The DPR of a Successful Writing Career – Discipline

Fear is a major cause of writer's block

One of the hardest things to get to grips with, if you want to make writing a career (as in get published) rather than a fun or satisfying hobby, is the discipline required. Author Bryce Courtenay is famous for using the term ‘bum glue’. Quite simply, you have to glue your backside to the chair and write, and do the same again to revise. And revise. No matter how long it takes you or how difficult it seems.

It’s easy to turn excuses and procrastination into a block. The blank page can be scary. Stephen King said “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” There are a million reasons not to write. Over the years as a teacher, I think I’ve heard most of them. They range from family and spouses to illness, lack of confidence and a dearth of ideas. But the ultimate truth is: if you want to be a writer, you have to write.

You can’t romanticize it. You have to commit, to understand that you must write – if not every single day, then enough days in every week to produce a substantial body of work. Because a lot of that work won’t be publishable, but you have to do it in order to get to what is. That’s what a lot of new writers don’t understand. You have to write lots of rubbish so that you can not only write the gems, but recognize them when you do.

So how do you achieve this discipline? There are a few things that I think are “givens”.

• You have to put writing first in your heart. Yes, you probably have a day job or family commitments, but if writing doesn’t matter to you enough, you will never write often or with enough depth and energy to achieve what you dream of. This doesn’t mean that you neglect your family (although some writers do!) but that you give your writing the place it deserves, in your time allocation and your energy allocation.

• You have to conquer procrastination and fear. There are many ways to achieve this. Just Google procrastination tools and see! But until you acknowledge that both of these will hold you back forever until you find ways to overcome them (or trick them), you will not write.

• You may also have to conquer perfectionism. This also leads to, ultimately, writing very little.

I’ll post some strategies for discipline and procrastination next.

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