The disciplined writer: Keeping a promise to yourself

Our back deck beckons while I need to work on my new book.
Our back deck beckons while I need to work on my new book.

It’s summer.  The heat and humidity just beg us to take a cold drink outside and chill a bit.  And we deserve it, don’t we?  The problem is that without some self-discipline nothing will get done.  And I know that my two major writing projects that are currently underway will not write themselves!  So I’ve been thinking about discipline as an important tool for any writer’s tool box.

The truth is that when it comes to your writing, it is yours and yours alone.  From time to time you might be given an external point of reference such as a deadline – I’ve written about the beauty of a deadline before– but even then discipline for a writer means self-discipline.

Self-control. Self-restraint. Willpower. Regardless of what you call it, the concept is clear for your writing life: you need to be in control of your writing and motivate yourself to complete projects.  No one will do it for you.

One of the most serious problems with writerly self-discipline in the twenty-first century is the ever-present internet.  A quick Twitter and Google search will leave you with the impression that unknown writers spend much more time on social media sites than they do in their writing.  Social media is a serious time suck.

As you sit there in front of your computer screen attempting to get that writing project underway or finished, unless the ideas begin to flow immediately, there is a mighty temptation to surf over to Twitter or that writers’ group you’ve been meaning to comment in, or to Facebook to see who has posted something new on that page for aspiring authors.  You can delude yourself into thinking that it’s for your work, but what it really means is that you are singularly unable to discipline yourself to actually write.

Close your internet browser. Close your email.  Put your phone away so you can’t hear it if a text arrives.

Harry Truman once said, “If I want to be great I have to win victory over myself. ..self-discipline.”

This is so important to me as I make progress on those writing projects.  I made a promise to myself when I started each one: the promise that I’d have a finished manuscript in due course.  This is a promise I’m keeping to myself – summer or not!

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