Stop buying stuff and do the work

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making (and I do it myself) is buying and investing in various products, books, and services but never actually doing the work.

It’s tempting to think that if we just invest in X then we’ll automatically have Y.

It’s just like a gym membership — the only way to lose weight or get in shape is to actually go and workout. You can’t just pay for it, you have to use it.

Say and pray doesn’t fly

Even programs that are well designed to give you a regular, daily opportunity to participate, like my Writer’s Circle, it doesn’t pay off to sign up and just “hope it works.” You actually have to do the work, make the hard choices, and face the difficult obstacles to get the results you want.

In our instant gratification society, we want to believe that there’s a single cure-all or an over-night remedy that will just fix everything while we sleep.

Doesn’t work like that, unfortunately.

And when we combine it with a culture where most of us feel broken and like we need to be cured, well, it’s not too hard to see we’ve got a problem.

Ways we do this

Here are some examples of the ways we do this:

  • Enrolling in a gym but not using it.
  • Buying books but not reading them.
  • Going to healers but not doing the exercises or integration work they assign us.
  • Taking classes but not implementing what we learn.
  • Signing up for programs but not participating in them.

I’m guilty of all of these things. How about we make a pact right now to stop the madness?

The sad thing is that so many people are spending so much money on programs and training (I see it in the coaching world in particular, but it’s also true in writing, business, etc.) but never taking the time to integrate or even implement what they’ve learned. And sometimes before one class is over they’re already signed up for another one. Many people are in thousands and thousands of dollars in debt as a result.


Here are a few ideas about how we can change this up:

  • Ask yourself, “Is this truly important to me?” If the answer is yes, figure out how to make it happen. Your actions demonstrate your priorities. Period. Figure out a way to be all in. If the answer is no, let it go and move on.
  • Make space for it: Something I learned from Miriam is to block off time in my schedule for learning. I love it.
  • Look at the stockpiled “stuff” you’ve already invested in and make a clear decision about what you sincerely want to use. Let the rest go.
  • Question whether or not you are truly ready to learn anything new right now. Consider your energy, bandwidth, and other commitments. Consider not signing up for or purchasing anything new unless it’s 100% in alignment with your highest priorities.
  • If you don’t have the bandwidth but you want to take something on, be clear on what you’ll give up to make it happen. One of the biggest mistakes I see writers making, for example, is hoping they’ll have time to write instead of creating time for it. I see this with entrepreneurs, artists, and sensitives as well.

Bottom line

We’ve got to stop torturing ourselves by taking on more than we can handle. In a way, doing that is a form of resistance. Look to see what sacred priority is being forced to the bottom of the pile because of the choices you’re making. Is that okay with you?

Your turn

What do you think? I love to hear from you on my blog. 




Coming Attractions

~> August 2nd. Register by August 2 for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle (starts August 6th). For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing.

~> September 6th. Last day to register for the next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group happening on October 4th. These groups always sell out (only 4 spots) so if you want to discover your life purpose through the remarkably accurate tool of hand analysis, sign up here now:


What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Mentoring with screenwriter Chris Soth and participating in ScreenwritingU’s Pro Rewrite class after finishing the ProSeries.* (They’re offering their free rewrite* class this month on August 4, which is great — though make sure you have plenty of water — it’s a looooong class.)

~> September 18 to 22nd. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU* event to meet with producers and agents then staying on for the InkTip Pitch Summit.

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Almost done with Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix! Saw The Dark Knight Rises on Friday (um, huh?). In the middle of watching (500) Days of Summer (good so far) and recently saw Another Earth (good but depressing). More soon!


* Affiliate link


  1. Thank you so much for writing this post. I completely agree with you. When I get in to this mode that I have to buy another book, program or whatever else, I stop and tell myself that I have inside of me what I REALLY need to make “it” happen.

    Off to get “it” done! Have a great day.


    • I love that way of thinking of it, Christine, thank you for sharing it. I’m endlessly buying books and thinking I need to learn one more thing. Time to stop the madness!

  2. Your article came at a perfect time. My problem is not related to writing but your message is just as applicable. This past year has been full of wake up calls for me to take better care of myself, in all aspects of my existence. The most difficult task for me is to create a balance and not allow things like work or overbearing individuals to take over my life. I have read many how-to books, but I need to implement what I have leaned, as nobody else is going to do that for me. I have to say no more often, I am to place self-care as top priority, I have to stand up for myself, I have to trust my instincts, etc. Thank you for the reminder.


    • Good for you, Eva, for paying attention to those wake-up calls. You’re so right, no one can do it but you. Thanks for reading.

  3. Spot-on Jenny.
    Like Eva, your article came at a perfect time: right after a “whoops, I did it again” moment.
    Writing gives me all kinds of excuses, knowing as I do, that I’m not perfect, and am continually trying to fix myself. Focusing on my goal is REALLY hard when publishing is not what it once was. Trying new avenues leads to buying more stuff. Get stuff or get stuck, which?

    • Thanks, Helen, so glad to hear it came at the right time for you. It’s such a tricky balance, isn’t it? Despite what I’ve said above, I do LOVE learning and I want to keep doing that — but I want to make sure that 1) I’m not doing it to the exclusion of my own work and 2) that I’m not overloading myself and wasting money on things I don’t need. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Wow! SO so so true.

    On a related note, a colleague of mine said she went on a *fast* from newsletters, etc, to see if her true voice would emerge. That’s yet another reason to give things like this a second thought.

    Thanks Jenna for calling this out.

    • I love that idea of taking a fast as being part of finding your voice. My faves: morning pages, lots of writing and/or speaking, and writing outside your subject (a good way to stop feeling like you have to write or come off a certain way). Thanks for posting.

  5. Jenna,

    This post is right on! Thanks for the reminder to clean out my closet and focus on those things which I can honestly bring myself to engage in. I have a pile of books that I have been “enjoying” (haven’t read the fist page yet) for about a year now. And thanks for the list to help motivate us!

    • This is a fantastic writing Jenna ~ I am in complete resonance with all that you say here. I have also been guilty of
      investing in the outer and not integrating. you have said it well. The bogged down, heavily-laden, swamped feeling so ubiquitous in our culture is reflected in our society’s material obsessions and busyness. I heard a young teen-ager say the other day,
      I get too anxious if I have an hour open – I HAVE to have something TO DO. So sad. Thankfully this teenager is an artist so she ‘fills’ those open times with drawing, painting, and writing. In Gratitude and Appreciation, Roxanna

      • Roxanna, Wow, that is so true about our culture’s focus on materials possessions and busyness. It’s interesting, now that I’ve gotten more focused on regular implementation of my most important work, I have a sense of having more free time that I love. I certainly still fall victim to being too busy and I have to fight against being overwhelmed by stuff (especially since having just inherited new items from my grandmother) but my intention is to keep improving it. Thanks for posting.

    • Josh, I’m glad this resonated for you. You’ve hit on a great point which is to get our focus on the things we can honestly engage in and want as our priorities. I have that pile of books too, and it only makes me feel guilty and wasteful. Something I want to decide how to change. I recently purged a bunch of books and I have more — on my mind is working out a plan to read the ones I’m actually interested in.

  6. Ann Hodges says:

    About 10 years ago I moved halfway across the country, to return to Virginia, where I grew up. Perparing for that move gave me a very good reason to sort through my accumulated stuff and get rid of lots of it. I donated to charities, gave stuff to friends–anything to help lighten the proverbial load. And I did feel much lighter. I kept what what important to me and passed along to others what I thougth they could use. The process taught me how easy it is to get bogged down with unfinished projects and books and what a profound effect can be had by letting it go. I made a rule at that time not to purchase a book unless it was so fabulous I HAD to have it. I tried to apply the same rule to buying materials for projects but haven’t been as successful. Now I’m trying to identify and finish projects that are important to me and are do-able with my current limitations (time and health issues). I am careful to be sure in advance I have time to complete what I start and enough enthusiasm to carry me through. Sooo all this to say your post is timely and spot on, as usual. Project management is actually a form of self care. Thanks for pointing that out so well.

  7. Jenna,
    This post is so true. Thanks so much for writing it!
    I can totally relate to all of it and I have a big sense of RELIEF reading it.
    It brings me some comfort knowing these behaviors are all part of the collective – it’s not just me!
    I seriously thought for a long time, that I seem to be the only person with these crazy behaviors.
    : )

    • Janelle, nope, you’re right — it’s NOT just you. Glad you posted and got the sense of relief you needed. Thanks for commenting!

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