Writing With Discipline: Forming New Habits
I was supposed to write this blog post last night. I was supposed to have it all set up and scheduled to post first thing this morning. That’s what I’d intended when I’d planned to blog every Monday. But then Sunday was long and busy, and I was tired, and my brain wouldn’t cooperate with me, and I couldn’t think of a single thing to blog about.
“I’ll do it in the morning,” I finally told myself, right around 11:30pm. “It doesn’t have to be up first thing, as long as it’s up sometime on Monday.” But I’d rather not make a habit of that.
That’s the point of this after all: forming a habit. Having some discipline. A routine. Getting myself to write something, anything, even if I don’t feel like it. That’s how writers become authors–through hard work even when they aren’t in the mood. Through persistence. That’s what I’m trying to teach myself.
My first book took six or so years of trial and error to write. I started it, then set it aside, then brought it back out and started it over, then set it aside, and so on until one day I told myself if I kept putting my draft away, then starting it over again, it would be decades before I ever finished it. So I buckled down and wrote and wrote, and revised and revised, and edited and edited, until finally I finished. That process, from the moment I buckled down until I was ready to query, still took about two years.
My second book, which I started during NaNoWriMo one year while my first book was “resting” between drafting and revising, also took about two years, and that was just the draft. Two years for a very rough draft. Part of that was because I hadn’t made it a priority. My first book came first–it was my baby. My second book was for fun. And that’s okay. However, when I started querying my first book, I took a look back at that second one and decided there was something there worth pursuing more seriously. So I started it over. Aaaaand then I got stuck. Aaaaand then a plot bunny bounced across the street in front of my car one day as I was driving to the store and I knew I had to pursue it.
That second book’s rewrite wasn’t gelling, and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. As I said, that one had originally been written for fun. When it was no longer fun, I dropped it for something I felt more passionate about. That second book was my rebound book. Not to say I won’t ever revisit it. But when I do, it will be on different terms. It will be with the understanding that if I’m to pick it up again, I must have the tools and discipline in place to be able to see it through to the end.
And that’s what I’m working on right now with my third book–that plot bunny that bounced across the road. I went into this one with the clear intention that I will finish it, and I will do so in a timely manner. That’s not to say that I will rush it to the point where I end up with something that is such a mess, fixing it will be too daunting, and dropping it like I did with my second will be too tempting. Nope. I wanted to rush in and start writing, but I made myself take the time to plan and plot and outline first–those are the tools I’m talking about. If I know where I’m headed, if I know what events must take place, and in what order, and in what way, I’ll be able to write the draft quickly because I’ll know where I’m going. I won’t write myself into a corner, or veer down the wrong path and have to double back. And if I understand my characters before I start to write, I’ll have an easier time making their dialogue, their actions, and their reactions authentic.
So that’s done, and now that I know what to write, the next step is to make myself sit down everyday and write it. No more wasting time because I’m “not in the mood,” or “I’m not sure how to write this part perfectly, so I won’t get started writing it at all.” Those are habits that I’ve formed over time and I need to push them aside with new habits.
One of those habits is keeping up this blog. “But Megan, that’s not working on your third book. That’s another distraction.” Nope, no it’s not. Because consistent blogging forces me to find something to write about every week even when I’m not feeling inspired, and that habit, that kind of discipline, will carry over into all of my writing projects, third book included. That’s my hope anyway.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better be off. I have a novel to write.