Monday, June 28, 2010

Writing Requires Discipline

If that title makes some of you go, "Duh," then that's good; too few wannabe writers really give discipline its due. In fact, of all the many problems wannabe writers have, I would say discipline is the single most prevalent. Sometimes, it is given clever names like "stick-to-it-iveness" or "stick-butt-to-chair," but it all means the same thing: The ability to work, despite all else.

That means the ability to carry-out your task, in this case writing, despite all distractions, desire to do something else, whatever else is on your agenda, and so on. It does not mean that you should neglect some other part of your life or responsibilities, nor does it mean you need perfect calm and silence so you can "focus" -- in fact, it's just the opposite: It means you have to learn how to make the most of your writing time when you get it, blocking-out the noise and distractions of everyday life long enough to write what you can in the time you have to write. And you have to make the time to write -- on a regular basis.

Further, it means finishing what you have started. Now, I am the world's worst at finishing projects, so I'm not really the one to be giving advice on this, but don't let my failings encourage yours! There are many reasons I find it difficult to finish a project, but more than anything, it's a lack of discipline specific to that; most of my life, I have preferred to leave projects almost finished so they would be "easier to update" down the road. It's a silly idea from childhood that I've found difficult to get past, but remember too that I do a lot of roleplaying game work. Still, it doesn't work in that field, either. You need to finish your projects, even if you know that this one or that one "could be better," "might be dated," or whatever other excuse you have; finishing projects helps you learn to let go.

The best way to learn discipline is writing for pay. Because you have deadlines to meet, and better writers tend to make more money (both because they demand higher fees and because they can do more work in a given time), you will learn to write better quicker, and to let things go even if they are not perfect. Writing for pay also helps you find your voice, as it forces you to write in ways you normally would not -- sales pitches, ad copy, technical (directions) -- once you learn to write in a variety of styles and formats, you have a deeper understanding of what it is that makes your particular style unique, and what needs to be emphasized, relaxed, and edited-out to make your voice come through clearly. Writing for pay forces you to let go of everything that is keeping you from focusing on, and finishing, your own projects.

A lack of discipline is the #1 reason most wannabe writers never get beyond the wannabe stage, with finishing their projects coming in a close second. However, one follows the other: you will finish projects once you develop the discipline it takes to do so. Writing for pay is the most direct way to develop discipline.

© C Harris Lynn, 2010

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