It’s easy to let things slide as a writer, even as a professional writer. You can always get to that next story tomorrow. Or you can edit the next chapter of your book this weekend. Maybe you can outline that screenplay next week.
See, when you’re a writer, you are your own boss. You might have an editor or publisher or agent to answer to, but when it comes to getting the work done, you are your own immediate supervisor.
Reasons to get writing? You don’t want to disappoint yourself, and you enjoy that felling of accomplishment, of having finished a work. Maybe you have bills that need paid. Maybe you need to meet a deadline. All are good reasons to keep writing.
But how do you keep yourself on track? Planning ahead is the key. Possibly you even need to write down a schedule of sorts.
It’s easy, actually. Just get a piece of paper and a pen and write down a list of things you want to accomplish. Once finished, look the list over. Perhaps you need to juggle the list around a bit, to prioritize.
You might even want more than one list. You could have a short-term list of items that need finishing in the next week. Then you could have a list of writing projects you want to finish over the next year. You could even get more complicated than that and have a scheduling calendar with real deadlines penciled in and your own self-created deadlines.
Keeping to those deadlines might be something else altogether, but having a plan can help you stay ahead of the game and gives you impetus to get cracking on your projects. If you miss one of your own deadlines by a day or two, don’t beat yourself up over it; get back to work and try to get ahead on the next deadline, or maybe adjust your schedule back a few days. However, if you miss a real deadline, one set by an editor or publisher, you’ve probably got a phone call to make and some explaining to do; still, most smart publishers and editors will have worked in a little fudge factor, so you might be alright (which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take their deadlines seriously, because you should).
Does all this sound too professional to you? Sound like work? That’s because it is. To make it as a professional writer, you need to realize it is work, and it’s not easy.