More thoughts on discipline . . .

It may sound like I’m one of those would-be writers. You know the ones — who talk and talk about doing it without actually doing it. “I’ll write when I have the time,” and then they never make the time, and then nothing gets written. You know. Them? I certainly feel like one of those would-be writers, when I get into these funks, except I know that I’m putting material out there, I am actually writing, I am not saving it all for when “there’s more time.” (I only save emails for that!)

I came into 2012 with plans to have the WiP 1st draft done in 3-4 months. And I suppose I could even say I accomplished that. By April I was 30k words in and the story did what stories do to me — it fell apart in a bazillion pieces and the Real Story was born from the ashes. And I realized as I started the process over again that I despise keeping a word count while I’m writing. I hate keeping a tally. For the first week, it helps me see the progress I’m making, and after that? After that, it all becomes just another way to measure myself up and find myself lacking. Worse, it takes my attention away from the story-telling. When I’m story-telling, I don’t care about spelling and proper punctuation, I don’t care about the technicalities of writing. When I’m story-telling, if I’m aware enough to even register my fingers on the keyboard while I type, I’m doing it wrong and I’m distracted.

I desperately want to get the stories I have out of me and into the world. Desperately. It is something I want to do almost more than I want to do anything else . . .

. . . but I’m not consumed with the need. I am not one of those people who are all their craft and only their craft. I once upon a time wanted to be. When I try to be that way now — come home and write and write and write and write — after a few days, I’m miserable. Once it becomes my second job, with no other down time, I’m stifled and it takes my attention away from the story-telling.

I’m struggling, still. I have to take time to read, to study, to knit, to nourish relationships. I want to find the balance, to be writing enough so that I feel like I’m getting somewhere, like the stories are getting out, but not so much that I’m burned out.

I’ll never be prolific. I *want* to be, but the process of it makes me unwell. It’s too much, for me, when there are other not-writing things to do.

And of course, I worry. When I get to the point where I have enough stuff out there that seriously pushing my work will be crucial . . . will I have the time to do that*and* work my job *and* write? Not worrying about it now, because what’s the point, but . . .argh. Stupid, elusive balance!

I know I’m not the only one — writer, artist, creative person — trying to balance a full time day job, other interests, and art. How do you find balance? What works for you? What would you recommend others try?


12 thoughts on “More thoughts on discipline . . .

  1. Katie

    I would recommend setting yourself a small daily goal. My minimum goal is ten words a day. It’s too few to be able to get out of, and at least my mind was with the story for that long. Every once in a while, I will only write those ten words and then go do something else. Most of the time it becomes way more. But it’s nice to know that I can put time into other things and still have some teeny progress to show for it.

    1. Jolene Post author

      I had a small daily goal! I did, I did! 300-400 words worked for me, 4-5 days a week. Until it stopped. Because when I’m being honest with myself, (I try!) if I’m in a knitting phase, the writing does not happen. So, maybe less is better, in those cases. Constantly going forward is the key! This is a good reminder; thank you.

  2. firefly124

    I have nothing resembling discipline. For about a year, I was managing to churn out at least 2500 words a week by participating in the 5 for 5 challenge. Then life got insane, and the only things I’ve actually finished in the past year were things that had some sort of external deadline. I miss writing when I’m not doing it, but yet I still keep … not doing it.

    1. Jolene Post author

      You don’t need discipline; you are naturally amazing. Plus, you get slack for 1) working at SSVD and then recovering from working at SSVD 2) getting a new job 3) general awesomeness.

      1. Jolene Post author

        Okay, yes. Discipline does have a place in life, in general. But, don’t let that detract you from your natural awesomeness.

        Also, I miss you.

  3. Soli

    As usual, I have not found that balance yet. Lately I’ve been thinking about something Neil Gaiman recently said. Back in the day, Gene Wolfe did all his writing early in the morning and just focused on getting out about 400 words each day. And he wrote whole stories that way. My current goal is doing a full entry every day on again.

    (also, looks like you’re getting spam comments. if you don’t have akismet as a plugin on the blog, get it.)

    1. Jolene Post author

      Balance! Some days, I feel cursed to be a Libra . . . and then my understanding of balance for myself does not mesh with what I think of balance for other people. For other people, everyone not me, the concept in my head of balance is fluid. For myself? Extremely, extremely rigid and regimented in a way that will not work for me. Square peg, round hole, you know?

      I’ve got the spam plug in — it just got through. Happens. I squished it ded. 😉

  4. Beth

    I think at least a small daily word goal might be a good idea for me too, especially considering…er, recent developments that can’t be made public quite yet. 🙂 I don’t really crave the act of writing, or miss it terribly when I’m not doing it. However, there are things I want and need to say (much like your stories that need to get out) and unfortunately writing them is the only way to get them said.

    With spinning, on the other hand, I don’t really have a discipline problem; I could happily spin (and card, and knit) all day long, day after day. However, I do have a problem with balancing that against the practicality that I need to hold down a day job right now, and even if I didn’t need to, there would be the tremendous amount of online marketing activity that needs to happen, along with writing occasionally and all the other little tasks of daily life. Sometimes the day job makes all of this seem quite hopeless, so I try not to think about how little I’m actually able to get done, compared to what I feel I could be doing.

    1. Jolene Post author

      But there’s always gonna be outside things asking for time and attention. *pointed look at The Anti-Help* Even if you were home all day. Some days, the refrigerator turns into the Tower Card, with cats and bamboo and fire raining down, and . . . wait, no, wrong day.

      You rock. The only discipline *you* need is not bring all the spinning wheels home. 😉

  5. Willow Rose

    That’s what happens to me when I worry about word counts–I wind up focusing more ont hat than the story telling. Which is why handwriting things can sometimes be the better route for me. 🙂

    1. Jolene Post author

      Gar! I *stink* at catching all my comments. I’m sorry about that. (On the upside, you’ve been working so much, this could have been here for weeks and you might not have noticed!)

      It’s maddening, trying to push ones’ self so that there is more output, but not doing it too much that it catches one up and stalls one out. I need the secret formula!

      (Which is? Say it with me: just write!)


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