Writing is work. I know—there goes the romance of the writer’s life, right? But, the hard truth is that writing truly is work. IF you want to be published. If you don’t care about being published, go ahead, play with your writing. Toy with words and don’t worry about setting goals. But if you really want to be a writer, treat it like a job.
1.) Set specific hours you will write. It doesn’t have to be a long consecutive stretch. It just needs to be time you can consistently think about your writing/story and actually write without interruption. Some people wake up a half hour earlier than they “need to” in order to write. Some stay up an hour later. Maybe you can write on the fifteen-minute subway ride or the hour-long carpool. Maybe you can get ten minutes in at lunch. Choose something and do it consistently. Make it a habit and you’ll eventually hunger for that time.
2.) Have a set environment to write. I write at a little sea captain’s desk that overlooks my son’s playplace and part of the sheep pasture. I have a comfy chair that keeps me from making an excuse about not being comfortable. I have enough space for a cup of coffee and a saucer and a notebook. There’s a rolling table I can junk up with research books. But everything’s at hand. Once my butt’s in the chair there are few excuses for me to leave.
3.) The ritual of writing—This will be my kookiest advice (in this post ;-). Figure out what gets you in the writing mood. For me it’s coffee in my wolf mug and hands recently covered in a minty lotion. These things act as mental stimulation for me. I also turn on my playlist for the book (or you could use a suitable soundtrack or group’s CD). These things put me in that mental place where my mind can shake free of the needs of family and farm and focus on werewolves and other great things.
4.) Set goals. Long term goals and short term goals will make a huge difference to your writing. A long term goal might be to submit your finished novel to an agent or publisher. But before you get there, there will be gobs of short term goals on the way. These could be as simple as finding names for your characters or outlining the action. But set the goals. Achieve the goals and celebrate each little success on the way. Each one matters. Trust me.
So go ahead. If you want to write, write. But treat your writing like it matters--like a real job--if you want it to become a real job.