In December of last year, I started a new job. It was a position I had been after for months, so when I finally got the offer, I was super excited!
However, getting the job was just part I. In order to keep the job, I needed to be licensed, which meant taking an exam.
“All right,” I thought. “No big deal. I’m a smart guy. This will be a breeze.”
Let me tell you, studying for that thing was hard. Every morning for two months I was slapping the alarm clock at 5 AM just so I could get in an hour of studying before work started. And every night after work I set up camp at my desk, surrounded by textbooks and notepads, studying until either my eyes were too tired or it was just time to go to bed. On average, I’d say I spent about 4-5 hours a day studying for that test. My relationship with my wife suffered, I hardly saw my friends and family, and I was constantly miserable, agonizing over whether or not I would pass.
So why did I put so much effort in?
Well, for starters, I wanted to keep my new job. But you know what else kept me going? Everyone at work knew I was taking the exam. My professional image was linked to whether or not I passed. Talk about accountability!
Which got me thinking…
What if I devoted that same amount of time and effort to writing?
As a writer, “showing up for work” pretty much just means plugging in the laptop and hacking away. But if you don’t? Well…Let’s just say you don’t have to file a report with your boss as to why you only wrote a few dozen words over the weekend.
There’s just another level of responsibility that comes with being a professional. When you are held accountable to a superior, or when other people are counting on you, when your image is at stake, we tend to put everything else aside and DO WORK.
I call this Professional Discipline.
But I’m not a professional writer, you say. I don’t have have an editor, or an agent, or a publisher. I’m not accountable to any one.
Then pretend like you are. And keep pretending until you don’t have to any more.
That means getting up at 5 to get in that extra hour of writing before work. It means using your lunch break to sneak in another hour, or saying “no” to Netflix in the evenings. If you maintain the discipline of a professional, it won’t be long before other people start calling you one.
And when you do have the editor, and the agent, and the publisher. Well, you’ll already know what to do.
And just so you know, I did pass that exam (eventually) and I got to keep my job, but the lesson I learned about Professional Discipline was even more valuable.
Call to Action:
How do you drive yourself to achieve Professional Discipline? Share in the comments below, and be sure to click the follow button on the right for more writing tips!