Friday, October 7, 2011

Work in Progress: Discipline

I didn’t feel like writing a blog post yesterday, so I didn’t.  Right now, I don’t feel like writing a blog post, but I’m forcing myself to do so anyway.  I expect its content will suffer as a reflection of my ambivalence (so maybe you should stop reading now?), but I’m forging ahead despite my low expectations.

Discipline is one of the “secrets to success” that they don’t officially teach you in MFA programs, though if you listen to a good teacher, that single word infuses everything he or she says. 

The way to get your book written?  Sit and write it, even when you don’t feel like writing.  The way to get your book published?  Send it out, even when you feel discouraged.  The way to get through those tough times of hard writing and too many rejections?  Make yourself trudge forward, even if in baby steps.

When I’m in the mood for writing and things are going well, nothing is finer.  When I’m not in the mood for writing, and the writing sucks (which is why I’m not in the mood for it), almost anything would be finer (cleaning out a closet, anyone?).  But I try to sit down and work anyway—because whatever I come up with will be better than nothing.  Whatever I come up with may lead to something good, or may end up better than I imagine it will be, or may be later revised into something useful, or may, simply, just keep me in the habit of writing.

Don’t let up—and the best way I know to keep yourself at it to have a plan and a schedule and a way of being that makes you feel slightly guilty if you aren’t working when you’re supposed to be (Catholic upbringing, anyone?).

From the beginning, my blog plan was to post four days a week, with a longer piece on Thursdays.  Sometimes I cheat and run a recipe, say, or something very short.  But when I skip a day, I feel guilty (as I did yesterday) even though I know that in the grand scheme of the world, it doesn’t matter.  No one seems to care.  But, perversely, that may be the most compelling reason discipline matters so much in the writing life:  No one else cares, so the one person who does care—the one person who has to care, always—that one person is you. 


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.