Facing the D Word Again
It seems to repeatedly come into my writing life and as often as I’ve faced it, I chaff against it. My reaction seems to be fairly typical because the word I’m talking about is discipline. Yet to be intimately involved in this business of publishing, you have to fall into the arms of discipline daily.
Yesterday I began to talk about a new book called The Treehouse, Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love and See by Naomi Wolf. Because Wolf is a bestselling author writing about her father (also an author and teacher), it’s natural this book contains some gems for writers. Throughout the book, Wolf and her father are building a treehouse for her daughter. Leonard Wolf has a series of key points that he regularly teaches so we pick up today’s point: “Be disciplined,” Leonard said, again looking up from his class notes. “Do you want to know how to become a writer? It is not romantic.” Then he glared from under his white brows and almost harshly said, as much about life, it seems, as about writing, “There is no revising a blank page. Keep going.”…”Even when you do not feel like it—especially then—GO ON.”
“Writer’s block,” he said, “comes about when you let yourself yield to two false notions about your task. The first is that writing is a profound occupation, important as a means of expressing the self, some truth about life, or about the universe. This is all nonsense.”
“The second false notion is that writing must at every moment be perfect. No one objects to perfection eventually, but the idea of it does nothing to help you get started.” (p. 176–177)
To me, there are several applications in this short passage from Treehouse. First, as writers, we have to write. There is no substitute to keeping your fingers on the keyboard and moving them to write words. Set a goal for yourself either words or pages per day then write those words each week or each day. If you don’t make your goal, don’t beat yourself up—but forgive yourself and start again the next day.
Some people never show their writing to someone else because they are worried about perfection. Yes, eventually in the writing process, everything will flow perfectly but that often doesn’t happen in the beginning stages. You have to get the words on paper, then revise them or get feedback from someone you trust or an editor, and then revise them again. Figure out what is holding you back with your writing, then plot a strategy how to work around that area—to move ahead with the discipline of writing.