We all prize Freedom — the ability to do what you want, whenever you want, to be as free as the breeze. As kids, we loved summers when we escaped from classroom strictures. As adults, we can’t wait for the weekend, when the pressures and constraints of our jobs are released. We cherish the freedom to follow our hearts, unfettered by anyone, anything, but our own desires.
So why should it be a surprise that we find buckling down to writing on a consistent basis difficult? “I do what I want” has a stronger emotional resonance than “I’m doing what I need to do.”
Whether we face the demands of exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, or calling our mother every week, something in our natures bridles at discipline. Yet the truth is, if we want to accomplish anything of value, we have to fight our desire for complete spontaneity and just letting things happen.
An architect spends time sketching and planning before a single brick is thrown on a construction site, and in this way, designs edifices that stretch to the heavens, that withstand the vagaries of extreme weather, and that comfortably house our homes and offices. No cascading avalanche has ever resulted in a skyscraper.
In the same way, haphazard scribbling seldom leads to satisfying story. Ten thousand monkeys writing for ten thousand years may produce the works of Shakespeare, but each of us writers are limited by the brief candle of our lives.
How many of us regret the opportunity to be really good at something because we didn’t put in the time? Did we blow off piano lessons? Did we close a calculus book too early? Did we let a garden languish, or a good idea wither on the vine?
Now, we call ourselves writers, but we face the same choices and temptations. Will we write, or will we wait?
Ben Hogan (famous golfer, no relation to this writer) said “Every day you don’t practice, you’re one day further from being good.”
All the writers I know think they good (even if they are shy about sharing their work,) but they dream of writing better. They have an ideal they wish to achieve. It’s tough to realize is that it takes practice, consistency in writing, and challenging oneself on a regular basis, to reach the ideals that one has set.
On the Accountability Path, we seek to reach the Commitments, Goals, and Tasks we set for ourselves. We give voice to our ideals, because we don’t want them to remain dormant. Then, we follow up with each other, to see whether we’ve been successful in moving along our chosen path, and at what pace.
The uncomfortable fact remains that we need to dedicate time to our passions in order to satisfy our desires. Accomplishment requires two things in order to succeed:
Planning demands that we decide what we want to do, when we want to do it, and for how long will we strive.
Discipline is the engine that powers our planning.
Most writers know what they want to do, and recognize the starting pistol. We want to write a novel? There’s NaNoWriMo. We want to write a short story, a poem or flash fiction? Anthologies beckon. The Writing Journey makes available plenty of opportunities that stir our creative juices. When those opportunities arise, we need to set the time aside to meet those challenges.
The usual times chosen for working are:
2) When I feel like it
3) Consistently, on a regular basis
Each of these times has its own champions.
“Now!” Is the choice of those hyperactive, achievement oriented individuals who love to see the results of their activity immediately. It works well for short-term projects, but results can be waylaid if the project lasts more than a few hours.
Intervening projects can interfere or take precedence. Which one should be done “Now!”? The author loses control if every project that arises is the priority. So, although the writer has the opportunity to accomplish things that other writers might not, there is the danger that longer term projects or interrupted projects might not get the attention they deserve.
Working when one Feels Like It, when one Feels Creative, runs the risk that days, weeks or months can be wasted before one Feels Like It. The author loses momentum on work that should be progressing, and may even lose interest. As a result the work languishes, and may wither on the vine.
Working consistently, on a regular basis, seems to work best for most productive writers. Those writers know a time when they like to work — early mornings, late at night, or at a time daily when they have learned they are most productive. Some set a daily goal of pages or words to write. The important thing is that writing has become a priority in their daily schedule.
If we as writers want to improve our skills and talent, produce works of increasing quality, and entertain our readers with glimpses into our own imaginative worlds, we have to make writing a priority in our lives. An easy way to establish that kind of discipline is to schedule a time to write.
We all have calendars, filled with the demands of that others make on our lives. I suggest that you schedule time for the demands that you make upon yourself, or that your art makes upon you.
The time you allot may be small at first, because you are busy, and it seems selfish to claim a part of your life for yourself. But if you don’t set the time aside, the likelihood is that it will be lost to you, and time once past, is gone forever. So, start with just a few minutes at times you choose. Your desire for freedom will be satisfied by the choices you make as to your use of time.
Try committing to your art at some definite time for a specified period for a few weeks. Measure your growth as a result. How many more words, pages, and stories have you accumulated that you might otherwise have not? How many more ideas have found voice in your writing that might otherwise have been lost? And have you noticed how much more stimulated you are as a writer to express those thoughts that may be new to your imagination?
Accomplishment takes Planning and Discipline. Of the two, Discipline is the more difficult to corral. But once you own it, Discipline becomes your helpmate on your Path.