Skip to main content

Writing Discipline

One of the most important skills I think writers need to cultivate is discipline.

For the last 600 plus days I've put my butt in the chair and written. There have been days when I haven't felt like it. There were literally days where I was in the hospital. There were times when I was so distracted by Star Wars that I could only eek out a few hundred words. But I made a commitment to discipline that I would sit down and write every day. 

It was important for me to learn how to sit down and write even when I didn't feel like it.

Part of the inspiration to learn that discipline was this quote from Neil Gaiman:

“If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not. 
You have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next. 
The process of writing can be magical. …Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.”
It made me really think that if I wanted to be a professional, then I would need to sit down and do the work no matter what. In the last 600 days, I've written more than a few novels, dozens of short stories and hundreds of articles. I sit and write whether I'm inspired or not. It doesn't matter if I feel like it, the words need to come.

What I'm not doing, though, is telling you that you need to park your butt in a chair and write every day. Your level of discipline and my level of discipline might be two different things. I track my word count every day and know what my output is like. I know some people who don't like looking at those metrics at all. I know some people who will write every day for two months, then back off and plot and plan for another six, then write for two more months straight. There is no right or wrong answer as to what that discipline looks like for you, it needs to fit with your ability and mental health needs, but it does need to be disciplined. 

You need to push yourself a little bit, too. Take on a little bit more than you did the day before. Or the week before. Or the month before. I have friends who thought the 50,000 words in a month for National Novel Writing Month was a crazy proposition at first. But, with a little bit of discipline, they're breaking that every month now without a sweat.

If you don't want to add that discipline to your writing, understand that it's okay to be a hobby writer. Or a writer for self-expression. Or a writer for catharsis. If you can be all of those things at once with some discipline, though, there's nothing wrong with that, either.

So what will your added bit of discipline to your writing look like? Will it be writing every day? Will it be completing one short story a month? Will it be setting realistic deadlines for yourself and then actually working to complete them? I'd be interested to hear.


As for my writing recently, I do have a new short story on the Patreon for you to check out. It's called The Conservationist and is about a rogue park ranger.

As a reminder: Please join my short story Patreon here.  Your contributions to the Patreon help me write more like this.

The Aeronaut and Escape Vector are still out and still need your purchases and reviews. If nothing else, they can use you telling people about them. If you want signed copies, visit the shop here on this page.

As far as my work outside of all this: There's a lot of great stuff on Big Shiny Robot! and Full of Sith for you. 

And please, please, please don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter and Facebook!


Popular posts from this blog

The Missed Opportunities of Days Gone By

“Hello?” I said into the phone, accepting the call from a number I didn’t recognize. “Hey,” the feminine voice on the other replied, as though I should know the sound of her voice. At a loss, I said, “Can I help you?” “It’s Brooke.” Her name stopped me. It couldn’t possibly be her. We hadn’t spoken in years, a decade perhaps. “Brooke?” “Yeah, Brooke Baker. This is Mark, right?” Jesus Christ. It was her. “Yeah, it is Mark. Brooke. Wow. How are you? It’s been a long time since… well… since anything.” “I know.” “So, how are you doing?” “Okay, I suppose…” Her voice belied her words, though. Something was up. “I… It’s just been so long and I guess I wanted to hear your voice.” “I don’t think I had a number for you. Ever. I offered a couple of times, but…” “I was a brat back then.” And that’s how a random phone call turned into a two-and-a-half hour catch-up session. We spoke of everything under the sun: people we still knew, how different we were, h

Anatomy of a Scene: The Third Man

It's time again to break down a classic scene. One that's well-written and, in my view, a fine example of excellent craft. I've done some of these articles from books (like The End of the Affair   and Starship Troopers ) and other movies (like Citizen Kane , City Lights , Raiders of the Lost Ark , and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ), but now it's time to take a look at a scene from The Third Man . It blends the best of Orson Welles (as he's in the film and drives this scene) and Graham Greene, who wrote this particular screenplay. Before we get to the scene, we need some context. The Third Man is a tale of the black market in Vienna, just after World War II. It's about a cheap, dime-store Western novelist named Holly Martins (played by Joseph Cotton) and his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles.) Lime offered Martins a job in Vienna, so Martins leaves America and arrives, only to find that Harry Lime is dead. Penniless, without a friend or reason to be

Anatomy of a Scene: All the President's Men

All the President's Men is one of those perfect movies. Based on a stunning true story with a brilliant screenplay from William Goldman (we've already gone through one of his scenes here with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ), it's a movie that brings all of the elements of character, plot, and drama together in a way that makes me really love and admire it.  The scene I want to go through is one that comes during a particularly trying time in the film. For those unaware, this film tells the tale of Woodward and Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who cracked the Watergate story. And now, looking back on it, it all feels like one big victory, but it was marked by a number of defeats.  This is them reporting to their skeptical editor, Ben Bradlee (played brilliantly by Jason Robards) about where their investigation is at. Immediately preceding Woodward and Bernstein walking in, a salesman is trying to sell Bradlee on features his papers doe