Those of you who have been around here for a while know that I don’t have particularly romantic notions of writing. It is a career like any other, and while it gives one what I find a more satisfactory output than, perhaps, auditing tax returns, that is my opinion. There are lots of ways to pay the bills. Writing — crazily enough — turns out to be one of them.
I have some literary dreams, though. I’d like to tackle longer creative non-fiction projects, and I also want to write a novel. Finishing a novel draft is one of next year’s big goals. I have much of a plot. I have half the story written. I just need to finish the darn thing. I should be able to do this. I have, in fact, “completed” three other novels. They’re just not as good as I want, and so I’m going to try again.
Which brings us to the topic of discipline. Writing is not about waiting for the muse. Writing is about discipline. Writing is about putting yourself in front of a computer (or quill and paper, or stone tablet) when it is time to write, and cranking out a certain volume of words, and then doing it again at the next appointed writing time. You can wait for inspiration, but inspiration seems to strike when you’re thinking about a problem a lot. People are sometimes fooled by the fact that it strikes when you step away from the work briefly (going for a run, taking a shower, riding the bus somewhere). But it strikes because you’ve spent so much time thinking and writing that your subconscious is still working on knitting everything together even as your conscious brain is shampooing your hair.
I need a plan, come January 1, to be disciplined about writing fiction. So I was intrigued when the operation behind Money Saving Mom sent me a copy of Crystal Paine’s new ebook, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. (Note: That link takes you to her website. I do not have an affiliate account and don’t do affiliate sales in general — just not my thing). Paine did a 21-post blog series earlier this year on how she builds habits like getting up early in the morning to work and write. The posts went through edits and formatting and emerged as this ebook with 21 action items and instructions on how to break a big goal into 21 steps.
There’s some good advice in here. Day 16 encourages readers to do the hardest things first. I know if I want to write fiction I should write it first thing in the morning, before I tackle anything else (even this beloved blog!) If something has to happen, it has to happen first. One option would be to get up at 6 and write until 7. Right now, my baby isn’t always sleeping until 7, but I have high hopes for January. Days 10-11 talk about finding an accountability partner. I’d like to find someone or someones specific (any other writers out there tackling a big project next year?) and I could also check in at this blog every day with an update. The upside of this updating would be that my blog readers would become invested in the novel as well. And books need readers! Having written several other novels that are now sitting in a drawer (and/or in computer memory) I particularly need Day 7: “Resist negative thought patterns.” I am not going to try to write a novel. I will write a novel. Better yet: I am a novelist. It’s a done deal, now I’m just following through.
So what other motivational tricks can I use? Alas, for me, day 13 becomes a bit circular: “Read motivating books.” One of the three suggested books on discipline is…168 Hours. I’m not sure that will help me but at least I have a copy!
What habits have you adopted to become more disciplined in your life? Any suggestions on how I should tackle my novel writing project?