Time for another writing lesson! And like last time, it’s about writing in real life.
So, I’ve covered how external issues tend to REALLY be. Now what could I say about writing itself? What insight could I give for something that is deeply personal, moved by inspiration as we dig deep within our creative selves to birth worlds of words?
Simple: Suck it up and write even when you don’t feel like it.
Pictured Above: One really evil little shit.
What, you were expecting me to coddle you with soft words about your soul and how you can truly only write when inspiration strikes like lightning? Maybe give you tips on finding the right venue, ambience, or diet to switch on creativity?
Hahaaa, no. But I CAN share my thoughts on something we CAN control: Discipline.
Now let’s be clear on something: Yes, writing IS about creativity and inspiration, and it’s about our ideas.
However, amidst all that inspiration, some newbies might forget about the perspiration. Namely, the nuts and bolts of actually getting the writing done. Not just in physically typing, but in other things like dealing with life, responsibilities, and logically working out things like plot, flow, and ideas. After all, a thought needs to be arranged if it needs to be understood.
And you can’t do that only when you FEEL like it. If we did, we’d never get any writing done. Your ideas are your own, and that’s for you to decide how best to get it flowing.
But actually WRITING? Taking time to practice, to learn more from trial and error? THAT is something we CAN control. From our dialogue to our descriptions, finding out what comes easily to us and what needs improving, finding out how we face challenges, these are the hardware of the system that is a writer. And like any RPG character, the only true ways to raise our levels are: Practice, practice, and more practice.
After all, it’s not like the world has any +3 Writing items or potions. And no, overpriced caffeine drinks do not count.
So What Is It?
Discipline in this context is basically your ability to write consistently regardless of the situation, setting aside time to put something out there. I will likely talk about the individual parts somewhere down the line, but at the heart of it all is this quality, the one that makes it possible.
To kind of illustrate it better and give you an idea on its value, let’s go through things step by step.
First, you decide: Hey! I’m gonna write something once a week! And it’ll be so and so, maybe a poem, a blog, a short story, whatever. I’ve got a plan and I’m going to stick to it.
Next, you realise: Huh, I can’t just leave it all to one day. It goes by more smoothly if I do some planning ahead of time and during the week. Still, look at everything I’m learning!
Then the complications arise: I’ve got responsibilities and they’re piling up. They’re taking up my brainpower and really wearing me down. Sometimes they even cut into the times when I said I would write.
And as this goes on, you think to yourself: Well, this sucks. Now writing is just another chore. I mean seriously, I have to switch gears so abruptly after busting my ass for the rest of the week?
Sounds like a drag, right? What’s the point if the thing you love becomes a chore? Why bother with discipline?
And Here’s The Payoff
I’ll tell you why: Because life is NEVER going to be smooth, and the better we can deal with it, the better we’ll be as writers.
The challenges of life will come and go, but the skills and discipline you gain will serve you for a lifetime. Whether your life is busy or idle, mental strength and good habits never grow obsolete. Now for some specifics on what you get out of discipline!
Firstly, you’ll develop good work ethic. Now, you may think this means “I can still write even when I’m busy!” which is true, but something we try not to acknowledge: “I can now write instead of procrastinating and wasting time!” Yeeees, don’t deny it, Person Trying To Avoid My Gaze.
Secondly, the more you write, the better your writing will get. Like I said before, the more stuff you have, the more feedback and practice you’ll get. As long as you’re paying attention instead of just vomiting it out and forgetting about it, you will ALWAYS learn something about your writing style and what works for you.
And finally, you’ll strengthen your willpower. Now, that one sounds a little vague (or worse, like an entry in an Inspiration Porn article), so I’ll be more specific. Yes, you’ll learn how to do things consistently and how to do them better. But one thing you should never underestimate is how much tougher you’ll get as a result. Doing things repeatedly week after week can lead to burn out if you’re not careful, but the solution is not to give up and stop, but to power through and keep at it.
Mind you, I don’t mean be a workaholic. Know your limits and how much you can take, take a breather if you have to. But if you’re truly passionate about something, it’s worth having the mental strength to tough things out when they seem like they aren’t progressing or if they seem too difficult on top of everything else in life. Imagine the tedium of a job and how much willpower you need to get through it just to stay relevant as an employee. Now imagine if you face it in what you love, and you have to weather that storm until it passes.
You can abandon ship and give up on it, go down with the ship, or live to become better, stronger, wiser.
So How Do I Get Started?
So there you have it. What you get in the end is A LOT of writing. And what THAT gets you is experience, habits, and willpower. I hope this has given you a little hope about how useful actually grinding through things can be. But how should someone get started training up their discipline? Let’s go down the list!
- Decide on your schedule. Figure out how much you want to do versus how much you can handle or whether you want to push yourself. I highly recommend the weekend, or a day when you’re most free from other responsibilities, but don’t forget to give yourself space to think between entries.
- Figure out what content you want to write. It doesn’t have to be Your Big Dream Project, but this can help determine the writing muscles you train and how much work it will be each time. And of course, you should pick something which you wouldn’t mind writing in the first place. Practically speaking, I’d recommend something that isn’t high-maintenance and which you can reliably produce. We’re not here to write a Lord of the Rings epic every week, after all.
- Commit to it! Your actual schedule can be flexible, of course. You don’t have to literally do it on the same day(s) every week since things can get busy. But whatever it is, work at it for the times you promised yourself to do. Let weekly be weekly, monthly be monthly, and daily be daily as much as possible. Not to be a taskmaster, but it helps to be stable, because if you keep putting things off it could snowball into procrastination.
- Steel yourselves. Things WILL get tough, whether it’s from external factors or internal fatigue. If you go in expecting things to be rosy, you WILL be in for a rude awakening. Get through your first bumpy rides, though, and you’ll have something important: The ability to say “Meh, I’ve been through worse.”
And there you have it. My pointers on how to start training up your discipline as a writer. Plan for it, stick to the plan, and tough it out.
Life is tough, and it’s hard to predict. But hard times tend to pass, and if it doesn’t break you, you tend to recover and grow stronger as a result. You can’t control your inspiration, but you can control your ability to write anything at any time. When the troubles go away, your skills will still be sharpened.
And when that layabout muse of yours finally pays you a visit, you’ll be ready. WITH A VENGEANCE.