Firstly, I want to clarify that I'm not telling you to make writing your job. It should not be a full-time or part-time or freelance job unless you truly want it to be and have no other financial concerns.
If you are still struggling financially, get an actual job that isn't writing.
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#1: Efficient Use of Time
When I had a full-time job in finance, I only had evenings to write. It was difficult because most of my energy and brain cells were already used at my job. However, I rented an office outside of home and inflated myself with three cups of coffee, buying myself 2 hours every night to write chapters for Ball of Nothing.
You have no idea how much you can accomplish in just two hours unless you strap a ticking time bomb to yourself. That urgency created productivity. I learned how to do all my plot outlining and research during lunch break so that I can have two hours of undisturbed writing. That amounted to anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 words in two hours. Probably more than what a writer who wrote full-time managed without a time frame.
#2: Sense of Accomplishment
The results spoke for themselves. Even if they were still unedited drafts, I felt like I could return home and get a shower with a weight off my shoulders. I liked writing and completing two chapters gave me a major sense of accomplishment. It might not be an entire book but it counted towards progress.
For me, any progress was better than none. The journey of a thousand miles always began with a single step and this was what I needed.
#3: Eliminate Procrastination
You don't have to go to the extremes I did and pay rent for an office only utilised two hours a day. However, procrastination will disappear when you have a deadline or a consequence to deal with. It was the most effective method to kick that lazy bone and ramp up production.
This is not the easiest skill to master. Discipline takes many years to cultivate and what better way to tell yourself to give a daily word count other than making it your job to do so? If you are made responsible for something, discipline automatically happens.
You are accountable towards your personal writing progress.
#5: Monitor Progress
I like to keep a word count diary so that I know how many words I wrote in a day. Using this, you will be able to estimate how much progress you can make in a month and plan your writing projects ahead. Making it a job means there will be project review time. Give yourself a fair self-appraisal and adjust the hours accordingly for balanced mental and physical health.
You worked hard. It is time to rest well and play hard too.
Just because it doesn't bring you the instant cheque doesn't mean you don't have to work hard at it. If anything, some writers who also hold full-time jobs claim that writing is harder than their jobs. However, we do it because we love it.
Writing as if you were getting paid gives you a sense of commitment that you won't get if you had nobody to be accountable to. Many writers are stuck in a loop of self-doubt or exhaustion that when we have free time, writing is probably not the first thing on our list. Making writing manageable is the first step to cultivating a good writing habit.