I don't have a boss to give me deadlines and threaten me with unemployment. I have an agent who believes in my writing enough to spend time trying to find me the perfect publisher. I have a family who cheers me on. I have friends and writing students and peers who want to see me succeed.
But ultimately, I am the one that sets my hours. I determine my work ethic. I either write or I don't; watch Netflix or read writing books; take a nap or do some research.
That's not easy when, on some days, I'm convinced that I'm wasting my time by pursuing a writing career, and I should just go out and get a "real" job. What's the difference, after all, between writing and watching tv, when the writing is only a dream?
Somewhere along the way, I got it in my silly head that writing does not count as work. And so, in order to get some words on the page (or the screen), whether fiction or nonfiction, I have to first have a relatively clean home, a load of laundry in the washer, a groomed dog, a fed cat, a plan for feeding the humans that live in my home come suppertime. It's only when all of those things are lined up that I feel freed up (read: not guilty) to sit down and write.
Fortunately, I have recently realized how dramatically that way of thinking has slowed my progress as a writer. Take this blog page, for example. The last time I wrote here was two full years ago. I have been working on my current manuscript, but not as much as I should be. If I'd been working even a few hours more per week, I'd have finished this manuscript months ago, and I'd currently be working on my next idea (a retelling of the Old Testament book of Hosea).
What I've come to learn (and yet I have to continually remind myself--in stern terms) is that I've handicapped my writing career by treating it like a dream and a pastime, when it really is, in actual fact, my work: my job. A bimonthly paycheck doesn't prove it; my dedication to the pursuit proves it. The truth is, "Dreams don't work unless you do" (John C. Maxwell).
Here's what I hope you'll glean from this meandering, introspective blog post: Whatever your dream is, start treating it like your job. Even if you have to do other work for awhile so that you can afford to feed and clothe and shelter yourself.
If you have a goal you'd like to be held accountable for, post it in the comments. I'm here to cheer you on.