Yesterday, we talked a bit about self-discipline. It’s one of my favorite topics namely because it took me so long to get it figured out. Also, we live in a culture of quick-fixes and fad diets. We idolize the rare few who “rocket” to fame. In Robert Greene’s FABULOUS book Mastery he even mentions how our society’s almost developed a general disdain for plain and simple hard work. We’re a culture of day-traders, not investors. Thus, in a world of instant, it can be really easy to get discouraged when the *POOF* *Glitter* *Ahhhhhh* magic doesn’t happen.
Success is mostly elbow-grease, and most of us can’t afford to hire Buffalo Bill to toss us in a well and hose us when we don’t make word count. We have to be self-directed, self-motivated and self-disciplined. That isn’t natural. It goes against our natures, so we have to develop this area if we want to succeed at anything.
We Must Be Wise How We Train
Self-discipline is in us, we just have to strengthen it. It’s a muscle of character. Don’t start Day One trying to have the discipline of a Shaolin Monk. That is a formula to fail. Start with small steps. It’s one of the reasons that I believe blogging is wonderful for new writers in particular. Blogs are great for training self-discipline muscles, for showing up no matter how we feel or what craziness is going on.
Craziness will always be present. It’s called life. If we wait until everything calms down before we can write? We will be writing from the afterlife.
We Must Be Mindful To Progress
Make sure your goals get progressively more difficult as time goes on. Start with small goals and progress from there. Small successes inspire us to try harder, bigger, better tasks. Too many writers start out with some stupid word count goal that is destined to fail long-term:
I am going to write 5000 words a day.
What happens is they burn out and hate their writing (been there, done that got the T-shirt). Start with 250 words (one page) six days a week and go from there. If 250 was way too easy (like curling a 1 pound weight) then adjust until it is slightly beyond comfortable. Once that word count becomes easy, increase by 15%….just like weightlifting.
Learn to Fail Forward
Failing Forward by John Maxwell is one of my favorite books. Successful people are successful because they have a healthy relationship with failure. They view it as a learning experience, reevaluate and then try again, and again and again, each time modifying the approach. Persistence is more than not giving up.
There is a fine line between persistent and stupid.
If my goal is to drive from DFW to California, but I’m on I-35 North and refuse to give up and change highways, I’m not persistent, I’m a moron…who will end up in Canada or even the North Pole.
How many writers keep shopping the same manuscript that’s been rejected time and time again? They refuse to dig in and do the tough revisions or move on to a new book and in the end it kills their success. The first book is often a learning curve.
Use it. Learn from it. Fail forward.
Set a time-limit. If your first book has taken the last four years of your life and you’re still not finished? Shelve it. Move on. Learn. Write more books. Likely, you’ll improve with the next books and can go back and fix what was missing from the first one.
Failures must be stepping stones, not tombstones.
Many writers hang on to the first manuscript because they fear failure. It isn’t failing, it’s learning. It took me five years to let go of my first novel (the one banned by the Hague Convention as torture). I felt if I started a new novel, then I was a failure. A quitter. No, the first book is often our training wheels. Let go and skin some knees and elbows. Yeah, it hurts, but pain is a great teacher.
Successful people quit stuff all the time. It’s knowing what and when to quit that makes the difference.
People have a mistaken understanding of how life works. Most of us believe the feeling comes first, then the action and then the change. Heck, I did.
Action is always first. Act first, then the feelings will change and finally the results change.
Feelings are a horrible guide. Feelings can be affected by diet, weather, activity level, the news, traffic, PMS, kids, cat puke in our slippers. Feelings are a terrible compass. Are they important? Sure. The bumper on my car is important, too, but it makes a lousy navigational system.
Just remember, “Amateurs wait for inspiration. The rest of us get up and go to work.” ~Stephen King.
What are your thoughts? Where do you struggle? Are you afraid of failure? What do you do to maintain your discipline?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!