Saturday, May 26, 2012

Discipline (and the lack thereof)

     I'll be honest with you. I've had a pretty pathetic few months, writing-wise. No, it wasn't real world obligations or anything like that holding me up. It wasn't even so-called "writer's block"-- I'm firmly convinced there's no such thing as writer's block.

     No, what it was, see, was total lack of discipline. That's all.

     I've been in the interesting position lately of actually having time to write. Lots of it. TOO MUCH of it. So much of it, in fact, that it's been easy for me to say to myself, "Well, self, you have plenty of time to get such-and-such project done. It can wait until tomorrow." And if you keep saying that often enough, the tomorrows roll by and next thing you know they've stacked up like crazy. All those wasted tomorrows, morphed into yesterdays that you'll never get back again.

     And the longer you go without doing any significant writing, the harder it becomes to get back into it again. If you don't really write for a long time, you find that, once you sit down and commit yourself to it, it comes harder. Much, much harder. And at THAT point...

     At that point, it becomes a crisis of confidence. You feel as if you've lost your mojo. And you HAVE, to a certain extent. Oh, you can get it back, eventually, if you apply yourself. You can re-learn how to write pretty quickly. But first, you have to navigate your way through all the self-doubt and back to your rusty skill set.

     That's a long, frustrating process. I don't recommend it.

     I've been saying "you", but of course I mean "me". This is where I've been for a huge chunk of the year. And it's been a cycle of ill results. If I don't write, see, I get weird, emotionally. I become difficult to get along with. I get, well, depressed, and my moods turn black with alarming frequency. That blackness makes it even more difficult to write, because I begin questioning the value of the whole process.

     Lack of discipline=rusty writing skills=depression=lack of discipline.

     A bad, bad cycle to get yourself trapped in.

     What it took for me, this last week, was a monumental effort to bust through it, to put my head down and barrel through. I didn't want to. I didn't feel like it. But I did it. I put myself on notice to cut out the bullshit and commit again to what I do.

     The first couple days back on the job weren't fun. The joy of writing was eluding me, because I had lost confidence in what I was doing.

     By the third day, though, I began to feel a glimmer of what I used to feel.

     By the fourth day, and the fifth, well... I was a different man. I was back. I was a writer again.

     Here's my point, if you ever find yourself suffering from similar lack of discipline: There is no such thing as tomorrow. That's an abstract idea suitable only for philosophers. Tomorrow never comes; only an ever-increasing backlog of yesterdays that you can look back on, either with regret that you didn't use them, or satisfaction that they are loaded with work you can be proud of.


  1. Wisdom from experience, my friend.

  2. Yup. Write every damn day, no excuses. Unless you burned out, then take a day off. I find it helps to set a time to write, so you start associating that time with writing. You'll feel guilty if you miss it. You'll squeeze it in somewhere else, if your writing time gets infringed upon.

  3. Too true! I'm learning that in the worst way with my sonnet project ( -- if I don't write one for even a few days, it's tremendously hard to get just one out. Then when I get back into it, it's just something that I do, like making coffee in the morning. Now if I could just get myself to do that with my prose projects, I'd be golden...

  4. Wise words, and so true. That goes for everyone, not just writers. Glad to here the Writer in is back. Eager to read what you have put on paper this time.

  5. As my husband always reminds me, it is much easier to continue than to start. I think the most productive writers, write every day-seven days a week. It comes easiest that way but life does intervene.

  6. I took a few days off after finishing the novel draft and it was a pain to start over. My thoughts were all scrambled. It's really a budo-zenlike thing to write. So it pissed me off when writers like Herta Muller say shit like "I never wanted to be a writer, I just write to bear witness to life."

    I mean, what the fuck?

  7. Heath,

    Great thoughts. All true. Including the dark thing. I'm with you on staying in the saddle. I would only add kids to the mix....serious priority conflict there. Necessary priorities. There is no option there. The setting aside of dedicated time takes a serious hit (and should) during those times. - Jim