Self-Discipline: Boon or Bane?

Most of the advice given to aspiring authors includes, in one form or another, the encouragement to be self-disciplined. This ranges from a polite urging to show up at your desk each day to admonishments to sit down and “make” yourself write for a certain length of time, no matter how much you’re resisting or how uninspired you feel.

I’ve always been the type of person who rebels at any imposed discipline, especially in connection with my creativity. I want to create when my inner spirit moves me, to follow the siren song of the muses when they call.

The only trouble with that scenario is how quickly other things in life move into that space. The dishes: there are always more. The laundry: its never done. Facebook: the newsfeed is endless. Life is full of a myriad of options of things to occupy my time.

Despite calling myself a writer, for a long time I didn’t really write all that often.

In the realm of my spirituality, I discovered many years ago that the benefits of having a regular practice far outweigh the need to make it an unmoving part of my daily schedule. In recent years, I’ve applied this notion to my writing life as well. How do I get better at writing? Write more often. How do I complete all these great projects floating around in my imagination? Write consistently. How do I find the time to write? Create it. Make it happen. Daily. Okay, okay, I get it.

Writing Space

My most recent writing space, in the corner of the dining room.

Despite being a lifelong night owl, I’ve found that my best writing happens in the morning. No way, not early morning. I’m talking about a 9:30 or 10am start, sometimes 11am. The house is quiet. I haven’t yet opened up my e-mail account or social media pages. I’ve emerged from the dream realm enough to make sense, but am still connected enough to let my inspiration flow. And it’s fun!

I’ve learned to associate self-discipline with gentle encouragement, rather than harsh absolutes. I sit down to do my writing. If I can’t come up with anything to say, I feel crappy, or I’m struggling with resistance, I stop. I go find something else to do, for a while or maybe even for the whole day. I don’t feel guilty. I want my creativity to be a source of joy, not pain and suffering. It’s a gift, one that deserves appreciation and kindness. There’s no need to give myself a hard time about it. I know that the next morning, I’ll sit down again at the blank page and see what emerges.

What about you? Do you have a writing routine? Do you resist self-discipline, or embrace it? I’d love to hear about your methods and ideas.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Self-Discipline: Boon or Bane?

  1. I really appreciate your putting “gentle encouragement” with commitment to writing. I found it nearly impossible to write except for stolen moments between when I was working full-time. Now the early morning is my special time for 1-3 hours. When I cannot write then, it’s because I need a break. Maybe a day or two. And I’m OK with that. What’s difficult for me now is separating my writing (wip’s) from social media writing. So if I do my own writing in the morning, then any extra time goes to talking with folks from ROW80 (or new, WIPpet). My own blogs fall behind — unless I wake with words spilling into a poem. May the week ahead go well for you!

  2. Wonderful and cheerful way of putting it into perspective. It’s true, I’ve rebelled at the advice that you set up a place and time and “make it so.” But if you don’t, as you said, the dishes call, the laundry, the dogs, the everything under the sun. If it is your burning “YES,” then making the time is important. When I don’t get the writing in, I become an ogre! So for the sanity of all involved, not just ourselves, we have to find the time somewhere, somehow. Thanks for the bright words!

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