The image of a writer cozily wrapped up in blankets on the couch or in bed dressed in pajamas with a notebook is an image well-loved in our society, and something many aspiring writers fantasize about. Unfortunately, if one wants to make any amount of money writing, that lifestyle is but a fantasy. If you want to make a living as a writer, you’ll have to treat your writing as a job, not just a hobby.
The first thing you’ll need to think about is scheduling. You can’t just write whenever the whimsy takes you. For starters, you’ve got things to do. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably working a “real job” that you don’t particularly care about beyond the paycheck in order to pay bills. When I make up my writing schedule for the week, that’s the first thing I consider. After that it’s my eating habits, errands, daily responsibilities that keeps my household running, and social obligations. I typically try to get four hours a day, five days a week, of writing in. I don’t always have the discipline for even just that. It’s something I’m working on.
Once you’ve written up your writing schedule, you’ll need goals. The most common sort of writing goal is one of word counts. I like to have a weekly writing goal, and I typically set it as about 100 words more than I wrote the previous week. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a great example of this, and can be good practice for working toward word count goals and deadlines.
But making up a schedule and setting goals isn’t’ the only thing that comes with making a living at being a writer. You can’t just horde away your writing with the hope that some day, someone will be willing to pay you to read them. At some point, you must send your darlings out into the world so that editors can see and decide whether or not to publish. You will encounter many rejections before you start seeing acceptances. A serious writer will not let the disappointment stop them.
Of course, every writer finds success in their own way. Ask several successful authors how they found their big break and you will get several different answers. I personally am still searching for my own big break. What works for me won’t work for everyone, and that’s okay. The act of writing itself is a process, and so is succeeding at it. If one person’s process doesn’t work for you, feel free to develop your own.