The Discipline of Writing

The trade of authorship is a violent, and indestructible obsession– George Sand, penname of Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin (1804-1876), French novelist.

When I was a youngster my sister, who is five years older than me, wanted to learn how to play the piano. So, my parents bought her an upright. At around the age of nine, she began taking lessons. Me? I got tired of hearing her practice her scales and songs. She did this most every weekday. All the way through her senior year in high school, she continued playing and practicing.  Because of her discipline and hard work, she became an excellent pianist.

Likewise, we writers require self-discipline if we want to improve. This is true in every art form.

Sadly, I’ve known talented people who’ve lacked the discipline to do much, if anything, with their literary gifts. After all, we don’t have a boss leaning over our shoulder screaming, “Write! Write!” Self-discipline is a must if we want to get better. If we don’t have the “really want to” we don’t have the “really must do” in order to succeed.

Five Marks of a Self-disciplined Writer

  1. Self-disciplined writers approach their craft like a regular job –because it is. They “clock in and clock out” on a regular schedule, even on days when they don’t feel like writing. Ever worked a regular nine-to-five job when you didn’t want to but had to? That’s what self-disciplined writers do, even if for an hour or two a day.
  2. Self-disciplined writers persevere despite disappointments, such as when an editor rejects a manuscript.
  3. Self-disciplined writers cut out distractions. Some write well in noisy environments while others, such as me, don’t. Whatever environment a self-disciplined writer chooses, he/she focuses totally on their work.
  4. Self-disciplined writers live a balanced life. They know when to say no to certain activities without feeling guilty and when to say yes. I’ve learned from experience that not everyone will understand when I say no, but I’ve also learned to accept that fact. Most non-writers don’t understand serious writers, anyway.
  5. Self-disciplined writers are driven. They don’t just want to write, they have to write. True writers write because they have no choice.

To quote the Roman poet Juvenal (c. 70-c. 150): Writing is the incurable itch that possess many.

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