56. About Writing: Self-discipline

According to one of his biographies, Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was notoriously bad at meeting the deadlines set by his publishers. “I love deadlines,” he once said. “I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

When he absolutely couldn’t put off submitting a manuscript any longer, he locked himself in a hotel room, played the same music over and over, drank gallons of coffee and worked feverishly on the manuscript until it was done. This unusual writing process probably explains why his novels are so bizarre. In addition to being somewhat unorthodox, his writing process must have been highly uncomfortable.

I can sympathize with Douglas Adams. I realized this morning that today is the deadline for a new post for TMTF and I had forgotten to compose one.

Many writers fall prey to procrastination. It’s easy to put off writing until past the deadline. If there’s no deadline, well, it’s easy to put off writing indefinitely. Writing requires a considerable investment of time and effort. It can be exhausting. Without definite goals or serious deadlines, many writers are quick to become distracted from their writing.

Writers sometimes make the opposite mistake, setting so many goals and expectations that writing becomes discouraging, fatiguing and stressful.

It can be difficult for writers to be self-disciplined without straying into one of two extremes: legalism or laziness.

What’s the solution? If you’re a writer, how can you be both productive and relaxed without becoming anxious or lazy?

That’s entirely up to you.

Writers are different. My idea of self-discipline is very different from Douglas Adams’s idea of self-discipline. His methods wouldn’t work for me, and mine probably wouldn’t have worked for him.

In the end, it’s up to each writer to find ways to maintain self-discipline.

Some writers set themselves a daily goal of writing a certain number of words or writing for a certain number of hours. Some writers work only when they’re in a creative mood. Some writers simply start writing and stop when they can’t write anymore.

It also helps writers to find ways to minimize distractions.

Some writers focus best while listening to music; others are distracted by music and prefer silence. Some writers enjoy working in crowded areas; for example, J.K. Rowling wrote much of the Harry Potter series in crowded cafés during the day. Other writers dislike company and opt to work in solitude; for example, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings alone in his study at night.

All writers are unique, and must find their own unique ways of remaining focused, relaxed, productive and self-disciplined.

I’ll keep striving for self-discipline, and maybe I’ll have the next post for TMTF ready by the deadline.


5 thoughts on “56. About Writing: Self-discipline

  1. I am lacking self-discipline! I am having problems getting going with my writing, got a few ideas but dont seam to have enough hours in the day to get them written down or develop them! I am also not sure if I am a better writer if I just take and idea and start writing or if I plan everything out more first! I suppose I will find out which one is better for me over time?

    • Some writers have everything planned out in advance; some writers just take an idea and write. Neither method is better than the other. It just depends on what kind of writing works for you!

  2. I can definitely succumb to procrastination if I’m not setting constant, expected, weekly goals. I routinely hit up coffee shops every Sunday to get away and write for several hours. Being an introvert, it’s probably my favorite time of the week, getting away on my own like that. During Coffee Shop Day, I like to work on several blog posts for the upcoming week and commit some time to my novel and other personal writing projects too. Then throughout the week, I revisit and edit all those writings. Been working for me these last several months so I’ll keep it going as long as I can!

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