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Writing, Real Life and Self-Discipline

9 June, 2008

As I get deeper into the novel I’m working on, I’m finding more and more that real life keeps getting in the way. By ‘real life’ I mean all those other things I have to do that are not connected to the world inside my head, like shopping and cleaning and cooking and stopping the weeds in the garden from getting tall enough to cover the shed. And then there are the things that aren’t connected to writing but I enjoy doing anyway: gaming, going to the cinema, photography etc. Whilst I know that spending every single minute of the day typing would probably make my head explode, having to juggle these things and sometimes ending up with writing time getting pushed aside is frustrating.

This is, I must point out, not really a complaint. I know I’m in a far better position to spend time writing than a lot of people. I have no job, no kids and at the moment even no uni. There’s just planning next year’s dissertation and a couple of weeks of work on an archaeological site to occupy me over the summer. Still, I find it interesting that, although I enjoy writing more than most other leisure activities in the world, I sometimes still find myself putting it off.

Partly, this is because writing is hard. It would be so much easier to spend all day sleeping or in front of the TV, rather than slogging to get to the end of the page when the words just aren’t flowing. On the good days of course, writing seems like the easiest thing in the world, but there are still days, or even weeks or months, when I wonder why I’m putting myself through such hell. Even so, I always carry on writing. It’s the one thing I always come back to, no matter how my life changes.

So, how can I stop real life from intruding too much on my writing time? I pretty much know it already: self-discipline. Luckily, this is one thing I’m quite good at cultivating. I can get my essays done long before they have to be handed in and I even managed to do NaNoWriMo last year alongside the steadily mounting uni work. When it comes to self-discipline in my fiction writing, the ultimate motivation is that one day, perhaps in the far and distant future, I would like to make my living as a writer. And that leads to one piece of advice that every aspiring writer can make use of – the only way to finish a short story or a novel and to eventually get published is to first of all get your bum in your chair and write, every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Which reminds me – I still have a couple of pages left to write today…

  1. insightintoaction permalink
    9 June, 2008 2:55 pm

    Have you heard about Chris Baty and his National Novel Writing Month? In his book “No Plot? No Problem” he talks about giving himself a 30-day deadline to write his novel, and the benefits of having a deadline. Interesting read for someone like you who’s in the middle of the process. Good luck!

  2. virtualnexus permalink
    9 June, 2008 4:33 pm

    Good post. Some writers set a daily page limit and find that set routines trigger a flow state by association. Whatever works for you, I guess. You might be interested to check out details of the Blood on Paper Exhibition at the V&A – collection of books made by artists.

  3. 9 June, 2008 5:37 pm

    “……..first of all get your bum in your chair and write, every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes……….”.

    Excellent advice for any writer.

    I think the real creativity comes in those first few minutes after we start, then it tails off, perhaps because the internal censors then kick in.

  4. Amy permalink*
    10 June, 2008 9:45 am

    Thanks for the comments folks!

    insightintoaction: I actually took part in NaNoWriMo last year and managed to complete it, though I haven’t read the ‘No Plot? No Problem’ book. I’ve been thinking it might be time to read a few writing books again, so thanks for the recommendation.

    virtualnexus: I’ve been trying to keep to a set number of pages a day and more or less succeeding, but there are still days when other activities intrude. I’m starting to feel that setting a definite time to write every day might be beneficial too, rather than just squeezing writing time in between other things.

    Caroline: Ah yes, the dreaded internal editors! I’m trying to keep mine firmly locked away until I can get the first draft done!

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