Friday, July 03, 2009

The Many Faces of Discipline

A lot of attention is paid to the need for discipline in pursuing writing, specifically, the discipline to put one’s butt in the chair and simply write.

But it’s occurred to me lately that discipline issues come in many shapes and sizes. We need discipline not just for B-I-C, but also:

~ for learning the craft
~ for finding the fortitude to do One. More. Stinking. Draft. To get it right.
~ to block out creative distractions—new ideas that beckon seductively or the temptation of learning what certain publishers or agents think is “hot” and therefore selling
~ The discipline to cleave to our own unique creative vision, no matter how much we doubt it or it scares us or that annoying internal editor whispers we’ll be damned if we write that. (Can you tell I struggle with this one a lot?)
~ not coveting thy neighbors publishing deal or marketing plan. This one is also hard, especially with so much information available on the web as to who got how much for what deal and the cyber evidence of how much certain publishers are promoting certain titles.

All of those are death to our writing. And it occurred to me this week that while I’ve been smugly chortling over NOT needing discipline in keeping my butt in the chair, I very much DO lack discipline in some of those areas. So how about you? What areas do you struggle with?

And because this is kind of a brave, public admission, we’ll have a special drawing for everyone who leaves a comment on this post!

10 comments:

Katy Cooper said...

I struggle in a major way with cleaving to my own unique creative vision; I doubt myself so much... I always think I'm wrong...

Barbara Bietz said...

Robin,

You are so wise. Like Katy, I think the big hurdle is believing in my own creative vision. It is sometimes easier to be hard on yourself than it is to forge ahead and take the risk. That's why writers need friends who support their journey. I am also guilty of thinking - knowing -that others are more worthy.

sylvia said...

I have to seriously discipline myself to finish what I've started. I'm very bad about beginning something and then ... oooh, shiny! ... I distract onto something else because obviously it's MUCH BETTER than what I had been doing.

beckylevine said...

I think I struggle with not pushing away the harder projects & choosing to spend time with the easier ones.

I struggle with the balance of giving myself reading/recharge time & giving myself up to escaping that harder project by just staying with the reading. :)

L.A. said...

I also struggle with beginning too many projects. This is often because I just don't know the characters well enough, so I get stuck and start a whole new book instead. The things you blogged about the last few weeks (understanding character, world building,etc.) helped hugely. My new strategy is to go journal on characters or "world" instead of giving up. And, yes, self doubt is BIG, but it usually arrives when I begin a really cold revision, as in, "Did I really write this garbage?" Doubt is usually my friend/helpful editor at that stage :)

Robin L said...

Wow, thanks everybody! Who knew I was in such good company! I actually think that learning to trust our own creative vision is a lifelong struggle--something we probably get better at but may never master.

RISK. We should all have that pasted to our computer monitors, Barbara! And I SO get the less worthy thing.

Sylvia, the "ooh shiny" thing is another big one for me. I've learned to either write just enough of it down that I can recapture it later, or give myself permission to switch back and forth between two projects.

Excellent point, Becky, when does recharging become avoidance!

L.A., I think especially when one is starting out, it's healthy to start a lot of projects as we struggle to find our voice and core stories and make sure the story idea has enough to actually sustain it. Doubt is your friend at this stage because it pushes you to learn and grow, which is great. And I hope that journaling technique works for you as well as it has for me.

Now off to post the winner!

Dave Johnson said...

My biggest temptation is the internet. I usually have to actually unplug my modem (which involves a lot of crawling, shoving furniture, cursing, etc.) so I'll stop checking Facebook, twitter, a certain author blog, and forums every ten minutes when I hit a lull.

Robin L said...

LOL Dave! When I'm having that problem, I just take a notebook and move to the living room. :-)

Dave Johnson said...

But Facebook is still in the other room, calling to me...

Karen Llewellyn said...

I just came found a link to your blog on Becky Levine's site. I find it hard to focus on my writing mostly because I have a child who likes to interrupt me frequently to sing or dance, or just yak at me. Writing at 10 p.m. when I'm pooped from the day is still my best bet, but nearly as hard to do as making it to the gym. If I didn't love writing so much (once I get B.I.C.) I'd have given up long ago--as I have with the gyml. :)