If you're a writer, you need to write.
Still, it's amazing how many people I talk to who manage to fritter away most of their time doing everything but putting words down on paper.
True, there are a lot of great classes out there, at colleges, online, individual workshops; you name it and it's out there. As a writer you should probably even take some courses. It does help your direction and focus. They are frequently the font of new ideas as well.
But all that learning doesn't excuse you from seat-of-the-pants-in-your-chair, hands-on-the-keyboard writing. None of us have limitless time and that means you need to prioritize and organize. Choose a course or two, but be aware when you start looking at that class offering of when you're using that to simply put off the actual job of writing.
Then we have the conference attendees. Boy, I hate running into these when I do go to an occasional conference. Can't get much out of them except what conference they last attended and where it was. Some writer wannabes (and I'm sorry if I insulted anyone, but in this case they are just that), do no more than attend one writer's conference after another. Whatever forces are at work there, they aren't getting any writing done. Not only that, but at a conference where serious writers are trying to make contacts and headway, they become pariah to be avoided and a drag on the valuable time of those who want to discuss the craft and connect with those with whom they can find mutual benefit.
But wait, we haven't even spoken of the writers who continually make outlines and do character sketches. Both good tools for writing. However if you as a writer allow them to take over, your writing will ultimately suffer. Such things as outlines and character sketches can be grossly over done to the point of sabotaging your own output. There is a point where you need to have it out with yourself and get down to the actual work of creating your story, the work of putting the meat on the bones. The reality is that your outline is going to change dozens of times as you write, and character sketches will have to be revamped as things change. If you don't write your story down on paper or the computer screen, you won't have anything to change, and believe me, you will change it.
That's called rewrite and edit. When I first began writing I skipped most of that. I was very young and simply began by writing my story down. I'm rather glad it happened that way so I didn't over-think it. By the time I realized what I was doing I had already become a writer.
The last real time thief that I want to mention is reading books about writing. Again, a good idea on its own. Writers need to read – a lot. They need to read books on the craft and even more they need to read books in their field of interest. Mystery writers need to read mysteries. Romance writers ditto just as western writers need to read westerns. To be a good writer you really need to read large amounts. But check yourself; are you reading to the exclusion of your writing?
Here's reality. Writing is trial-and-error. You must get words out of your head and down on paper. Let the muse play. Like it. Don't like it. You won't know until you write it.
So recognize the items I've mentioned as tools. Make use of them, but know when to put them aside and simply write.
Write, rewrite, and edit. That's the daily grind when you're a writer.
Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (eBook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/