How to Decide Whether to Go Out or Stay Home and Write

woman, making a decision, surrounded by question marks
Image by Sophie Janotta from Pixabay

Being an authorpreneur means learning to manage your time effectively. Every hour you don’t spend on writing, or writing-related activities, is an hour you could be earning revenue but are not. It’s an hour you could have spent advancing your writing career, but chose not to.

However, having a life is important too! I’m an extremely social person. I live in a Downtown area in a major city. Social opportunities are everywhere. I can walk 5 minutes in any direction and have friends to hang out with (well, except west — if I walked west for 5 minutes, I’d be swimming in the Mississippi River).

FOMO if you do, FOMO if you don’t. Either I miss out on potential fun times with friends, or I miss out on writing and potentially creating a winning ticket in the viral lottery.

Today I want to share with you two systems I’ve come up with to measure whether it’s worth it to sacrifice a day of writing.

Grade your day

When I consider taking a day off from writing to go out, I assign my best guess as to what grade I would give it, on a scale from an A to an F.

Now, obviously, I don’t know exactly how each day could unfold. The next time I go out, I could meet the love of my life. Or, I could have my ID, my phone, and all the money I have on me stolen.

Those are extremes, though. I try to assign my plans for each day a reasonable range.

Let’s say my potential plan is to go out to one of my neighborhood spots for Saturday brunch. I’ll probably see many of my friends there. The food is good, and there will be a game to watch on TV. That sounds like an afternoon in the B-plus, B, B-minus type of range. It might have the potential to jump into the A-minus range if the right people show up, or the C range if they run out of my favorite beverage. Generally, though, B-plus to B-minus.

Another potential plan: I’ve been invited to someone’s cookout. It will be outdoors, with a forecast temperature of 40F/5C and a 70% chance of rain. I will only know a couple of people there, and I’m aware of a few invited guests who can be difficult to be around. That’s an event whose ceiling would be about a C and which could easily have C-minus, D-plus potential.

Now here’s the thing: A day staying home writing has a floor of about a B-minus.

Many days it’ll be more like a B or a B-plus. If I stay home and write, though, or do writing-related activities — studying other writers’ work, ideation, listening to podcasts — there’s really no way I’m going to have worse than a B-minus type of day.

So, I look at it like this: If my plans for the day can’t beat a B-minus, why shouldn’t I stay home and write?

The opportunity cost of going out

Quick exercise for you: Let’s say that you write an article today. It doesn’t go viral, but it performs decently compared to your previous body of work. How much does it earn over its lifetime?

Get that number in mind, because we’re going to see how to use it in a minute.

I’ll assign the value $25 for such an article by me, written by me at this stage in my career. Six months ago, I would have thought that amount a pipe dream. A year from now, I will probably see that figure as ridiculously low. But, for now, I’m going with $25.

Let’s say I go to the neighborhood bar, meet up with friends for Saturday brunch, and most likely have a B-plus, B, B-minus kind of time. On a typical day, I might run up a $36 tab, including food, beverages, tax, and tip.

That makes my opportunity cost for going out $36 (that I wouldn’t have spent if I were at home writing) plus $25 (that I didn’t earn because I went out instead) = $61. At that point I think about my plan for the day, and ask myself, would I pay $61 for the experience I am likely to have if I went out?

To sum it up…

If my plans for the day pass both the grade test and the opportunity-cost test, I have absolutely no qualms about going out. However, I remind myself that I better kick ass at being out and having a good time, because there’d be no doubt I’d have kicked ass at writing had I stayed home.

If my plans for the day fail both the grade test and the opportunity-cost test, then it’s time to open my Ideas notebook, type into a browser’s address bar (did you know that’s a shortcut to start a new post?) and get writing. If I go out, I’m likely to look back on the day as one I wasted.

If my plans fail one test but pass the other, it’s a judgment call. If I’m on track to hit my goal of 5 articles in a Sunday-Saturday calendar week, I’ll lean toward going out. If I still have work to do toward that goal, I’ll lean toward staying home.

Give it a try and play around with the assigned grades and the opportunity cost of not writing on a given day. If you come up with your own system that works for you, let me know in the comments.

Let’s keep in touch! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. You can also subscribe to me on Medium. Join Medium today and read unlimited articles! Here’s another story of mine about the life of a writer:



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Paul Ryburn, M.Sc.

Paul Ryburn, M.Sc.

I write about writing, ideas, creativity, intuition, spirituality, life lessons. Ex-college teacher Twitter: @paulryburn