The Two Ds of Writing

Discipline and Distraction — both sound horrid, don’t they?

As a writer in touch with my inner child, I want to indulge my imagination and enjoy the creative freedom to do whatever I please; however, too much of that freedom and self-indulgence results in no production.  After all, it is much better to have written than to be stuck in the writing chair, chained to a keyboard and moaning because the page quota for the day hasn’t been met.  So although I run from discipline as long as I can, as a working professional I know that sooner or later, if I’m to meet deadline, I must activate self-discipline and force myself to sit at the keyboard.  After all, you don’t get books completed and submitted by wishing.  You get them done by WRITING them.

I sometimes have to use the stick-and-carrot method.  My “stick” is the establishment of a daily page quota that I must hit before I can quit my writing session.  The “carrot” is whatever reward I can promise myself if I do my work.  So a trip to the bookstore, lunch with a friend, a day at the flea market … something that I’ll enjoy very much.

The other “D” is distraction, and it’s a nasty enemy for a writer to have.  Distraction comes in all shapes and guises.  It can beguile, bewitch, seduce, and sabotage you before you know it.

It’s easy to think of the obvious distractions:  a new house being built next door, complete with blaring radio and the chatter of construction workers over the din of hammers and saws; the day-job boss calling a four-hour meeting on the only day of the week you can write; a water pipe breaking and flooding the downstairs of your house; discovering a silverfish infestation in your collection of rare first editions; computer malfunction.  Etc.

But there’s a type of insidious distraction that’s harder to withstand.  We writers need lots of input to keep our creative juices flowing.  We should explore, and curiosity is our friend.  Accordingly, I pursue numerous hobbies and interests.  But while they’re vital to my sense of creative well-being, they can also become too demanding of my time and attention.  They represent fun.  Fun is always going to be more enticing than sitting in a quiet, isolated room while working through some knotty plot problem.  It’s necessary to keep a balance, and sometimes those hobbies have to be put away, out of sight, until the book is finished.

But then, what better carrot than the prospect of getting to play again when the book is done?


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