Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world–to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want. –Ayn Rand
This morning, I was up at 6:12, and down the stairs, into garden shoes, and out the door with a little red puppy trailing behind. Welcome to housebreaking I thought, with a little grump in my step. But when we walked, the big dog leading the way, and Meander did her business with my uproarious applause waking the last of the songbirds. We walked, and she thundered after the big dog and back to me. A good 20 minutes of exercise . . . for all of us.
By the time we were back at the house to let the chickens out, I was feeling good, a little groggy still since I’d had to delay my coffee, but good. Walk done. Puppy exercised. Big dog treated. Chickens freed to roam. I could do this as a morning routine.
One of the things that is the hardest about writing full-time is discipline. I’ve never missed a deadline or taken a day off willy nilly. This is my job, so I show up every day.
BUT I can fritter away much of a day on “work-related” things like Facebook posts and Twitter. For me, “building a platform” can easily take the place of writing.
And yet, it doesn’t take the place of writing. It doesn’t make me feel accomplished or clear out the mass of energy twisted in my chest. It doesn’t help me know what I think; if anything it clutters my mind with more I need to think about. No, the only thing that does the work of writing is, of course, writing.
So I’m hopeful that my newly VERY busy schedule, enhanced with puppy, will encourage me to not only be more disciplined about walks and meal times but will also serve as a framework for my writing. We’ll see how it goes, but if this morning is any indication, I’m going to be a tired, but blissful woman at the end of each day.
Here are my three best suggestions for building discipline into your writing life:
1. Have a writing schedule. It doesn’t matter if you write, as I do, from 10-12 five days a week or can only set aside three hours while the kids are at swim practice once a week. Putting writing on the schedule helps you honor the work.
2. Have writing goals. Shawn Smucker told me more than a year ago that he writes 1,000 words a day, and I’ve used that daily goal as a way of writing my entire book. You may not be able to hit 1,000 words, or you may want to write 3,000 a day. Whatever works for you, try setting a specific goal of words or time spent. It will help you both move forward in your writing as well as feel accomplished when you reach it.
3. Give yourself grace. You are going to get sick. A friend is unexpectedly going to come to town. Your partner is going to spring a luxury weekend on you at 7am on Friday. Give yourself the grace to live. People take days off all the time from their jobs – that’s what personal days are for. So let yourself live a little, and if you just have a bad day and don’t feel like it (once in a while), give yourself grace there, too. Guilt will not get you any closer to your writing goals; in fact, it will probably hold you back from them.
What do you do to keep yourself disciplined about your work?