Much as I'd like to say otherwise, writing is a job. Sure, it's also an expression of self, an artistic endeavor, and a gift, but when the day is done, you're exhausted and you've got a thousand words to write it's just another job that must be done.
Not to pop any balloons or anything like that. The fact is, I love my job. I can't imagine doing anything else. As a matter of fact, I'm trained as a teacher, but I don't plan to ever go back to the classroom (my dining room table and my four kids aside) unless it's to teach writing at a community college or university. What's the sense? My dream is to write. It's what I'm doing.
Here's the thing, though. Writing is a tough job. And I'm not saying that because it opens us up to criticism and rejection. When I was a teacher, I went to school every day. I saw my boss. I saw my fellow teachers. I saw the results of my teaching efforts in test scores and kids' success. Every two weeks I got a paycheck that proved that I was indeed doing a job. As a writer, I don't talk to my editor every day. Mostly I don't talk to her even once a month. I know what I need to do and I focus my energy on doing it so that she can do her job (which involves a whole lot more than my manuscripts). That means that eighty-five percent of the time, I'm working on my own without any input from my 'boss'. She buys the book and sends me off to write it trusting that I can produce what I've said I can. I don't have a crowd of people standing around me cheering me on, I don't have a boss telling me every day what to do and how to do it, I don't have colleagues that I can meet at the water cooler to discuss plans with. And I don't get paychecks every two weeks. The money comes in as my books sell and my royalty statements arrive, or as I receive further advances for work done. That may mean months or weeks between paychecks.
Why am I saying all this? Because the road to publication always begins with a dream. Acheiving that dream, though, is only the beginning of a very fun, fulfilling, and tough career. Careers require plans. If you haven't already jotted down your goals as an author, you should take the time to do it. Do you want to write one book a year? Two? Will you spend twenty hours a week writing or forty? Do you have a dream publisher, or just a vague idea of where your manuscript is headed?
I sold STILL WATERS four years ago in December. Up until that point, my plan was to sell a book in five years. Once I acheived my goal I immediately made a new one. I wanted to sell book ten within five years. I've worked hard to acheive that goal, knowing that name recognition is a good part of being successful in this industry and that the only way to have my name recognized by LI readers was to get more books out a year. I may be a busy homeschool mom, but I have spent time thinking through my writing career. I know what I want to acheive today, this month, and this year. I also know what my long term goals are.
Whether you're just starting out, or have been doing this for a while, I recommend that you take the time to think about your future as a writer. Dreams are nice, but it's concrete goals that set the stage for success.