

A day full of meetings and appointments leads to a night when my brain finally stops the hamster wheel and allows me a true rest.  On those days, I have proof that I have done enough.

After all of these years, I am an expert at making my professional life fit into those hourly boxes.  I can prepare for the meetings in advance because I can see what I am going to need to do or say or take with me.  Most importantly, as I move from one meeting to the next, I can prepare my mind.  I know just what to do to make the most of that time.  When I set my mind on a goal, I rarely fail.

I realized today that I haven’t applied this technique to my writing life.  I haven’t made writing a priority.  Unless it occurs as part of a meeting with other writers, writing rarely ends up on the list of things that must be accomplished that day.  I allow myself to make excuses, to put off the very thing I most want to do until it is more convenient, or until I am feeling inspired.  When I do sit down to write, I often flounder as I try to figure out where I’m going with my plot.  I didn’t take the time to prepare for my meeting with the blank page.  In those moments, it is clear that simply showing up isn’t enough for me.

Until today, I didn’t really connect how my datebook and to-do lists inspire me.  As much as I would love to be the sort of artist who easily works outside the box and colors outside the lines, I know that I am not that person.  My idea of heaven has always involved office supplies, a good filing system, and a full calendar.  I like order, and I need to make that work for my writing.

So tonight, I’m adding writing to my to-do list.  It’s going right in there with all of the other meetings and appointments I can’t cancel.  I’m going to have to schedule time to prepare for what I want to say.  Making time now to write is a commitment to the writer I want to be now, and to the writer I wanted to be when I first started filling up datebooks in high school.  These appointments are among the most important I can put on my calendar.

I may even change all of the font colors to make them pop.



About Sarah Familar-Ragsdale

Sarah Familar-Ragsdale is a writer and poet, a shameless multi-tasker, and a lover of good wine, lyrical prose, foot rubs, adrenaline rushes, and sweet tea. She can't remember a time when she didn't want to be a writer, and some of her favorite childhood memories involve an old IBM typewriter and stacks of onionskin paper. Her professional life has followed a meandering path - she has been a licensed Charleston tour guide, a metaphysical bookstore owner, and a minister to an eclectic spiritual community. These days, when she isn't trying to wrap up her on-going novel projects or making attempts to seduce the muses of poetry, she follows her other great soul calling as a certified Life Coach and spiritual mentor. Sarah lives at the edge of an under-tended garden in Charleston, SC with the love of her life and their two fur-children, Chaucer and Stella Maris. To find out more about Sarah's Life Coaching services, visit
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One Response to The Secret of My Success

  1. L. Anne says:

    Good idea. One that I may try as well!

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