To say that I am an undisciplined writer would be an understatement. I am lazy, (I only tend to write when the words are busting to get out), and I like to procrastinate. This generally means that I write in fits and starts, and sometimes I don’t get a lot of writing done at all.
I have ‘story starts’ everywhere – on a pin-board, in notebooks, on sticky notes stuck on my book case, on scraps of paper in my handbag, hidden in my drawer at work, and scattered on various paper forms all over my desk. These ‘starts’ are complete sentences that pop into my head from time-to-time, quotes from the people around me, notes about something I read, emotions I felt listening to a song… Anything that really strikes a chord with me at any given moment usually ends up in my collection of ‘story starts’. The problem I have is that I have not been disciplined enough to develop these ‘starts’ into something more substantial. If I don’t get the whole story in one go, then until now, whatever I ‘get’ has been forever destined to float around as incomplete, and unrealised potential.
Partially to save myself from being buried under all of these bits and pieces, partially to improve my writing, but mostly to develop a good writing habit so that I can write my first novel, I have started to push myself to tackle at least one of these ‘story starts’ each week and develop it into some kind of half-readable story. Of course, this means that I have had to write when the words are not necessarily ready to come out of their own accord, and when I have lost ‘the moment’ in which I madly jotted down the words in the first place.
Interestingly, procrastination has reduced since I have started to sit down and ‘force’ myself to write. I have looked forward to the designated writing time more than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I would do it 24/7 if I could, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy having to work a bit harder to get the words out than I normally would. Writing is starting to become a priority, almost to the point that I will now write when I am procrastinating about doing other things (like the household chores).
Having said all that, I am still undisciplined. I don’t have a minimum time target, or word target for each writing session. My recent routine has been to come home from work, cook dinner, get the family sorted, check my emails and then sit and write as much as I can before my eyes require some physical assistance to remain open.
Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, suggests an absolute minimum of 1000 words per day, regardless of how much time it takes. I am nowhere near that target at this point, but I am working up to it. Working full-time and having a whole heap of emotional and family problems going on around me provides plenty of excuses for not writing, but hopefully by the end of the year I will be well on my way to the 1000-word-a-day target.
The other interesting thing that I have noticed is that the more I write the more ideas I get. As I turn off the computer, or put away the pencil and paper after working on one story, my mind is often inundated with new stories, characters and plots. I am taking this as a good sign that I am on the right path.
Creating Writing From The Ashes has definitely helped motivate me. Announcing to the world that I will be posting one or two short stories each week means I have a goal to work towards, and this has definitely helped me focus more on writing and be more determined to spend the time required to create a readable story from the ideas I get instead of just jotting down a sentence or two and leaving it at that. Writing blog posts is also a good ‘warm-up’ to get my mind focused on the writing task at hand.
Well, I’m off to do some more writing! Thanks for taking the time to visit. I would love to hear about how others have become more disciplined – tips about what works and what doesn’t – so please feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment.