Last year I had a revelation about writing. I realized that if I ever expected to reach professional status - that is actually writing full-time as a career - I was going to have to treat my writing in a professional way.
This doesn't mean I don't shake my fist at my inner editor and call her unsavory names now and again. It doesn't mean I have conquered the mysterious world of spreadsheets and databases that some employ to track their progress. It doesn't mean when I sit down to write I wear my interview clothes. (Not that that wouldn't be kind of fun.)
Writing like a professional means finishing what I start, even when the story truly sucks.
It means setting goals about how much I write each week.
It means gritting my teeth and skipping a rerun on TV (even if it is The Good Wife) and working on the edits to that story that should be sitting on an editor's desk right NOW!
It means subbing to the hardest markets first, even if they are the hardest markets.
It means accepting criticism and rejection and continuing to write anyway.
I used to have this idea that if I wrote on my own time there was no need to set strict goals. There was no point in holding myself to deadlines. Once I was published I would start changing my writing habits.
Then I began to realize what an impact writing habits have on my writing. I would not be able to achieve professional publication unless I was acting like a professional.
None of this means that I don't sometimes blow off writing in favor of an evening vegging in front of the TV. Or that I make every one of my goals and deadlines. Or that I don't sometimes write something short and sweet and sub it to an easy market because I get tired of the "Sorry, it's not what we want" emails.
But I am working on making a habit of writing every day. Of finishing every story. Of polishing as many of those finished stories as possible. And then subbing those polished stories 'til the spec-fic publishing world is crying mercy. Because that (I think) is how the professionals do it.