I said I’d be getting back to my feelings about daily disciplined writing after I’d give you, the reader, and myself some time to discover what it is that needs disciplining. Just to keep it interesting, I’ll post a reminder video of the first post in this kinda-series. Ready Eddie?
It’s a different video, different dance, but I think even more relevant than the first. My point is that it’s a myth that you have to discipline yourself to do daily writing, but you do have to discipline other things in your life, and yourself, so you can let what’s in you bust loose. I love the closing lyric on this song that says: “If you don’t give your heart wings, you’ll never learn.”
Have you thought about that first post and how the harsh words defining discipline apply to your writing? I have. I’ve thought about it a lot because I’m coming into a period where I’ve got a whole bunch on my plate and my writing will be disciplined. I’m working a couple of jobs, have some other jobs that need putting to bed, I’m on the home stretch with a WIP, and I’m greedy.
Despite hitting full stride with the BWIP (Big Work In Progress) I’ve got three others that mean a great deal to me. One turned out to need a tremendous amount of research, and the deeper I go into it the more angry and drained I become. Here’s a scientific truth: Your brain makes up 2% of your body mass but uses 20% of your energy (calories). It’s an energy-sucking 3 lb. lump. There’s no way I can afford the drain of that project, so it’s a little darling I’ll have to put in a coma for the time being.
That’s going to take discipline. On a daily basis I’ll have to grab myself by the throat and pull myself away from the research and all those wheels churning in my brain connecting dots that seem to have no connection. I can’t afford the anger and frustration the research and writing drains from me. One of the other hats I wear as a writer is that of a financial spanker. Uh-huh, this outlaw is deep in the system of those who wear suits. Finance and real estate have been a life-long hobby and sometimes full-time career. Hey, everybody’s got to have a hobby, and this is mine, taught to me since I was a little kid. The dots I’m connecting add up to something explosive, and I just love to blow things up in a calm, controlled, research backed-up sort of way.
Not right now. That dance can’t be danced, and I’ve got to find some way of taking the frustration Kevin Bacon shows in his little car before he busts loose and put that little darling it in a coma before I blow.
- Deliver me from temptation. All research books and internet bookmarks will be removed from all devices and dumped into DropBox or whatever else I have to do
- All subscriptions to financial blogs and news publications will be cancelled
- I’ll get a buddy to help me. In this case, my husband. He’s agreed to cancel our newspaper subscriptions for the next two months and get his newspaper fixes (he’s from a newspaper family) from his iPad. That’s a sacrifice for him because he loves the smell of newsprint paper and ink, and I’m keenly aware of what I’m asking him to give up.
- I’ve got to kick the shit out of my habit of nurturing. So what if he’s making a sacrifice? There’s a little trick I learned while dealing with a problem I’ll get into a bit further down in this post. I’ll use that old trick whenever I start feeling badly about what he’s sacrificing (and that’s going to include dinner most nights). I’ll imagine myself relaxed and walking through a field of flowers, accidentally stepping on the upturned tines of a rake, causing the handle of said rake to smack me between the eyes. In the past, I’ve trained myself to yell, “Stop!” instead of “Ouch!” or a string of foul language that would make a sailor blush. That habit will be dusted off and practiced before it’s needed.
One little darling in a coma, two more to go.
The memoir of moving from Las Vegas to the rural Southern Bible Belt. That one will be put in a semi-coma because I’m living it every day.
How do I discipline the party happening inside and wanting to cut loose on the observations I’m living every single day? Oh, especially the one that keeps unfolding as I walk the dogs each morning past the land of an eccentric (perhaps crazy) recluse that makes The Mill River Recluse look like a social butterfly? She’s one of the most fascinating creatures I’ve ever come across, and slowly I’ve been working my way into her confidence and discovering what makes this wild country woman tick. There’s going to be a whole lot of discipline going on to keep me away from her.
But I think I know how to handle this need to write about what I’m experiencing. I’m not sure if it was Ray Bradbury or Robert A. Heinlein who started his day by writing a list of words as they came to mind, but whoever it was, I’m stealing it. I think he had a goal of writing 100 words, so that’s what I’ll do, and as I do I’ll keep focus on this whacked out wonderful place where I now live (Bonnie and Clyde, along with their Burrow gang, lived in these parts and shot our sheriff after robbing a grocery store in Fayetteville).
When I hit a hundred words, I’ll stop. And it will be easy because I’ll cuss up a storm, break a few pencils with my teeth, then howl like a werewolf if that’s what it takes. Discipline is a harsh and cruel word, and I’ll use every last one of them because that BWIP is so close to the finish line. I’ll discipline that need to cut loose, but it won’t be pretty.
See? This discipline stuff isn’t as hard as it seems. It’s just ugly. And it hurts.
So there’s one little darling in a coma and another in a semi-coma. Good. Now what to do with the one I’ll keep alive during this time when I’m about to do back flips off the walls of an abandoned barn and give my heart wings with the BWIP?
John Cheever pretty much nailed it when he said writing was not a competitive sport, but that’s what it’s become. I hate it. The motto of this era is write as much as you can across as broad a range of genres as you can, and get them to market as fast as you can. Then you beat the crap out of everybody in your genre with gonzo marketing. I won’t do it. And once this blog picks up some steam, I’ll start interviewing writers who don’t do it, either. Successful writers. One of them has never used an editor, has less than 300 “friends” on FB, has never advertised, twittered not a single tweet, but has had sales rankings one step down from Lee Childs. He’s sold over 10,000 books with zero marketing and just a few bucks thrown at a friend to do paintings for his book covers. He’s just one outlaw of the rules who’s making it happen that I’ve found.
Whoops. I’ve strayed from my plan for handling the third darling who will stay alive. You know what that means, don’t you? Right. I don’t have a plan. I’m going to need a big whip to discipline that darling, especially if I’m putting her into NaNo where my far-too-human competitive juices start boiling.
She’s a little darling that, again, is quite painful. The half-baked plan at this point is to sketch out notes and events in Scrivener, then use NaNo as a way of busting through the raw material so fast I won’t have time to feel the hurt, but feel it enough that I won’t have too much trouble pulling away after the daily word count is met. I know that won’t work because I’ve been there, blogged that after a 5K-word-per-day challenge with a long time friend.
If the material you’re writing about is painful, there’s no way of blustering through it so you won’t get hit with the hurts. But I’m going to do it again because it’s churning inside, making progress, and I’ve got to keep it going. Without that release, it will hurt even worse. Think Kevin Bacon with no abandoned barn to dance in and you’ll have an idea what I’m talking about. It won’t take discipline to write it. It will take discipline to not write it, and I’m hoping the constraints of NaNo will help in a reverse psychology sort of way.
In going back to find links to earlier post on this blog, I realized how deeply I’d bought into the fear and discipline associated with writing. I’ve watched myself change as I dove back into my craft after a 12 year absence. I’ve remembered who I am, and that’s a writer. It’s my life, regardless of success or failure.
It’s what you’re living. You are a writer a painter a sculptor an innovative entrepreneur. It’s not what you do, like you do the dishes. Of course you have some fears and concerns about how big or small you are, but this is nothing new for you. When you were a baby you wanted to walk so badly you tumbled time after time after time after time until you nailed it. You wanted to be your own self and take care of your own needs so badly you stabbed your face with a fork over and over and over and over until you were able to feed yourself. You wanted to ride a bike or roller skates, and no matter how many times you humiliated yourself in front of those watching, you kept at it until you nailed it. You dressed like a little clown and were proud of yourself, and you kept wearing socks and shoes that didn’t match and getting laughed at until you nailed dressing yourself. You’ve loved people and sometimes managed to love someone who loved you back, and at other times failed. Your heart was broken, and you probably made a great big fool of yourself in the process. But you survived and you kept on loving.
By the time you were 10 years old you wanted so many things that fed into your sense of self that you had 20 painful or humiliating failures for every success.
And you did it because you were too young to buy into anybody’s constant droning on and on about how much you feared being who you were meant to be–a walking, talking, skateboarding, self-dressing, self-feeding autonomous human being.
It’s not a fear of your creative self that requires discipline, it’s all the other shoulds and oughts and necessities you’ve shamefully put in second place to your creative self you fear. That’s where the discipline comes in. Pulling back from who you are and being who you’re told you’re supposed to be–wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, sister, best friend, super-spiffy clean housekeeper, well-groomed member of the community, and a bunch of other stuff.
You have to discipline that dancing, frustrated creative drive inside of you so you won’t be anyone or any thing that is unacceptable in your world.
It’s hard work, and it’s easier to think you need the discipline of daily writing than it is to think of daily disciplined withdraw from that raging passion to show your kid you love them, take a bath so the house doesn’t stink, pay bills, listen to your partner when they have a problem, and other annoying things that are so very important to you just not as important as that creative bomb in your britches.
Well, whoops. I was going to talk about the biggest consequence of the stress of discipline that happens when I put discipline to work, but I have to make a liar of myself. That will have to wait until later in the week. Right now I’ve been having a little party of blog writing here, and for a variety of reasons, it’s time to back up, back off, and stop.
That pisses me off, but I’ll get over it. There’s ice cream waiting for me in the freezer, which I’ll eat and feel so horrid about all that fat and those calories I’ll distract myself from this one act of daily disciplining my writing.
I discipline it from taking over my life.