We all have our reasons for finding writing discipline challenging, often more than one. Maybe it’s the fear of writing badly, of being a failure; irregularities in mental health or simply spinning tales in the mind without wanting to ruin them on the page.
Fortunately there are things we can do to soften the blow. Just like in the ballet Sleepy Beauty, the princess couldn’t avoid being put to sleep, but the Lilac Fairy did manage to stop this from being certain death. She also threw a prince’s kiss in for good measure. Her message? Why make life, and in this case: writing discipline, harder than it needs to be?
Realise the Importance of Your Writing
Have you ever noticed yours or other people’s reactions when discussing writing as a challenge? Perhaps you’ve realised it’s often taken less seriously than comparable activities.
Let’s say you decide to run a marathon or go into outer space. This is likely to be taken very seriously indeed. The scope of the project would be viewed in its entirety and there’d be a sense of breaking down tasks in order to reach a final goal.
Writing a novel or whatever else is an equally mammoth task, yet it’s rarely viewed in the same way. We need to change that if we want to be successful, to see our daily writing habit as training for the big day. If we don’t, the project will very quickly become overwhelming and we’re likely to give up.
There’s also the element of understanding the value of our writing project. Realising on a deep level that it has as much importance as anything else, we’ll instantly have the motivation and strength to get through the tough sessions. So let’s give ourselves some credit! What we’re doing is brave, admirable and worthy of a fat gold medal at the end.
Make Your Writing Space Somewhere You Want to Be
Although I don’t need a special place in order to write, there is value in having a space dedicated to daily practice. There’s no right or wrong place and how we organise it is up to us.
Writing discipline is massively effected by whether, on a physical level we feel comfortable or not. I discovered this myself after creating what I thought was an ideal working environment, accepting in the end that my chair was more akin to a medieval torture device. My great-great grandmother’s sewing table, which I forced myself to imagine as ‘quaint’ was actually at the wrong height; not to mention I was constantly chilly and the light was all wrong.
No great surprise that I hardly ever wrote there. Often it put me off altogether. Why on earth would we do something hard (writing), in an equally unappetising environment? Well, we wouldn’t, would we? It’d be like having an ice cream on a cold day. So to make self-dicipline palatable, create a space that makes you want to be there.
Keep a Simple Routine
I’m a list maker by nature. Unfortunately, because I love them so much I can sometimes overwrite and make life more complicated than it needs to be.
Not being able to finish everything is not a nice feeling for anyone. So why try? Cut down on the items within your writing routine to keep it short and sweet. It’s favourable to writing discipline because it helps maintain stamina and leaves room for next day’s motivation. Your sense of achievement will skyrocket.
Don’t Be Afraid of Your Writing
There was a moment around the 2000 word mark of a longer writing project I’m working on, where I was seriously considering giving up.
It was suddenly too enormous to handle, the research I’d have to do seemingly endless. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to carry on, just that I felt scared and utterly overwhelmed. But a voice inside my head told me ‘just do a bit more.’ This is what I’ve been telling myself every day since, and it’s working! The void is filling up and I’m finding direction organically and without stress.
Writing discipline doesn’t work if we’re scared of our own story’s shadow. If we can’t shake this feeling, we need to remind ourselves why we started in the first place. For the first draft, the only thing we should be worrying about is whether we’re having fun or not! We don’t need discipline if we’re turning up every day simply to enjoy ourselves.
Remember that characters, research or whatever else can always be changed/developed in a second draft. Don’t be frightened to carry on just because you don’t know or understand something yet. Just concentrate on story.
You’re Not a Machine
Not every writer would agree with me, but I think taking a break is a good thing. If we constantly push ourselves to hit a certain number of words every day, unless it’s a page or less we’re likely to become tired and demoralised at some point.
Feeling this way is an implication for writing discipline. Remember being a writer is a marathon, not a sprint and that there’s a difference between stopping completely and stopping to keep up momentum.
Having a break can mean doing nothing but it doesn’t have to. It can mean writing less than you normally would or doing another cultural/creative activity. I often get my best ideas when I’m more relaxed and doing something different. I can then bring this back like found art to use in my fiction.
- Prepare yourself mentally for the task ahead, understanding the importance of your work.
- Make your writing space comfortable and suitable for your needs.
- Keep a simple, manageable routine.
- Stop being afraid and just have fun! The serious, analytical ‘us’ can do its job later.
- Remember to take a break sometimes, while keeping up momentum.
So what’s the biggest obstacle to your writing discipline? Is it something you’re currently struggling with, or have you found the perfect system for you?
Until next time,