Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Self Discipline

I've been thinking a lot about self discipline lately, especially when it comes to my writing. There's no denying that it takes a certain amount of discipline and focus to set about to write a book, finish said book and bid adieu as it is launched into the marketplace. I'm told most aspiring writers never actually finish a book. And that an even fewer number of those writers go on to revise and shop around their book.

In fact, just yesterday I read a blog by Kristen Lamb, who highlights the fact that 5% of aspiring writers actually finish their books, and only 5% of those go on to the following step and so on and so forth. She used the term career writer, the writer with sustainability, the one who perseveres even after a failed book launch or lacklustre sales numbers.

It would be easy for me, with three books published and another nearly ready for launch, to say clearly discipline is not a problem for me. One does not publish three books in three years and call themselves lazy.

But I am. Or at least I am easily distracted.

Distraction from my writing came to a head this year when, in September, I volunteered for a high level position within my kids' sports team. This position required ten hours a week of devoted time, not to mention the 'soft' time needed to prepare, answer emails and travel. It stole entire weekends and evenings. It made me so tired by the end of my evening I couldn't even think about writing without my body threatening to put me in the foetal position.

After a few months of this I felt like a parasite had latched onto my life, monopolizing my time, taking up far too much grey matter and leaving NOTHING for my first love. It was during this time that I powered to the end of my fourth Peter Ainsley mystery, Sweet Asylum. I told lied to myself that I could do everything, that I could write and commit to the team.... if I could just organize my time better. It was only when I started revisions that I realized how disjointed my book was. Never my favourite part of the writing process, revisions had become absolute drudgery which left me cursing my office, my work in progress and any mention of how it would be late for publication. More than once I contemplated dragging the entire file to recycle bin icon.

Somehow, amidst all of that, I woke up and saw the real culprit for my predicament. I needed to focus. I needed to give myself wholly and completely to the process of my craft. I resigned from the volunteer position a few weeks ago and have refocused my efforts towards this book. I also sat down and worked out a semi-aggressive schedule for myself that will see me working on a few projects concurrently over the next 52 weeks. The schedule includes varying minimum word counts as well as set periods of time for revisions. It's not so aggressive that it's unachievable but it will require a concerted effort from me to reach the markers I have laid out for myself. Writing down my goals and breaking that down further into steps gives me a clear path to follow.

Perhaps, like writing, discipline is a muscle that can be bulked up, redefined and made stronger the more you put it to work.