The Discipline to Write

I’ve written completed five manuscripts. The first was a memoir, which I’ll never publish, and the other four have been novels. Two of my novels are now in print, and a third is on the way. If you do the math you’ll notice that at least two of my manuscripts haven’t been published. That’s okay. I was learning. I’m still learning. But what I have done is completed each project. I’ve created, toiled – sometimes for well over a year per manuscript, fought through so-called writer’s block, created when the words twisted and turned on the page, written when I was tired, written when I was overloaded at home, written and worked past every excuse. I’ve done this because it matters, and because I’m a writer. If you’re a writer, you’ll find time to write, because that’s the only thing that feels right to you. If you want to publish and share your work, you’ll do more than just write, you’ll take the next step and find force the discipline needed to make it happen.

School never came easy for me. When I was a kid words were difficult. I’m still a horrible speller, and despite years of study, common grammar often escapes me. But in this I’ve also found my voice, something unique to me, I think. The thing that most challenged me was also the thing that I needed most: Words and the blending of words to create stories. Like many of my fellow southerners, I’m a storyteller, but I wanted to share my stories beyond the spoken word. That meant I had to learn to write. I had to do whatever it took to get it as close to right as possible, and then I had to overcome my fear of failure and rejection (because there’s plenty of failure and rejection in this business).

In my quest to tell my stories, I’ve studied everything available on writing. I’ve worked. I’ve learned. I’ve practiced. I’ve written. I was rarely focused before I began writing, but I knew if I was going to make anything out of my stories, I had to master discipline. Like the Nike advertisements noted, Just Do It.

You can read every book on writing, and you may be the most talented writer to ever walk this earth, but if you don’t have the discipline to write, and write almost every day, you’ll never finish projects, and you’ll never share your very special gift with others. And it is a gift, and I do believe it should be shared.

Some people are already disciplined. They can complete whatever they start, but if you’re like me you’ll have to reach down deep to find the motivation. You’ll have to write before you do anything each day, before work, kids, and distractions empty your brain and soul. Or you’ll have to write during lunch, away from co-workers, in your car if necessary. Maybe you are a night owl. If so, write at night, but just do it.

Some of you who read this are more talented than I will ever be — you’re more talented than most authors who’ve ever lived — but the discipline to write will keep you from ever being read. The writing tips online and in books are useful, but if you can’t find the discipline to begin, continue, and finish, none of the tips matter.

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