Welcome to our October series on daily discipline for writers. I’m glad you’re here. That tells me you’re serious about learning how to get more writing done.
As I mentioned in the introduction (which you can read here), I’m talking about daily discipline all this month. That’s a particularly sticky problem for me sometimes, so I’m certain others also have issues with it. For instance, you might
- Want to know how to develop the kind of daily discipline that will help you get more done
- Have a basic set of habits that works, but you want to improve upon them
- Wonder what all the fuss is about in the first place
All of those questions (and many, many more) are legitimate questions.
A Personal Confession
I’ll say up front that I can’t give you the answers. There is no shortcut to daily discipline. It will look different for every writer reading this post.
In fact, I confess that I’m struggling with writing discipline myself. After 60 days of almost relentless writing (over 100,000 words) in July and August, I wrote next to nothing in September. Some might call that a necessary rest and it probably is. Taking a well-deserved break is one way to reward yourself for designing, implementing, and executing a plan.
But what if you’re well-deserved break has lengthened into weeks, as mine has. Or months? How do you get back on the daily discipline bandwagon?
What I will do is share some ideas that have helped me and give you ideas on how to find the methods that work for you. It is my hope that by the end of the month, you’ll have enough tools to continue the process of finding the best types of daily discipline for you and implementing them.
Take The Stairs
One of the things I did during this down time was a lot of reading. I read novels (mostly Agatha Christie), blogs, and nonfiction books.
The best book I read happened to be one my husband brought home from the library a week or two ago. Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success by Rory Vaden is all about developing self-discipline. The focus of the book is creating a “take the stairs” mind-set to self-discipline that’s a life-changer. No fast-and-easy self-help book, this. Quite the contrary. The principles Vaden espouses are tough to get started, but are the key to success.
The book hit so many of my self-discipline trouble-spots that I started writing quotes while still in the introduction. Here’s one.
Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t fair. Being successful doesn’t happen by falling into the most desirable situation possible and somehow magically being discovered for some speical uniqueness we have that no one else has.” (pages 21-22)
Now I’ve known for quite some time that life isn’t fair. If it was, we’d all be born with the keys to a Porche and a beach house.
But I hadn’t given much thought to the truth of the rest of that quote. Truth be told, I’d rather thought–subconsciously, I assure you–that I did have some unique ability that was just waiting to be discovered.
I knew right then that there were likely to be some hard truths in this book and I was right.
While I recommend whole-heartedly that you read this book, I’m not going to detail it in this post or in this series. The content is just too deep and too detailed to cover in four posts. Besides, it’s already been done. Rory Vaden did a superb job.
But I did tell you just a few paragraphs ago that I’d share with you the things that are helping me get back on track with personal self-discipline. Take The Stairs is one of those things.
Where the Problem Begins
I think most writers–myself included–believe that if we just write the perfect novel, success will be ours. And I suppose, in a sense, that’s true.
But how do you get from wanting to write a novel to having written a novel? Ah! That’s where the rub comes in.
Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to think about writing a novel than to write a novel.
And it’s a lot easier to quit writing a novel after a few pages (or a few hundred pages) than to finish writing the novel.
You may not need much self-discipline to get started, but you don’t write very many pages or chapters before you’re confronted with the fact that you need self-discipline to finish. A lot of it!
For most of us, the problem begins with the way we think.
How many times have you said or thought, “I should write a novel”? That’s just like saying “I should lose weight”, or “I should exercise more”, or “I should spend more time with the kids”.
According to Vaden, that thought process is the beginning of the end of self-discipline. Saying “I should” implies an out. “I should write a novel, but….”. There’s a built-in excuse not to write the novel. You may not realize it, but your subconscious sure does. The moment you hit a stumbling block with your new project, your subconscious stands up, starts shouting and waving and screaming, “Time to quit! Time to quit!”
Or in my case, “Time for a new idea!”
Self-Discipline to the Rescue
At that point, you need self-discipline to shout down that little voice. You need to decide to keep going. To push forward no matter what.
I’m not talking about a whip-and-chair moment.
I’m talking about you sitting yourself down and asking yourself a simple question.
“Do I want to write this book badly enough to push through this difficulty?”
In other words, do you want to do the right thing even if it’s difficult or do you want to do the easy thing even if it gets you nowhere?
Since reading Take The Stairs, I’m working at changing the way I approach decisions. I’m trying to stop saying “Should I write today?” and start saying “How can I write today?” That, according to Vaden, is the key that unlocks all your potential.
I don’t usually give homework assignments, but this week I am. Beg, borrow or buy a copy of Take The Stairs and read it. It’s a pretty easy read (I read it in less than 24 hours). See if Rory Vaden doesn’t make a lot of sense.
You’re welcome to share your thoughts on the book here.
Then come back next week for some specific actions I’m taking to improve self-discipline and for tips that might help you.
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