Saturday, 11 September 2010

Discipline - what does it mean?

We're always being told you have to be disciplined as a writer.  "If you want to get anywhere, write every day..." or whatever the disciplinary committee decides is the important rule.

Tell you the truth, I hate that word.  It's loaded with implications of penalties and wagging fingers and writing it out on the blackboard 100 times, and all that ghastly stuff you go through as a kid.  To hell with discipline!

So why am I writing a blog on discipline by request?  Because we need to get this sorted out.  Because as writers we are keen to believe there are ways to circumvent time and effort and do it easily.  Well, there are.  And the number one way is to stop punishing yourself for not being disciplined enough.

You're writing because you want to.  It's your choice.  It's also your choice how quickly you achieve your dreams.  No one can drive you.  You can only drive yourself.  We all have a comfort zone of activity - too much or too little makes you either overwhelmed or bored.

This is my solution.  Find out what your comfort zone is in terms of activity, and stick with that.  Then you can occasionally push yourself to make that deadline.  If you like to work in frenzied spurts and then have days off, do that.  If you like to write a certain amount every day, do that.

Why?  Because when you are comfortable and doing it the way you choose, you will free up your creative juices.  If you have your attention on your "shortcomings" in terms of getting it done, you're damming up the flow.

If there is a word that belongs here, for my money it's persistence.  Keep going, that's all.  And if you fall off your timetable or your plan, so what?  Who cares?  Get back on again and pedal.  You'll get there.


  1. Great post and brilliant timing. Just spent the week staring blankly at the keyboard and feeling guilty that after a six week break I can't seem to get going.

  2. Talk about great timing. With a house full of inlaws for the last six weeks my creative juices have shriveled up beyond recognition. On top of it all I was feeling frustrated about not writing and worried I'd never be able to get back in the saddle. At least now I can calm down for the last remaining fortnight of their stay and book myself a weekend of writing to celebrate their leaving.

    Keep the posts coming please - I'm finding them immensely helpful. I've even stopped using excalamation marks all over the place!!!!!! :-)

  3. I'm very glad this post has helped to stop the guilt, Rachael, and calm you down, Amanda. A writer never loses the ability to get back in the saddle. It might take a few goes to get there, but you'll always get there. Like riding a bicycle, you never forget.

  4. Oh, thank goodness. You've given me permission to stop feeling a failure because I go several days without applying myself to the WIP. I had come to believe that 'real' writers write every day - sometimes it's just not possible, with day jobs and families and housework... I tend to get around it by telling myself that not writing doesn't mean I'm not working - that there can be just as much creative work done inside the head as on paper.

    Doesn't stop me feeling that I've failed if I sometimes prefer reading a book to slogging through more edits though. Next time I shall quote you to myself, and relax.

  5. It's true about creative work going on inside the head, especially when you're asleep! Often if you go to sleep on a problem, the solution is there in the morning. So glad you feel better, Jane.