Today I'm giving all the writers out there a pep talk combined with a stern finger wag. Yesterday a friend of mine on Twitter who is a full-time writer was contemplating the choice between a nap (it was 3 in the afternoon) or a cup of coffee. I spluttered my indignation at her. This is why people think we romance writers laze around in yoga pants eating truffles between sex scenes. This is why her own mother still wistfully talks about her getting a REAL job, even though she's a bestselling and award winning author. I was ready to jump in the car, drive to her house in Wisconsin and slap her awake. And it wasn't just bitterness that I was stuck at my day job, where they tend to frown on naps.
It was the final straw in a rant that had been gathering steam in me for a while. Writing is a job and must be treated as such....here's the kicker...WHETHER YOU ARE PUBLISHED YET OR NOT. Because you've got to set up the rigorous habits right now. I'm moving next week. Most of the house still needs to be packed. It'd be easy for me to skip writing at night for the next week with that as an excuse. But I won't. Because writing is my job. And there are no excuses (although be prepared for me to whine a little...or a lot...about all the packing). Yes, your child is home with the umpteenth snow day and your schedule is disrupted. Yes, you are repainting the bathroom and the whole project has escalated into two weeks of non-stop home improvement. Yes, you've got a big proposal due at the day job that requires extra hours.
No, that does NOT mean that your deadline will change. The words have to come out anyway. My husband has admitted that he could never, ever work from home, because he needs the structure of an office and daily reminders of deadlines. Well, writers don't have that luxury. Our editors leave us alone for four months while we write. We ourselves have to be the bad cop, the one filling in the squares on the mental timesheet. Time you steal one week becomes time that you can't necessarily make up the next week when suddenly promo is due for a blog tour. Or when you lose hours to designing snazzy swag for a convention. Without anyone looking over our shoulders on a daily basis, we have to kick our own butts. We have to flip off the damned imaginary muse and make the words come out no matter what.
Would you nap in the middle of the day if you were a court stenographer? Nope. Would you not clock in for two days as a cop because you'd rather get your bathroom done quickly? Nope. I promise, if you turn yourself into a hard-ass boss on this whole writing thing, your life will actually become easier. The words will flow with more regularity...as you write with more regularity. The stress of squeezing in the time to write a three-book proposal on top of the book that is due will even out, because you will already be on schedule with the WIP. People will learn not to call you in the middle of the day to chat, because it is your work time (or at ten at night - whenever you may put your fingers on the keyboard). Clock in five days a week. You'll end up thanking yourself.