A writer’s best tool, and its evil opposite

Posted: 26 June, 2012 in motivation, Productivity, writing
Tags: , , , , ,

Writers increase their chance of success the more they write.  That’s why most tips from successful writers start with the advice “Just write”.  Write anything and write often, they say.  To do this requires discipline, and lots of it.

I’ve learnt this year that discipline is probably a writer’s best tool because it’s the thing that gets you to the computer or notepad when you least want to be there. And it’s the thing that keeps you there.

I’ve also learnt that, to a writer like me, the worst thing to encounter is distraction. I’ve had a week of distractions – reading, housework, gardening, phone calls – that have resulted in a lot of wasted writing time. These distractions are lethal to my writing because, as I know too well, if I don’t get these words down on paper they could be gone forever.

S.J. Parris wrote “I find it easier to write when I am not tempted to other pursuits.”  To avoid temptation takes discipline and a bit better organisation of my workspace. To help avoid distractions I need to:

1. Clean up my desk. If I have books and magazines and other notebooks cluttering my workspace of course I’m going to be distracted. All time-wasting temptations need to be hidden from view.

2. Set a timer for 1/2 hour and focus on writing continuously for that 1/2 hour.  After a 5-10 minute break I can start another 1/2 hour round of writing.  This helps me to push those distracting thoughts to the side when I can say, “I’ll get to that in 10 minutes when my time is up”.

3. Turn off the computer. When I write on my computer I find it’s far too easy to open my web browser or email. Before I know it I’ve lost an hour or more of valuable writing time . I’ve started writing everything in a notebook and then typing a rough draft on my Neo. Only when I’ve got the draft finalised and I’m happy with my work do I transfer it to the computer.

4. Remind myself there is a time for everything.  When I was working 9-5 I had set times to do my laundry and cleaning. I’ve since thrown that aside because I have so much more flexibility now but I think it’s best to go back to the schedule I had when I was working. That way, it’s all done on the weekend and I don’t need to worry about it during my writing time.

5. Exercise more discipline.  I need to focus on the task at hand and keep that focus.  It’s like using a wide-angle lens on a camera.  There are so many things in the picture that the focal point of the photo can sometimes get lost.  I need to get my zoom lens on and target one task at a time. And stick with it until it’s done.

In setting these rules for myself I also need to remember that everything takes practice and discipline is no exception.  Like any form of training I may be a bit weak at first but I will develop stronger self-control the more discipline I use.  The more disciplined I become the more writing will get done.  The more writing I get done the happier I am at the end of the day. It’s a small price to pay for a great reward.


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