Thursday, August 12, 2010

That Ever-Elusive Cornerstone of Industry


Let’s be honest—who among us is truly disciplined? It’s the bread-and-butter staple of the writing world; it’s the butt-in-chair philosophy that keeps our little vessels afloat; it’s making yourself eek out words and plunge through the raging surf of life to pull our work into being.

It’s a pain in the ass.

A while back, we talked about time management. Most people think that’s the hard part. It’s not.

See, it’s pretty easy to garner some time for yourself—a half-hour here, twenty minutes there. Shorter showers. Whatever.

But the real trick is to sit yourself down at your desk and write something during that time.

It’s a scary thing, because there are those days where you get 5,000 words and it feels like flying, and then you run into other days where just 500 feels like smashing your head against the keyboard. It’s all too easy to throw in the towel on the days that the words are slow and bad and stupid (at least to you), and figure that, “Oh, tomorrow will definitely be a 5K-word-day!”

Because it won’t be.

It won’t be, because you’ll still be tired, the words still take a while to get rolling, and you’ll decide to throw up that white flag again. You’re setting yourself up for failure, this way.

That’s where discipline comes in. Discipline is both a martial and a saint—it keeps you in the chair, writing, even when you’d rather not be there and all your words sound like despair. But write, you will. You’ll form habits, you’ll sit in that chair, and before you know it (people always say that about things that take forever), you’ll write straight away as soon as you sit down.

In all seriousness, though, it takes discipline to write. It takes discipline to sit down every day in front of that blank page and put cohesive, thoughtful words on the page.

They won’t always be good words. They won’t always be bad, either. But I can tell you this: without discipline, you’ll never write any words, and that’s the worst travesty a writer can condemn herself to.

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