In part 3 of this little series, let’s talk a bit about keeping yourself on track!
The Virtue of Self-Discipline
Our day jobs provide (or inflict upon) us some degree of structure. Some people have jobs that are very flexible in many ways, others not so much. But as a general rule, we’re expected to show up a certain amount of time and do or produce something for our pay. Bosses are there to yell at us if we don’t.
When you shift over to writing full-time, just as with many other self-owned businesses, that boss goes away. Poof. You can now do just about anything you want, as long as it’s legal. Don’t feel like rolling out of bed until noon? No problem! Just want to wear PJs and bunny slippers all day? You can do that.
Writing? Well, yeah, I do need to get back to work on that book, but I feel like playing Call of Duty on the PS3 today. All day. And all night. I’ll do some writing later. Oh, wait, somebody just mentioned me on Twitter. Or maybe someone posted something on a forum that has you all fired up, and you spent half a dozen hours during the day voicing your opinion. The fact that you just wrote as many words as you usually need for a chapter in your latest book escapes you…
You can see where I’m going, right? When you start working at home for the first time, your enemies will become the distractions that (presumably) you were largely insulated from while at your day job. It’s up to you to build an insulating layer and give yourself enough structure to be successful. And, at least in the beginning, you may have to be absolutely merciless on yourself to develop success-oriented habits.
Make no mistake: being a self-published author, with your royalties as your primary or sole source of income, can be scary. It’s all on you. Your creativity. Your ability to market your work. Your ability to run a business. There are times when you have to be ruthless on yourself, when you can’t let yourself go to bed until you’ve finished that next chapter or you’ll blow your self-imposed deadline. Or maybe you’ll run out of money.
So, one of the first things you have to do is establish whatever structure and self-discipline will help you achieve success. Set office hours when you’ll be available to communicate with folks on-line or on the phone, or can have meetings in person. Fence off certain hours for writing, and nothing short of a family emergency is to interrupt that time (you’re at work, remember?). Set daily goals for productivity, and deadlines for reaching milestones in your writing. Then hold yourself to them.
I’ll confess that I’m still struggling with this. I have a goal of writing 3,000 words a day (including new text on my next novel, blogs, etc.). Some days I make it, some I don’t. Keeping myself accountable to that goal is often dicey, but it’s one that I keep hammering away on. Because if I don’t focus on improving over time, my chances of long-term success dwindle significantly. There are some days when I just don’t feel like writing. But that’s okay, because there’s always something else you can be doing, as long as it furthers your business of being an author.
In our next and final installment, we’ll talk a bit about Socializing and Taking Time Out…