View Full Version : Plodding on to Self-Discipline

08-18-2004, 11:30 PM
I run.

Well, I suppose you can't exactly call what I do "running". It's probably not even "jogging." It's more like "plodding:" I get out there, and, for about three miles, make my resistant legs move faster than a walk… but not much. It's far from glamorous, but over the years, plodding along has helped me to keep my weight down and my endurance up. In short, plodding works.

It occurred to me the other day that my writing habits are just like my exercise habits. While I know some writers who pursue their craft with apparent effortless ease, dusting out their stories with the grace of a gazelle, I'm not one of them. I wish I sat down and wrote great prose. I wish I planned out the course ahead of time, trained carefully and then sped through first drafts, words racing from brain to fingers in smooth and even keystrokes. I wish I were poetry in motion.

But I'm not. I plod. I make my resistant fingers and my reluctant brain work for the allotted hour(s) and quit, thankfully, with the same sigh of exhausted relief I sigh when my exercise time is through.

Writing is hard— we all know it. Every one wants to be a writer, but few people actually get further than the "idea". Why? It's hard. Making a plot gel? Hard. Creating realistic characters? Hard. Writing dialogue and action? Hard. Getting the spelling and the grammar and the verb tenses all in perfect synchronization? Hard.

And perhaps the hardest thing of all about writing is maintaining the discipline to keep after it day after day—especially when the blank page turns mocking. You don't know what you're doing, my paper often taunts me with these words. What you're writing is absolute crap and you know it. What makes you think you can be a writer anyway?

But thank God for plodding, and the… uh… lowered expectations it offers. Plodding serves me well on those days when every word is a piece of pure, unadulterated b.s… and that nasty little voice (I've named her "Blank Page Girl" ) starts hissing discouragement with every sentence I write. Plodding saves because plodding is unspectacular: plodding is just moving along, getting some words on the paper, getting unglamourously from point A to point B. Yeah, yeah, I tell Blank Page Girl, plodding along. I know, it's garbage. But I said I was gonna do three pages, and I'm gonna do three pages. I didn't say I was gonna do three fast pages, I didn't say I was gonna do three good pages. I said I was gonna do three pages and I'm doing them.

It's the same thing I tell myself when I'm running… I mean… jogging… I mean… you know what I mean. I'm going to do these three miles today. I don't have to do them fast, I don't have to look good while I'm doing them, I just have to finish my three miles.

I plod my way through those three miles, then I come home and plod my way through three pages (or five or ten, as time and deadlines permit or require). Then I close the file and go on with my life. The next day, after I check in with the Idea Fairy (we'll talk about her another time) I open the file and plod through some more pages… until one day I wake up and generally, one of two things has happened: either I have a rough draft of a new romance novel; or I realize I'm stuck and I have to read it from the beginning to figure out what to do next.

Both take me to the next stage, revision, where (guess what?) I plod my way through making changes until one day I wake up and I have a book.

Plodding isn't for everyone—and certainly every writer has a different process. But if you're struggling with the discipline to finish your story, I offer it as a suggestion.

Plodding, anyone?


Karyn Langhorne
coming Sept. 1

08-19-2004, 02:29 AM
One way to cover a long distance is the sprint-walk (sprint a lap, walk a lap, old marathon technique). I am a sprint-walk-writer. Some months I do very little, this month I am doing 3000 words a day after work, it isn't all that easy but I have stuck to it so far.

As for actual exercise, I have a border collie. If I don't get out in the hills for at least an hour a day starts breaking things. (Like door lintels and windows). :snoopy

08-20-2004, 01:22 AM
I have no discipline when it comes to writing. Every morning I turn on the computer to jump start my day. After two hours of getting kids ready for school and out the door I'm ready to sit at my computer and get some work done.
Of course...first I have to check my email and maybe return a few. That generally takes half an hour.
Then I have to get online and check the three writing forums I'm in....gotta see if there are any personal messages or maybe posts I can add my "expertise" to. That generally takes an hour of my morning.
Then...I just can't start my day without winning a game of Solitaire...there's another half an hour.
Of course, it's been two hours since I checked my email..... :\
Okay...time to open WordPerfect....but first....I've been up since 5:45 and haven't eaten....time for a meal....fifteen minutes.....better check those forums again...something exciting could be happening.....thirty minutes.....I don't want my emails filling up....ten minutes....okay....I'm finally ready to get to work. It's nearly noon!
I open my file and re-read the last two scene I wrote....making necessary changes and moving sentences around. By two oclock I'm ready to start a new scene.
It ain't happening. :\ Maybe a game of solitaire will help.
Back to the unwritten scene. Damn....2:30....kids are home from school....so much for writing.


08-20-2004, 02:24 AM
I have no self discipline either. I'm getting myself into habits, but I never seem to stick to them.

One week I will decide that I won't come to the computer until noon, which gives me about 4 hours of writing time. That actually only lasted about 2 days (of which I was quite productive). I don't know why it ended.

And yes I am the same with working out. But I am trying to keep habits there too.

Back to the writing though, I have no kids, I have a boyfriend I live with who is very busy with his new companies so he's not home an awful lot. So I DO have the time. But actually sitting down and doing it isn't so easy. When something motivates me I can write like nobodies business.

I wish I could be one of those writers who just does it everyday, without question. Maybe one day I will be.

Maybe we just need to find schedules that work for us. That's what I'm trying to do. I can do some pretty good writing late at night. This means after midnight (when we sually go to sleep). But then I would sleep later in the day and that scares me because I use to have huge sleep issues where I would be up all night and most of the day. I don't want to fall back into that.

Right now, this heat isn't helping my writing either. Concentrating is impossible.

Now I am babbling...:gone

08-21-2004, 01:29 AM

You are sooo funny. I totally identified with your routine... and your schedule (my daughter gets home at 2:30 too). The only difference is I actually try to write first... then check the email and the message boards, solitaire, email, etc. So I get SOMETHING done before I'm lost to fooling around.

Today I did 6 pages on a proposal for a new book. Just a start, but it's plodding along...

April is right, everyone has to find a schedule that suits them, but I think in order to really just get it done it helps to lower your expectations. Heck, write a PARAGRAPH every day and you'd have a novella in a year. A page a day, you got a book. Just a page a day! That doesn't sound that difficult, does it?


Karyn Langhorne
(coming to a bookstore near you on August 31)!

09-03-2004, 04:37 AM
I often make a plan to write a certain amount of words a day, but that only lasts for one day, because that's usually the day I am in the mood to do it.
The next day I might not be up for that. As long as I write SOMETHING I am happy.
It only makes me feel worse when I've given myself something to do and then I don't feel like it.
I take things day by day, that seems to work best

09-23-2004, 09:06 AM
I've never been particularly disciplined, myself. I find it quite difficult to find time to write as I work full time. When I get home I'm so drained that I don't have much creativity left.

I'm kind of a sprint-sit-and-have-a-break writer because of that - I can't write during the day, though I think longingly about it (which in a way is good, because I can formulate my plot), but on the weekend I go for broke and write pages in a day. Except for those days where everything I write is crap, and when you read the manuscript you can really see the difference...I hate those days. I feel like every moment that I can squeeze out to write is precious, and when I write crap, I've wasted precious writing time.

But when it flows, I'm like a madwoman. MAD I tell you. I squark at anyone in the house who dares to break the sacred silence and distract me from supping at the stream of inspiration... needless to say, when I'm in those moods, everyone finds something quiet to do and leaves Melinda alone. I am a formidable force of fury when angered ;)