Discipline and Not Getting Eaten by Bears

Continuing on my exploration of Chuck Wendig’s post, #2 on his list of 25 Virtues Writes Should Possess is Discipline.

Given that we’re creative types prone to art-o-leptic fits of imagination, if we’re given no leash we’ll just wander off into the woods to create our masterpiece. Where we are promptly eaten by bears.   ~Chuck Wendig

I don’t want to be eaten by a bear. How about you?

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

This quote is attributed to Mary Heaton Vorse, who died in 1966. For Mrs. Vorse this meant the chair was likely pulled up to a nice little desk which contained nothing but a supply of paper and a typewriter. A MANUAL typewriter most likely. Something like this maybe.typewriter for 4.5You know, one that had a ribbon you had to change, but you always waited until you could barely make out the typing on the page before you broke down and did it because, after all, ribbons don’t grow on trees.

And, Mrs. Vorse didn’t have to compete with the internet. For the modern day writer using a computer, distractions abound. Discipline means being willing to disconnect. Whoa! Stop swearing. Sorry, but if you want to write, then write. Stop giving yourself excuses to eat poop. (This is what working dogs will sometimes do when under a lot of stress during training. It’s an avoidance technique.) Turn off the internet, stop playing that video game, do not under any circumstances check your e-mail, smart phones are not all that smart, windows are lovely but they don’t put words on paper, who cares who just tweeted what, put down the — BRIGHT SHINY! BRIGHT SHINY!

Yeah, guilty as charged.

There are probably some writers who can easily ignore all the modern social networks vying for their attention. Then there are those of us who are more like junkies aching for our next fix. I check my mail a gazillion times an hour — smart phone, remember? In my defense, I used to be that way with the actual mail delivery (the paper stuff brought to us by the United States Postal Service, a.k.a. snail mail.) Seriously, I would watch for the truck. I’d stalk the mailbox even if I wasn’t expecting anything even vaguely important. Why? I have absofreakly no idea. (Alana, that one was just for you! 🙂

So, how do you develop the discipline to sit your arse in that chair and spend some quality time with your characters? Start small and build on it. It’s all about baby steps. Get yourself a timer, open your word processor of choice, AND NOTHING ELSE. Get your tunes set, your lucky socks on, your coffee/tea/whiskey/wine nearby, go to the bathroom, stretch, crack your knuckles, give yourself fifteen minutes on the timer, take a deep breath and . . . GO. Start writing. Anything. Everything. Don’t take time to look up the perfect word just put anything down and keep going. This is writing, not editing. I’ve started to use brackets for that purpose.

See Spot run. Spot is chasing the [name of beast here] even though he knows it will mean certain death and dismemberment.

By doing that, I don’t allow myself the opportunity to dive into research. As innocent and sometimes necessary as that is, NOW is not the time.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, if you have family — hubby, kids, dogs, cats, bushy plants — put up a Do Not Disturb Further sign. It’s hard. Yes. No one said being a writer was easy. Give them an ICE List (In Case of Emergency) if you need to and try to address calamities they thinkg might need your attention: Your missing sock is between the couch cushions. No, your keys are not in the freezer. If you’re not gushing blood out of your eye sockets just keep pressure on it until my timer goes off.

When the timer does go off, reward yourself. A nice pat on the back, a piece of chocolate, a run around the block, a tourniquet and quick trip to the ER for the injured victim . . .

Now, do it again.

And again.

And bump up the time. Twenty minutes. A half hour. Forty-five minutes. Fifty-three minutes and fourteen seconds. Pretty soon, you will have developed the discipline to make an hour of solid writing with no distractions a piece of gooey chocolate cake.

We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.  ~ Jim Rohn

Or the pain of getting eaten by a bear.



  1. Sometimes, someone must just say it or give you a kick in the pants. This is how I start my day too: procrastinating. Happy Friday.

  2. Once again, the “sayin'” and the “doin'” rarely sit behind the same desk. When someone figures out how to bottle concentration (with, maybe, a side order of determination) I’ll be fine. Until then? I’ll have to make do with live or die deadlines.

  3. This is so true. I can rarely write for an hour uninterrupted – I have a very demanding dog! But actually in spite of that I manage to get work done. I’ve done over 17,000 words on my MS which I started in January, so I’m happy. 🙂

    • That’s great progress! 🙂 Darn, demanding dogs. Mine are usually snoring while I work. They find me entirely too boring when I get in the zone.

  4. Discipline is so important. I too have no wish to be eaten by a bear. I’m lucky I’m in promotion mode. Not worried about writing right now. But promotions requires discipline too. Focus to knock out tasks. Setting small goals and building is the best idea. 🙂

  5. But the internet is FUN. I LOVE staring at the google homepage and thinking “I SHOULD BE WRITING.” (I think I’m a little addicted.)

    • I hear ya. And let’s not forget how handy the online dictionary and thesaurus are. As opposed to reaching for the hard-cover ones lying not an arm’s reach away. *sigh*

    • And fun is addictive. *sigh* We’re doomed, I tell you. Doomed. All that bright shiny in one place, it’s just not fail. 😉

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