If you’re a writer, then becoming disciplined with your writing is one of your biggest challenges. It’s not something that you tackle once and then never have to worry about again. It’s an ongoing battle. and you have to have a ton of weapons at the ready in order to take it on each and every day.
That said, if you’re not a writer by trade and simply want to use writing as means to express yourself (online or off), then discipline is something you’ll need to have to keep it up. As someone who has trasitioned from writing as a hobby to a career, I’ve had my struggles with this in both realms. And I’ve conquered them over and over again because I’ve had the willpower and determination to make it through.
How have I done this?
While I’ve tried several tactics to combat a lack of discipline and find a way to get writing done, I’ve found that there are really 3 ways to get your writing done that can either work in tandem or independently. I’ve used all of these consistently throughout my time spent writing — both as a hobby and as a career — and the results have been the same: I get writing done.
1. The Write Time
When I first started to become more serious about my writing, I dismissed the notion of setting aside specific time for writing. I thought that if I wrote as the ideas came to me then I’d have a much better success rate in terms of creating great written work. I was way off base on that.
While it’s important to capture your ideas as they come to you – I’ve captured ideas using a variety of methods during my writing career – you can’t just pick up and write whenever. You need to block out time to write. It doesn’t matter if you do it early in the morning or in the wee hours of the evening – but you need to set out specific times to flesh out your ideas and get the writing done.
I’ve discussed my current writing schedule before, but as a writing hobbyist my schedule was set up as follows:
- Wake up/Daily Routine: 7 am to 8 am
- Work: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (including commute)
- Dinner: 6 pm to 7 pm
- Time with kids before bed: 7 pm to 8 pm
- Time with wife before we did our own things: 8 pm to 9 pm
- Writing: 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm (never less than this amount of time, often more)
- Bed: No later than 1 am
On weekends, I’d spend one day doing absolutely no writing (we called this Family Day) and the other doing more than my 2 hours – often I’d get in about 4 hours on that day. As a result of putting a system like this in place, I built up a great portfolio of work that landed me more and more writing work that not only paid, but were in my areas of interest. And now I’m a full time writer. Making time for your words not only will instill self-discipline like nothing else, it can lead you to a writing career if that’s what you want.
There’s no right time of day to do this, but you’d better set aside a “write time of day” or you’ll have a much harder time getting the words out of you. I cannot stress this enough.
2. The Write Place
Scheduling your writing is crucial, but you need to have a place to go when that time arrives. Having a place to do your writing is like having a touchstone for your work; it’s a sacred place you go to where the words flow out of you. It doesn’t have to be serene, it doesn’t have to be in the home, it doesn’t have to be a huge setup. But it does have to be there.
I’ve tried a ton of different places, an entirely separate “pseudo-office” in the basement, a standing desk in our large walk-in closet and a larger area in the main part of the house. None of them were necessarily right for me, but I found that the further removed I was from the rest of the house the less friction I had in getting my writing done. My standing desk was ideal for podcasting or talking out my ideas, but not so much for the act of writing. The basement setup felt as if I’d been banished to dungeon to do my work, so I didn’t enjoy going down there. That had an impact on my writing.
Now I’ve got a very comfortable writing chair and a Levenger lap desk in the master bedroom that suits me best as my “write place” – and it works best for a number of reasons:
- It has a door, giving me privacy when I need it.
- It is bright, with a sliding door out to our back deck.
- It doesn’t “feel” like an office, yet it acts like one during the day.
- It is in the back of the house, furthest from the reaches of noise.
- It’s easily accessible.
Create a place for you to do your writing. Work within the limits you have for now and then adjust as needed. But remember that adjusting your writing space isn’t actually getting the writing done, so don’t get caught up in the “where” over the “why” and “what” because they are the most important factors.
3. The Write Tools
This is where you can really get caught up in fiddling. Don’t fall victim to that.
Don’t experiment or tinker too much once you’ve got the right tools in place. Chances are you’ve already been writing using some sort of tools, so stick with those until you get in the habit of scheduling your time to write. Outside of that scheduled time, look for tools that will improve how you get the words out without barriers that keep you from that. Again, the “why” and “what” are far more important.
I use different tools for different forms of writing. On my MacBook Air, I use Byword for weblog writing, Scrivener for longer form writing. On my iPad, it’s Writing Kit. I use index cards to capture ideas, along with my iPhone and Evernote. All of these tools help me get my writing done more effectively and efficiently.
I can’t tell you what tools are right for you. But what I can say is that the real “write tool” is you. Writers have been writing well before computers, typewriters and even paper came to be, so keep that in mind when picking out tools that will help you become a better writer. Because no tool can do that.
Think of it this way: These tools are the drill bits. You’re the drill.
The Write Mind
All of these have a way of leading you to The Write Mind, and that’s where you need to be to put out the best words to paper or screen that you possibly can on an ongoing basis.
Do right by you and your writing with these 3 foolproof methods, and you’ll create better and better written work each and every time. Keep at it and calling on self-discipline will happen easier over time.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
(Photo credit: Once Upon a Time via Shutterstock)