Friday, July 01, 2005

Must Have Discipline

Do I have what it takes to be a writer or maybe to continue writing in this business called publishing? As I travel to conferences and interact with writers online, these are common concerns. Over the last twenty years, I’ve interviewed a number of writers and written their stories for various magazines.  I’ve talked one on one with an even larger number of writers about their craft and how they practice it on a regular basis.  From this personal research, I’ve learned a series of characteristics. Starting today and for my next few entries on the Writing Life, I’m going to emphasize a particular characteristic. Don’t be concerned. Whether you are beginning to write or have written for many years, each of these “must haves” can be learned.

Most of us cringe at the first characteristic—discipline.  The successful writers that I’ve met over the years have all learned the discipline of writing. They may not like it—but they do it anyway. Check out what bestselling author Bill Myers has done for years as a writer: In his small office--formerly half a garage, Bill begins work with an hour of prayer and Bible study. Then about 8 a.m., Bill revises his pages from the previous day. After two hours and a short break--maybe some basketball, Bill skips lunch and writes new material until about 3 p.m. “My goal is five pages a day or 20 manuscript pages a week,” Myers says. “If I have time, I’d like to rewrite each page about four times. I have to work hard at my writing because I’m still learning my craft.”

See what is buried in that paragraph about Bill? He writes five pages a day. You might not be a five page a day person. But set a goal—maybe a page three times a week. Be reasonable with your goals but do it in a disciplined manner.

Or look what bestselling author Bodie Thoene says about the discipline of writing: Bodie sits at her computer hitting the keys with two fingers. She may work until 10 p.m. to reach her goal--at least five finished pages. “No little elves come out of my closet to write 650 manuscript pages,” Bodie says. “Some mornings I don’t feel like writing, but I do it out of obedience to God.”

Each of us have many different choices about how we spend our days. Last weekend I was fascinated as Debbie Macomber told me about her discipline of writing three romance novels each year. It takes a tremendous amount of disciple to accomplish this task.

And if you don’t have this characteristic of discipline? Then set some short-term goals to work on this aspect of the writing life and see how you can make some progress. It will take your writing life to a new level in the days ahead.

2 Comment:

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Gus Left a note...

Hi there.
If you are working on a specific item, say a novel, but cant find the idea to proceed, would you work on something else?
Sometimes it takes a while for the muse to show up. Discipline is a must in any venture. But when the muse is not there, wouldnt this discipline be setting you back unless you have other projects to work on?

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Each of us have to find the right writing life. Check out the insight in this article.

It's different for every person. Too often someone decides to be a novelist and gets stuck--when really they should be writing shorter magazine articles. The variety of writing projects is endless: magazine articles, short stories, newsletters, greeting cards, newspaper articles, etc.

Yes, if you are stuck working on one type of project--don't stay mired in it but make a switch to something different. Terry


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