My discipline? Sometimes I doubt it exists.
Although I’ve been writing for years, last Sunday an acquaintance of mine described how she had spent an hour practicing dance, two hours practicing the piano, and would have spent several hours practicing golf. The golf had been interrupted by rain, which was the main reason we were together.
“You’re really quite disciplined aren’t you,” I said feeling anything but in comparison. She demurred and I spent several minutes arguing silently with myself about whether my discipline means I get enough done.
Fortunately I’ve trained myself to get off that self-criticism pretty quickly. It just makes me miserable and I believe we’re supposed to be happy.
Well, that’s not right. I don’t believe we ‘should’ be happy. I do believe there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy life which, I suspect, is how it’s meant to be. Besides, it was Sunday which is one of the days I allow myself serious downtime.
What does my discipline look like?
Obviously, since I support myself writing, I do get enough done. Maybe not because my discipline is in place every single day, but because, on the whole it’s enough.
If you were watching me today, you might not believe it. In fact, much of this week I’ve looked like I was on vacation. Which is unusual. While I don’t write every day, I mostly write five or six days of the week. This week I’ve done more napping and talking on the phone and journaling than anything else.
My typical writing day
I tend to get up around 5 a.m. This started ages ago when on a camping trip I learned to love first light. It’s a pleasure for me to be up that early. And no, I’m not suggesting you get up that early.
After the usual and feeding Dudley, the cat, I make coffee and sit down to do some meditating. I used to sit on a cushion, now I sit on my couch. Meditating is something I do recommend. There’s something about calming or quieting the mind on a daily basis that makes the days go better.
There are roughly a gillion was to meditate. Find one you like, give yourself permission to do it wrong, and once you mostly master one way, either stick with it or change, but give meditation a serious effort. I also do some reading and often watch some inspiring Youtube videos. I end that period with a list of my intentions for the day.
Next, with a second cup of coffee I move to the computer. Usually I start to write on whatever the most profitable project is I’ve got going. I often can get three or four hours of actual writing in which is plenty. Now and again life will interfere, like the 90 minutes I spent on the phone with tech support this morning! It’s wasn’t the end of the world, although as I growled and grumbled you might have thought so listening; once that was over I just got back on schedule as best I could.
With my writing done for the day I then move on to the non-writing things I do. Sometimes marketing, often doing writing for my favorite side project, Democracy Counts, the laundry, shopping, house cleaning — in other words the stuff of my life that may be or may not be related to, but isn’t writing.
Make your discipline yours
My discipline works for me. You are welcome to mimic it, but don’t be surprised you need to modify it. When I had young kids at home I still wrote in the morning, but often before they got up. Then it was after they left for school. Now that they’ve left home I mostly do the writing when I feel most creative, which is pretty early.
Figure out what works for you and work it. And when it needs to change, and it will, change it. Figure out what time of day is your best writing time… midnight is just fine if you want.
Discipline, like so many things in life, is a moving target. The less rigid you are about it the more likely you are to succeed, at least that’s been my experience.
Write well and often,
Originally published at https://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com on May 23, 2019.