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.