Welcome to the second week of Daily Discipline for Writers. This is the third post in the series. If you missed the first two or if you would like to review them before continuing with this week’s discussion, you can read them here:
The most important part of self-discipline–what I refer to as daily discipline–is getting your mind right. Literally. You’ll remember from my overview of Rory Vaden’s book Take The Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success, that the way we think about things is key to self-discipline or the lack thereof.
Do you ask if you should write a novel or do you ask how to write a novel? When you ask “should I?” you leave yourself a back door of escape whereas asking “how can I?” shifts your subconscious into action mode. That is the first step to gaining or improving self-discipline.
Is it easy? No. I’m here to tell you it is not easy. I’ve been focused on asking “how can I?” instead of “should I?” since reading the book and I still catch that “s” word in my thought patterns. It is not an easy habit to break.
First Things First
One of the biggest obstacles to daily discipline is not knowing where to start. What should you do first? How do you decide what’s most important and what can be let go?
I don’t know about you, but for me the biggest challenge I face every day is knowing what things must be done now and what things can wait. It doesn’t seem to matter what I’m doing–art, writing, housework–there’s always something else hovering in the back of my mind, poking me in the ribs and saying, “You should be paying attention to me.” Sometimes, I should be doing that other thing; but sometimes I’m already working on the most important thing.
So how do you decide what’s most important? Here are a couple of things that will help.
Find a calendar. One of those big calendars with big squares for each day. I like those big desk top calendars. The ones that lie on a desk and get doodled on. But any calendar that’s big enough to write on will work. You can even make your own.
Identify the things that must be done. This varies for each of us. For some, it may be a job. For others, childcare or taking care of a relative. You know what those things are for you.
You know when they need to be done and how much time it’s likely to take. Block that time off on your calendar. If you work from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday, block that time off. It’s not available for writing.
Identify the things you usually do. This could be work related, but usually isn’t. Church time. Recreation time. Things like that are on this list. The parts of your weekly routine that happen every week but aren’t necessarily work-related. Mark them off on your calendar.
Tip: Use a different colored pen or marker to keep the time blocks separate. It’s easier to see how you’re spending time and it’s more colorful. (For those who are also artists!
Time to write. The time you have left is the time you have available for writing activities. It may not look like much. You may have to cut out some otherwise enjoyable activities to make more writing time, but this is where you’ll face your first challenges to self-discipline. Do you want to do the easy thing (watch TV for example) even though it doesn’t advance your novel, or do you want to do the hard thing (give up TV) so you can work on your novel?
Don’t worry. You don’t have to go cold turkey (like I did). You can start with one program a week. But you will have to start. And if you stick with it long enough, you’ll discover you don’t miss that program quite as much. Believe it or not, you’ll discover that eventually you don’t miss it at all.
Bonus! You’ll be moving forward on your novel or nonfiction book and that, dear reader, will make all the difference in the world.
But the choice is yours.
Daily discipline starts small. Don’t think you have to change all your habits overnight. Thinking you can will lead to frustration, disillusionment, and defeat. You don’t want that.
To make a start, find one thing you can change in your daily or weekly routine that will give you time to write and use that time to write. See if it doesn’t make a difference.
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