Are You a Disciplined Writer?

Hi, SEers! Mae here. We think of writing as a creative endeavor—as it certainly is­—but today I want to talk about the discipline of writing.

Many of us have been writing since childhood. That’s not the case for everyone, but my guess is that you can probably relate to what I’m going to say even if you haven’t been writing as long.

creative idea. Concept of idea and innovation, woman at laptop top holding illuminated lightbulb in her handAs young writers, we usually wrote when the mood struck. Inspiration flooded us and we rode the giddy wave of excitement. Most times, however, that wave of creativity didn’t carry us through to the end of our writing project. The tide receded and left us stranded without the drive to finish.

Do you remember the days of hopping from story to story? I certainly do. In my younger years I would work on a story until the well ran dry then shift focus to something new. The problem with working that way is I rarely finished anything. But as I grew older and became more serious about writing, I realized I needed to approach things differently.

Writing is a passion. The dictionary defines passion as “strong and barely controllable emotion.”

Emotion is a reactionary state, while discipline involves self-control. As I’ve aged, I’ve started looking at writing as a commitment in addition to being the overwhelming passion of my youth. To succeed at something involves making time for it, even when it may not be convenient. Even when we may not “feel” like clearing our schedule to write.

I know many of you write every day and I applaud you for that. Even if you’re retired, and have that freedom, there are still plenty of real life issues that can get in the way. For those of us working a day job, carving out time for writing involves discipline. We can still grab those “when inspiration strikes moments,” but to succeed we need to commit to writing. For me, that involves a regular writing day on the weekend (yes, I only get one). Even if I don’t feel like writing, I force myself to sit down at my keyboard and work on my WIP. I admit to straying in 2020, entertaining other projects while my WIP languished, but I am now back on track, maintaining the disciplined schedule that enabled me to be productive for decades. If you’re looking to develop a schedule of your own, here are a few tips to help you stick with it:

color coded spreadsheet showings days of the weekSet aside realistic times.
If you work a day job and come home exhausted each night, don’t plan your writing schedule for evening hours. Choose a time when you’ll have more energy, even if you’re not sure it will amount to creative energy. Discipline means writing even when you may not feel like it.

Train yourself to avoid distractions.
Turn off your cell phone, and computer notifications. Your writing time is for writing, nothing else.

Make sure your family understands your commitment, so they won’t interrupt you.
Five hours of uninterrupted writing can add up to an abundance of words. Do that once or twice a week, and you’ll see your word count blossom.

Commit to one project at a time.
This is a tough one, especially when you hit the “messy middle” of your book and the siren allure of other projects serenade you. RESIST THE TEMPTATION! Discipline is rarely fun, but it always gets the job done!

Reward yourself.
I usually don’t do this until I finish a project, but I do treat myself when I’ve stuck to a commitment and seen it through to the end. It might be something as simple as reading a book that’s been calling to me, or buying a new blouse. Rewards are nice and remind us we’ve achieved a goal. Give yourself an “attagirl” or an “attaboy ” and celebrate!

Now it’s your turn. Are you a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule? How do you stick to it? If you don’t have a schedule, can you see yourself developing one? Let’s chat a while.

Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair

88 thoughts on “Are You a Disciplined Writer?

  1. Pingback: Is Your Writing a Business or a Hobby? | Story Empire

  2. Not in any way whatsoever am I disciplined writer and certainly not able to stick with a timetable. If I don’t freestyle it, it just feels way too much like work and that feeling is just not happening haha. It’s good to know you got back on track though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Dalen. Thanks for dropping by to share your thoughts. I know several writers who feel the same way you do–when they set timetables or schedules their passion begins to feel like work and they lose momentum. If you’re making progress, I say stick with what you like. For me, I need that discipline to produce, although I admit it can be difficult to stick with my schedule!

      Like

    • Good for you on attempting to stick with a timetable. It can be difficult and demanding, but the longer you do it the easier it gets. Cheering you on and wishing you lots of luck!

      Like

  3. Pingback: Are You a Disciplined Writer? – Fae Corps Inc

  4. No. Once I was pretty clear and ordered. I had a clear line of sight between me and my goals and was becoming a tad successful in a minor way. Alas lock-down and coronovirus put paid to that. I have had to close down the magazines and I am back to working sixty hours a week. Now my goals lie somewhere along the lines of complete three short stories by Christmas.
    Really I was here to say that I enjoyed your article and I think that in most cases you are right. I do think that applies to most authors, I know some that write haphazardly, with no plan and no plot, relying on imagination to carry them through and for some this is effective but they are a rare few, better to be organized in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, and thanks for stopping by to comment and share your thoughts. Lockdown was a miserable time for all of us, but it sounds like you got hit especially hard. I couldn’t write for months after lockdown. I’m sorry you had to close down magazines and lost your footing with writing. I hope you achieve the short story goals you’ve set for yourself as well as finding your way back to that clear and ordered practice you had before.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I did enough of that haphazard writing in my younger days to realize it doesn’t work. At least not for me! 🙂

      Happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I really needed to read this. I have been struggling with writing and just simply having the time to do it, but forcing myself to do it on a specific time or day is definitely something I need to start doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this post, Mae, even though I didn’t make it by here yesterday. I have let my entire life get out of control, especially during these very trying times, and actually sunk into a real low place mentally as a result. I’m in the process of “taking back my life,” and that includes some serious steps toward organization and being disciplined, too. So your words were very timely for me. I have organized a weekly schedule with days allotted to certain tasks, and a new determination to stick to them. I’ve even factored in two days a week that are “open,” so I can use them for unplanned things that come up or for catching up (or getting ahead) on tasks that weren’t completely finished on the scheduled day. I’ve factored in writing time throughout the week, and am now using a timer to ensure I write in 30-minute, uninterrupted sessions. No phone calls, no checking emails, etc. Just writing for 30 straight minutes. I was amazed at how much I can get done even in that short time span if I shut out distractions. Because writing IS my “day job,” I plan to work on my WIP at some point each day, and hopefully start picking up speed on it. I like all of your tips, and will refer to this post if (when) I lose my focus on the task at hand.

    Thanks so much for this one, Mae! Already shared! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry you had such a rough spot, Marcia, but I love your enthusiasm in planning a new strategy. It sounds like you have a good schedule lined up. Congrats on coming up with something that works for you and writing thirty minutes a day sounds wonderful. I bet you’re making all kinds of progress. I am cheering you on!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much, Mae! I appreciate that, and yep, I’m working on it. Life is too short (especially at my age) to waste time accomplishing nothing, and/or crying about things you have no control over. I’m done with that garbage! ONWARD and UPWARD, I say, even if it’s only one small step at a time! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I would love to be able to set aside some uninterrupted time for writing. Sadly, though, my husband does not see my writing as anything more than a hobby as I’m nowhere near being able to earn much from it. Consequently, he interrupts me whenever he feels there is something more important to do or say. No use telling him otherwise.
    I do manage a couple of hours most afternoons, though and have managed to produce 9 books with a 10th almost ready.
    I wish I had more support, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • V.M., with nine published books and a tenth almost ready to go, writing is way more than a hobby for you. I’m sorry your husband can’t see that. We all struggle with sales and the income side of writing, but that in no way lessens what we do. Hopefully, he’ll come around. Support really does make a different. In the meantime, I’m glad you have those hours in the afternoons to be productive!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m not sure what I am because I haven’t been doing this long enough to know. Retirement has given me lots of options, and writing is one of the things I’ve come to later in life. My life got out of whack when I was working, and I became a workaholic. I loved what I did, but I was the guy who never said no to anything.

    I still consider writing a hobby, although the more I sink my teeth in, the more I want to learn. I retired to take care of myself, which sounds ridiculous when I see it in words, but it was the right move. Now my philosophy is no regrets and to contribute something positive to the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Pete. I guess a lot of it comes down to whether or not you treat your writing as a hobby or a business. I did an SE post on that years ago, and think maybe I should trot it out again. It’s wonderful that you have so many options with being retired and that you DO want to sink your teeth into writing more deeply. It’s also great that you’re taking care of yourself. Being the person who can’t say “no” takes a toll. I had to learn that word too, LOL.

      However you prefer your writing–business or hobby–I wish you much joy in reaching your writerly goals!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Much appreciated, Mae. I’ve been especially grateful to become part of such a supportive community. It’s definitely helped in this last challenging year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think the last year was horribly rough for all of us, Pete. I know it was for me. Like you, I am thankful for the support of our blogging/writing community. What an awesome group!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m extremely disciplined but not at writing. At least, not yet. I’m focusing on a different aspect of my life right now, but as soon as I see progress in that area, I plan to create a schedule for my writing. Luckily, my muse agrees with my priorities, so it’s all good. Great post, Mae. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You bring up a good point, Yvette. People can be extremely disciplined in one area of their life but not in others. I’m glad you’re focused on what you need to address. Your writing and your muse will be waiting when you’re ready 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Dan. I’m glad you found the post helpful. And I’m one of those people who can’t work on more than one project at a time, so the limiting part is pretty easy for me—as long as I tune out the distractions of my muse wanting to woo me elsewhere! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: #ReblogAlert – Are You A Disciplined Writer? – by Mae Clair on #StoryEmpire | The Write Stuff

  11. I don’t know that I’m so disciplined as that I’m just a happier person when I get some writing time. Before we retired, my goal was to write one book a year while the kids were in school and then to work on short stories during the summers. Now, we have more time, and I can hit the keys most days, and I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy for you, Judi. I look forward to the days when I’m retired and can devote more time to writing.
      I think one book a year when you were working is/was an excellent goal. That’s what I’d like to do, too. I have fingers crossed I may be able to pull it off this year. Happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! I’m glad you’d found that groove, Teri. As much as I consider myself a disciplined writer, there are plenty of time when distractions send me veering off course. It’s a constant battle. I’m glad you’re winning at the moment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. All really good advice, Mae. Setting a time slot for writing is important and doing it even if not inspired. I have my writing time but life does get in the way, you’re right. A lot of writing can get done in 5 to 8 hours a week. When I commit to myself to finishing a project I follow through and focus on it. I’ve been out of my zone lately but decided to finish up what I’m doing in the next few weeks and move on. Like your last suggestion says I will be celebrating once I get through my final edits. At the very least I give myself a big cheer and victory dance. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with the amount of writing you can accomplish in 5-8 hours a week, Denise. That’s about what I average. I tend to get out of the zone during summer months and then really have to push myself to stick to committed times. Research and plotting, however, take up time too, and many times my summer afternoons are devoted to thank, or hand drafting scenes.
      Congrats on sticking with your current project. You definitely need to reward yourself when you’re done 🙂

      Like

  13. These are useful recommendations. I tend to jump from writing project to writing project. Hence, I never finish any of them. You’d think I’d learn from that, wouldn’t you? Maybe I can still learn some discipline. Thank you for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Jane. I did much the same (hopping project to project) when I was younger. I learned that if I really wanted to finish something I needed to tough it out and stick with it. I hope my tips will be helpful for you. I have faith that you can do it! Happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I am not disciplined at all. I do work full time and have several clients on the side. I need to be more dedicated to my personal writing. Evenings are tough because of my clients. They sometimes spill over into my morning time as well.

    This is a great post and something I need to do. I like the reward system.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The reward system works for me, Michele. I won’t say that I don’t still struggle to stick to a writing schedule, but that extra incentive makes it easier.
      I know it’s hard working a day job and squeezing in time to write. If you have clients in the evening, that’s another chunk of time away from the keyboard. I’m far to (mentally) exhausted to even contemplate writing during the evenings, which is why I stick to Sunday afternoons. Fingers crossed you find a time slot that works for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Great subject, Mae! I’m a disciplined writer. Though, sometimes, new opportunities come my way and put the WIP on hold for a week or two. When opportunity strikes, you gotta go for it, right? As soon as I’ve completed my commitment, I’m back on the WIP. It’s especially tough when you’ve got one foot in two worlds, like thrillers and true crime. Both are so different in approach and demands, but it keeps things interesting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know how you juggle both of those, Sue, but I definitely see you as a disciplined writer. As for opportunities–yep!–you’ve got to jump on them when they happen. I loved your last “opportunity” with the true crime book. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I would love to say I am a disciplined writer, but the truth is that I write in chunks of time when I can settle down from life’s demands and tune into my story. Often that is on the weekends. I’ve never been good at discipline and always craved freedom. Now that I am retired, I still work part-time away from home and my hours start at 3 pm. Then I am usually back home at 7:30. So my writing, blogging, social media, and email time has to come before work. It’s hard juggling it all and I admire these women who are still raising families, working, and writing, I would say that certainly requires discipline. Thank you for sharing, Mae! I enjoyed this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it’s rough for all of us juggling all that we do and still trying to find time to write. I started viewing it like my day job or exercising–a regular commitment I can’t shy away from. Sometimes, though, you just have to break and enjoy yourself. I do take off Friday afternoons through Sunday evenings from blogging and most social media. If I added those into the mix, I wouldn’t have time for weekend writing. Wouldn’t it be great if we could accomplish it all with ease, LOL?

      So glad you enjoyed the post, Jan. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts..

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Mae, thanks for this post about discipline with writing. I am a disciplined person in everything I do and I set aside dedicated time to write. I accept that during very busy times like this year to date, I won’t write much. My hours are erratic and I work weekends and evenings so there is no time regardless of how disciplined I try to be. When times are normally busy, then I write for 6 hours over the weekends and try for another three on a Friday. I’m not supposed to work on Fridays [smile – not supposed to being the important words there]. When I am less busy, I write more and work less. That is the agreement I have with my firm. It used to work quite well but for the past year its been very unbalanced in favour of my firm. I resigned for the 5th time in Dec and now it is agreed I get my time back.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, Robbie. Resigned for the fifth time? They clearly can’t do without you!

      I do know you’re a highly disciplined person and I see you applying that to your writing time as well. The system you have sounds like a good one when it works the way it should. I’m glad your employer has agreed to going back to the arrangement you had before. Even that–with working Fridays, evenings, and weekends–would be a challenge to juggle. You do it well!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, Mae. I like my job and am very good at it, but it overwhelms me when I have to work all the time. I also have to be careful about my health since being diagnosed with situational high blood pressure last year. I only have high BP when I work and get stressed so it is difficult to control. Anyhow, onwards and upwards, I always say.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robbie, I didn’t realize you’d been diagnosed with high BP, but given the pressures of your job, it doesn’t surprise me. You take a lot on yourself, and my guess is that you’re a type A personality (I’m the same). Not only do you have to “do” but you have to do it exceptionally well with no room for error. I’m a fair bit older than you, and in the last several years have learned to cut myself some slack. You take care of yourself.

        Like

  18. Super post, Mae. I’m a disciplined writer and usually have 1000 words a day goal on my WIP. Lately, I have missed this goal sometimes and really can’t explain why. I never used to get bogged down in research and blog activities. Lately, though, that has been the case. I’m putting it down to maybe it is time to cut back on the daily posts and maybe reduce the daily word count goal. Age does play a factor as well, but there is not much I can do about that. There is no shortage of creative thought or passion, so that is a good thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • John, I think it’s fantastic you have a daily word goal. With all that you do, I’d definitely cut myself some slack if there were days I didn’t meet that goal. Blogging does that a lot of time away from writing and you have a very active blog. I can’t conceive of blogging seven days a week but you make it look easy. There’s always time to re-evaluate. There was a time when I used to blog five days a week. Now I aim for one and anything else is a plus, LOL.

      I do agree with you about no shortage of creative thought and passion for writing. If only we could say the same about time!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi,
    I do consider myself to be a disciplined writer, but I must admit that I sometimes write down a paragraph that pops in my head for another book, especially if I am writing a series and that book is included in the series. I usually write it and put it under my file section for future development.
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pat, if I get hit with a really good idea, I’ll jot it down, too. As you said, (especially) if it fits with the series you’re working on, you’ve got to save those ideas. I don’t think that in anyway distracts from the discipline of sticking with your WIP. It sounds like you’ve got a good system going. Thanks for sharing today and happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m the complete opposite of all this. I like regularity and dedicated times, they just aren’t an option. I have deadlines and goals at work. Writing is personal time and I don’t want to add a layer of stress to it. I catch hours where I can, which usually mean weekends. I’m also the odd one who works on two projects at once. I stay connected when I write and will dive down a research hole when something comes up. Someday I could retire, then earmark specific times for my writing. That would be wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re certainly producing books, Craig, so whatever you’re doing, it’s clearly working for you. I used to hate the stress of deadlines, but they did spur me on. Now, I just set aside time for my WIP project. I can’t juggle two at once like you. That is thoroughly amazing. I also look forward to when I can retire and set aside time for dedicated writing. Until then, Sunday afternoons have to carry the burden!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I was much more disciplined when I had a client who demanded a certain number of words a day. Now that I’m free to work on projects as they speak to me, I’ve been a little lax. But I think the words I’m writing are better because of it. And I think a reward system works. Great post, Mae.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point about writing better, Staci. I couldn’t imagine having to meet a certain word count per day. For me, the quality of what I was producing would definitely suffer.

      I’ve doubt you’ve been lax with your writing. Not you! I’m so glad you like what you’re producing now. And yes, I do love my rewards. It’s the carrot dangling at the end of the draft to spur me on, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Since I’m at my day job at 6:00 a.m. writing in the morning isn’t an option. Like you, the weekend is when I do my writing, except while on a deadline. I’m easily distracted, so turning off the phone and unplugging works best for me. Being under contract definitely makes me more disciplined, but it can steal some of the joy. Great tips, Mae!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Six in the morning, Jill? Wow, you REALLY have an early start to your day!

      When I was under contract with deadlines, there were times I had to work writing evenings into my schedule. Like you said, deadlines do keep you on track, but they can cause some of the joy to slip away. I remember waking many nights in a panic, petrified I wouldn’t make a deadline. I hope that doesn’t happen to you.

      From one weekend writer to another—happy creating! 🙂

      Like

    • Hi, Trish. So glad you found the post helpful. It really makes a difference when we stay determined to stick to a writing schedule. I have to remind myself of these guidelines now and again myself, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. My answer? “No, not really.” Especially last year. I know we blame a lot on COVID and 2020 but it really threw me for a loop, creativity-wise. Most of my writing time is in the evenings. I have the house to myself (except for the cats). Even so, there are some days when I come home mentally exhausted, and I know better than to attempt any writing.

    As far as working on multi-projects at the same time, there’s no way I would attempt to write two novels at once. I have juggled between a novel and a short story, but that’s my limit.

    Great post, Mae, and I’m going to make an effort to be a more disciplined writer. My word count for 2021 is already on target to exceed 2020!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know I don’t have the energy to write after work, Joan. Toss in COVID lock down and the mess that was 2020 on top of it, and it’s no wonder you didn’t have the energy to write in the evenings. I’m glad you’re off to a roaring start in 2021. It sounds like you have found discipline in your writing this year. I hope I can hold onto mine come summer. That’s always the hardest time for me to stick to my regular schedule.

      Happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. You’ve given me a lot to think about, Mae. Thank you for the great insights and suggestions. I’m fairly disciplined, but I’m often distracted by family phone calls, all of which have increased since the lockdown. Maybe I could let my sibs know the best time of the day to call? Yep, I can do that. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sounds like a great plan, Gwen. My family knows I disappear into my writing cave on Sunday afternoons. They’ve definitely come to respect that and don’t call during those hours. It’s a huge help and I love the support in knowing they’re behind me.
      I’m glad you enjoyed today’s post!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I am pretty disciplined, turning off notifications and so forth. This morning I got up before sunrise and wrote for 30 minutes. I’m having a cup of coffee now before I head out the door, but it’s nice to have some words written before my day starts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think 2020 was rough for all of us, Harmony. I couldn’t write for months after we went into lockdown. It took NaNoWriMo to finally get me working on my WIP again. Now I’m back on my regular writing schedule. It sounds like you have a disciplined schedule that works well for you. Writing every day sounds awesome. Go, you! 🙂

      Thanks so much for the reblog, too.

      Liked by 3 people

  26. Pingback: Are You a Disciplined Writer? | Story Empire | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

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