Moms-Who-Write – Elizabeth Cottrell

Writing mom and faith-based blogger Elizabeth Cottrell, brings a level of professionalism – and common sense – to the worlds of both writing and mothering.

The Lie Writers Must Stop Believing

By Elizabeth H. Cottrell,

If you’ve got your act together, you should be able to balance your personal life and your professional life.

Sounds reasonable…it’s a worthwhile goal, for sure.

But as a home-based entrepreneur/writer, I’ve sometimes pushed myself beyond my emotional and physical limits trying to attain this unattainable ideal. The mistake I think we make is to look at our personal life and our professional life as two separate entities that can be weighed on some karmic scale and kept in balance all the time. Not so.

Have it All? Really?

We women are told we can have it all and do it all. We’re supposed to grab the brass ring and go for it, but here’s the truth: we women do, indeed, have more opportunities than we’ve ever had before. I would advise a young woman she can have most anything she wants in life, but she can’t have it all at the same time!

Let’s face it: life is complicated and multi-faceted. The myth that you can separate your personal life from your professional life doesn’t work very long before you run into trouble. When you’re up all night with a sick child, you’re in no shape to play your A-game the next morning if you have to write a proposal. Alternatively, when your boss (or your biggest client) tells you that you didn’t get an assignment you’d hoped for, it’s tough to shake off the disappointment and be the perfect mother when your kids get home from school.

Unrealistic Burden of Balance

In her delightful and smart book Pick Three: You Can Have It All (Just Not Every Day) Randi Zuckerberg, herself a successful entrepreneur and mother, cites the five “brass rings” that most young professional women think they must grab: Work, Sleep, Fitness, Family, and Friends. She urges readers to discard the unrealistic burden of balance and instead find happiness and success by picking only three on any given day.

When my children were in high school, I decided to stop working outside the home and start a home-based desktop publishing business (over time, it morphed into a freelance writing business). Not everyone has the temperament to do this, and I wasn’t always good at it, but I learned some lessons about being a home-based entrepreneur that can apply to those of you who are trying to write from home, with or without children.

  • Working from home is not necessarily easier than working outside the home.
    The commute is better, for sure, but there are no fewer distractions. If anything, there are more, and it takes a great deal of self-discipline to stay on task with your work. Know yourself before you make this decision.
  • Workspace and work time should be separate.
    You are more likely to get into a professional frame of mind when you walk into a dedicated workspace. It is also easier for the rest of your family to respect your work if you have set boundaries about when and where you are working and not available for interruptions.
  • Keep the phone out of your writing/work area.
    I have had a separate line for my work, so in both my kitchen and my office, I have a two-line phone, but when I need to concentrate, I turn off the ringers on both lines.
  • Remember that your work is your job, whether you do it from home or an outside office.
    This sounds obvious, but when Emily P. Freeman, author and writing coach, said this in a conference call, it struck me that often I was treating my work as something that could be interrupted or put aside when I would never have managed it that way if I weren’t working from home.
  • Treat yourself with the same respect and consideration you’d treat your clients and co-workers.
    I am an “obliger” by nature, and far too often, I put my own needs and preferences behind those of almost anyone else. Don’t do this! It’s okay to set boundaries and say “No.” I love the advice of successful online entrepreneur Laura West: “Say NO more often and YES more fully.”
  • Increase your writing productivity by creating a routine around your dedicated writing time.
    This advice was Lesson #1 in James Chartrand’s “Damn Fine Words” writing course. A morning routine might be as simple as 1) start the coffee pot; 2) step outside to stretch and breath; 3) clear your desk; 4) get out your writing tools (or turn on your computer); 5) write! Repeating your routine every day gets your mind and body quickly into a productive writing session.

Working from home was a godsend when our children were young, and my husband’s work as a physician was inflexible, but more often than not, my life was—to use Randi Zuckerberg’s great phrase—“well-lopsided.”

Now THAT’s a goal we can all attain.

Elizabeth is a mother, grandmother, and freelance writer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. She blogs at and supports writers through her Facebook group “Faithful Writers” ( She is an avid note writer and is the first female board chairman in the 112-year history of First Bank in Strasburg, VA. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram as #HeartspokenLife.





Thank you for taking time to read Elizabeth Cottrell’s helpful insights. I encourage you to join her Faithful Writers on-line community. You may also enjoy these blogs:The Writing LifeCruising and Writing.

If you’ve found all this interesting and inspiring, take a moment to share it with a friend. You will find  future weekly blogs about people and programs making helpful contributions to society at HowWiseThen. I’m currently giving away a section from the study guide from, Asunder, a book about moving on after the loss of a spouse.


  1. Thank you for inviting me to contribute to you “Moms Who Write” series, Kathy. I’d be glad to hear from anyone who’d like to talk further about the “well-lopsided” life. We women need to be kinder to ourselves!

    Thank you, too, for your work supporting writers and authors.

  2. Thank you for this article Kathy Haueisen. You write so well and you present Elizabeth as she is – a powerful role model for all of us.

  3. Excellent post! I love the phrase “well-lopsided.” 😏

  4. Karen R Sanderson

    I love the pick just three of the five, and I love that sleep is included! Well done, Elizabeth.

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