How to be a Professional Writer

When the calendar turned over and we started this new year, I decided along with blogging about writing and finishing my third book, I’d do other a few other things in 2012 to help advance my writing. The biggest of which were to stick with a schedule and to claim writing as my job. I’ve struggled with telling people I’m a writer in the past, even in the last month.

I realized the important role a schedule played in a writer’s life after I read an interview of Danielle Steel where she talked about her writing schedule and her philosophy on the craft. Even if you’re not a fan of her work, every writer could take a few cues from her, to read the interview, click here.

Her discipline is enviable, amazing and dare I say a bit militant, but I can only imagine it has aided in her success.  To quote Ms. Steel:

Discipline, hard work, and persistence win the prize every time..

Not only did I feel like a lazy, undisciplined schlump after reading the interview, but I also felt like The Queen of Denial. For years I have been telling myself I’m at the mercy of my muse and I can only write when she deems worthy.

But according to Danielle Steel, remember, she’s the author with over 800 million books sold, that is so not the case. Basically, Ms. Steel says, to be blunt, stop bitching and just do it already. I’m paraphrasing, of course, here’s what she really said:

…I don’t wait for ‘inspiration’ or having time to write. I block out that time first.

This should be a no-brainer, but I think a lot of other writers fall into the category with me, we can think of a million stupid reasons why we can’t sit down to write, all while ignoring the one reason we should love to write every day. Because we have to. If we don’t we’re not fulfilled, we’re not ourselves, we’re not whole.

Since reading the interview last month, I’ve been working on ways to become more diligent with my writing schedule. What it boils down to is priority and professionalism.

When I think about writing as my career and not just my passion it takes a new shape. It helped me get over my least favorite emotion: guilt. I no longer feel bad when I carve time out of my day to close myself off from the rest of the world and get lost in my manuscript.

I came up with three little guidelines I’ve implemented this week. Since my dad went into the hospital, I’ve been neglecting not only myself, but my practice. I realize that I’m not only hurting myself and my career when I put other things ahead of my writing, I’m probably hurting other people’s feelings because I’m not too pleasant to be around when I can’t get my creative release on at least five times a week.

Without further ado, here are my three little rules:

  1. Your career as a writer has to take priority above things like “relaxing” in front of the TV  and household chores. Your laundry and dishes aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes we use being productive in our house as a way to procrastinate. A clean, organized house is great, but nothing feels better than hitting your writing goals. If possible, DVR your shows and do things like folding or separating laundry while you watch.
  2. This goes along with number one, but treat writing like any other job or profession. Don’t allow yourself or anyone else to make excuses or blow off your practice. Part of what makes you a professional is your passion mingled with determination and discipline. You must have the mindset that writing takes a backseat to nothing and no one. It’s also a good idea to make sure everyone else around you knows this. Lay down the law if you have to.
  3. If you take your writing career seriously, others will too. If you don’t, they won’t either.

What steps do you take to make your writing a priority and a regularly scheduled practice? If you’d like to share your writing schedule, rules or general tips, tell me about it in the comments section below.

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