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Thread: Discipline

  1. #1
    Marianne Keesee


    Boy! Heather brought up a good topic. For those of you who have time to write, how do you structure your day? I am about to retire and I am trying to figure out a schedule that will work for me. So far the plan is to work around the house in the cool part of the morning and when it gets too hot to work then I can plop myself down in front of the computer.
    How do you make yourself sit when the words arent flowing???

  2. #2
    Benjamin X. Wretlind

    Re: Discipline

    This is probably NOT what most people do, but I find it works (if only for my present situation). The dream, of course, is to run away to a cabin in the mountains every weekend and write away until my fingers bleed.

    At 4am I wake up, get the obligatory cup of java and a) head out for a run or b) sit down and write something. I don't really care what it is, although I would prefer it have something to do with the current project. At 5:15am it's time to get ready for work. I start teaching at 6am (the military seems to think that you can learn a lot at 6am). The benefit, however, of teaching is that I often take breaks with my class and discuss my novel, whether it be "What would you do if...?" or "What do you think about...?" This serves two purposes: it gives the students a break from meteorological principles (wouldn't you want a break???), and it opens up the creative process for me.

    The end of the day. Come home, eat, play with the kids, then finally sit down at 8pm or so and tinker with the computer (or, in today's case, tinker a little earlier). After the obligatory check of CNN (a great source of story ideas, by the way), I open up the manuscript and stare at it. Hopefully, within the first few minutes of analyzing what I wrote before, I can jump in with something new and get about 1000 to 5000 or so words out before the Sandman comes and beats me senseless with a bag of bricks--sometime around midnight.

    The weekends are mine, however, and I think the best work comes out sometime between 10pm and 3am, although I can occasionally work in a few thousand words between the obligatory BBQs and lawn exercises.

    Again, this is probably not what most people face. When I think about it, I only write when I really have the time and I can free my mind (even if I can't keep the kids quiet).

    Benjamin X. Wretlind

  3. #3
    Stewart Knight

    Re: Discipline

    Discipline isn't a time thing for me, I find it very hard to set myself times for writing because when the urge takes me....

    When the urge does take me I make small notes on almost anything, even if it's just an idea or a small note. I keep a notebook with me all the time.

    I find it better to give myself a set number of minimum words to write and if I go over my 'quota' then great, but I always do my quota. If you do 500 words, good words, a day, you will end up with over 180,000 words at the end of a year. I find it better to do this quota instead of setting times.

    What about others?


  4. #4

    Re: Discipline

    I pray for free, undisturbed moments. Usually, I can get in an hour between 9-10pm, when my daughter is in bed and my hubby in front of the TV. Other times I will get up with him at 5:20am and write until I have to get ready for work myself.

    I am carrying around a copy of my ms with me, and I grab a encil and edit when I have a chance. I'd love to have a laptop so I could carry my WIP with me. Someday.....

  5. #5
    Hal Zina Bennett

    Re: Discipline

    People think I'm a disciplined writer because I do it full time, which sometimes means from 6:30 a.m until midnight--not healthy. I don't recommend it. What is the source of my discipline? It's called keeping the wolf from the door. I'm only partly kidding about this. I guarantee if you have to write to pay the mortgage, you write. But there is a lot more to it.

    I essentially don't believe in discipline, at least not the teeth-grinding kind. I believe that the human organism simply isn't built that way and it's natural response to that kind of discipline is to resist and rebel.

    What does work is being excited about your subject. And you get in touch with that by validating that your own life experience is a rich source of material. Not that you tell your own story, but you use what life has taught you--the tensions, conflicts, joys, ecstasy, ironies, contradictions, etc., that are all part of our lives. When we start tapping into that source, the blocks (in this case writers' blocks) are dissolved, for the most part.

    I've seen literally hundreds of writers not only find their creative voices but become "disciplined" in their writing when they get onto using the creative source that we each have when we embrace our own life experiences consciously. And CONSCIOUSLY is the important word there.

    Good place to start: Look at 1) your peak experiences; 2) your wounds--particularly the ones around your discovery that the rest of the world does not think or feel like you; 3) what we learn from the mask--that portion of ourself that we allow the rest of the world to see but isn't the whole ME; and 4) what it's like to tap into divine inspiration, what used to be called "the muse."

    Out of doing that, real discipline comes--the honoring of our own gifts as writers. Creativity of this kind is at one and the same time our most selfish and our most generous act.

    (Hal is the author of Write From the Heart (see Amazon.com) and more than 30 fiction and non-fiction books.)

  6. #6
    Mark Blanchard

    Re: Discipline

    I think the key to discipline in writing (or should I say completing) is to recognize your natural disciplinary patterns and be true to them.

    What I mean by this is don't try to sit down at the keyboard and start writing at 7:00 am to 1:00 pm as Elmore Leonard does nearly every damn day in the first half of each year if that kind of schedule doesn't feel comfortable to you. Find your own natural rhythm and then don't fight it. Stephen Cannell types his novels on one obsolete model of IBM Selectric typewriter and has purchased about twenty of them just so he'll never run out. Winston Churchill wrote in the middle of the night then slept till noon -- even as Prime Minister. Weird, but they're both absolutely faithful to their recognized patterns.

    As for me, I like to write in tiny, windowless rooms with no art or decoration, from 9:00pm to 3:00 am. Editing I do during the day. It works for me so I don't fight it and am therfore able to go at it with clockwork regularity.


  7. #7
    C. Van Vleet

    Re: Discipline

    I've been freelancing for two years now, and people often ask me how I manage to write at all as a stay-home mother with three children (only one who is in school full-time). My usual answer is, "I just do." When the kids are playing, watching TV, outside or otherwise involved, I'm working (in an office with no door that is right off the living room). Often I'm doing research, writing an aritcle or working on my new book with a 6 year old and a 3 year old jumping off the couch that's 4 feet away from my desk! I too carry a notebook around so I can work when I have a few minutes (like at soccer practice.) Sometimes I write after the kids are in bed and my husband is busy, but quite frankly, I'm not sure I COULD write in a nice, quiet house or mountain get-away. The chaos works for me.
    It's been interesting reading how other writers work. Thanks, everyone, for sharing!

  8. #8
    max tickner

    Re: Discipline

    Treat writing as a job. Take it seriously (even if your mother doesn't...mine never did...)
    Find out the best time that your mind is sharp. I'm a night bird (25 years on the bridge of a trawler in the artic ocean taught me this).
    I play with my kids until 4pm - then go to bed. Wake at 11pm and shower and eat.
    I have an old wind-up alarm clock which is set for 6am.
    At midnight I open up the machine and start writing. No cold start - I continue from where I left off the previous night.
    That's the secret. When the alarm goes off...STOP. Even in mid sentence. That gives you a flying start for the next session.
    AND the only other tip I have is - during the day forget about writing...get on with life.
    Oh, and when you've finished the story/novel/whatever. Stick it in a drawer for at least a month before re-reading it. Don't 'edit' the instant you finish. Read a month later you'll be surprised just how good most of it is.
    And finally - have confidence in your abilities...
    Max Tickner

  9. #9
    Stewart Knight

    Re: Discipline

    You said the magic word Max, confidence.

    We all think our work is good, if not great, but how many of us 'KNOW' it is?

  10. #10
    Chris Cox

    Re: Discipline

    Before I start, I want to say that I really love the idea of the alarm clock Max, because sometimes you can lose the momentum of a scene between one day and the next. I can really see how that would work, because it would be bugging me all through the day.

    My situation is this; I used to work in a factory, but it was terrible and it gave me no room to create. After a while, I thought about it, and then I got a job as a night security guard, which is what I have been ever since. The job is mind numbing, but as soon as the gates are locked, the building is mine to write, (which is what I intended) and so I look upon my job as being paid to write. That makes my bread winning very pleasurable indeed, and as I'm away from home/distraction, the motivation is always there, even if it's due to there being very little else to do. Since I started in August, I've written more than I ever have in my life. People look upon security as an idiots job, but I assure you, I've never been as content or stress-free!

    As for the discipline, I write through the night between 1am and approx 4.30/5am, and it seems to be working thus far.

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