Tag Archive for: writing discipline

Retreating to Advance

By Cathy Perkins
The weekend marked the 10th anniversary of our
writing retreat. Wow, ten years. Ten years ago, Rachel Grant, Rebecca Clark,
Courtney Milan, Darcy Burke and I were Golden Heart finalists and staged our
first retreat. (We invited Elisabeth Naughton to join us several years ago and
Kris Kennedy couldn’t come this year.) We’re all multi-published authors now,
but we’re also friends. We’ve seen each other’s children grow up, celebrated
successes and consoled losses.
The primary focus of the weekend is writing. Usually silence
reigns except for the clicking of Elisabeth’s keys, but there are lighter
moments too. We reviewed the 432 pictures from Darcy’s photo shoot and picked
favorites for book cover potential. Of course, we had to stage our own “shoot.” 
This is our “thoughtful” pose. 
Yeah, not.
One of the most helpful things for me was the business
discussion. We talked about goals for the upcoming year and mouths gaped as
Darcy described her publication schedule. “I treat it like a job, because
that’s what it is,” she explained. In order to meet her schedule, she sets—and
meets—daily word counts. 
Her comment echoed Steven King. I listened to On Writing
during the drive to Portland. (We change the location every year, but the house
is always in the Pacific Northwest.) King said he goes to his writing space
every morning and doesn’t come out until he has at least 1500 words on the
page. Some days he’s done by noon. Others, he’s there until dinner time.
That’s my takeaway from this year’s retreat. Consistency.
Discipline. Sure, I wrote nearly 15,000 words this weekend. Some of them will
turn out to be lousy, but the first draft of my latest novel is nearly complete
and editing will deal with the clunky sections. But every day since I’ve been
home, instead of checking email, social media, and the news when I get up, I
write. I’m roughly two scenes away from reaching “The End.”
And then the editing will begin…and the plotting of the next
Thanks Darcy. And Steven. 

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 
She’s hard at work on the next book in the Holly Price series, 
In It For The Money.

Writing Rehearsal

by Paula Gail Benson

do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!

do you get happily published? Submit carefully crafted writing.
how do you ensure that your submissions are carefully crafted? Write
you have to write every day? Some authors manage without, but I remember what
happened when I tried to improve my piano playing and left off practicing until
the day before the lesson. The result was passable, but not as polished as it
could have been if I had built on a daily habit.
music and writing may be inspiring to their listeners, they don’t emerge from
the muse by someone simply placing their fingers on a keyboard. Music and
writing have to be worked out in advance before you can sell tickets to the
is another creative activity that requires prep time. The first reading of a
line may “feel” perfect, but once you’ve rehearsed it, you realize more subtle
nuances, ways to play off fellow actors, or timed reactions that are funnier or
more poignant than the original interpretation.
and writers are solo performers. Only by repeated practice do they learn the
methods that will best charm and involve an audience. One of the greatest joys
of a performer can be the private discovery of how a musical or written piece
should be presented.
joy is compounded when they hear the audience’s reaction. The true moment when
the muse touches you is when you realize the perfect order and symmetry for
your work. An actor or pianist may receive a more instant gratification in
hearing applause, but what writer doesn’t relish listening to a reader tell him how his words and
stories have changed a life?
is necessary for performances because to act or play piano is an extension of
self. The way we turn writing into that extension is to: (1) sit down to write
with purpose, and (2) embrace the discoveries made.
developing a writing habit, you can let the daily discoveries soak in until
they become a part of your writer self. You learn to recognize those “tricks”
that attract your audience’s attention. Then, you refine them in order to make
them appear natural, so they become craft and your audience doesn’t perceive them
at all, but is completely involved in the story and hates to see it end. This is
the objective of every artist: to tell the story well and leave the listeners

Moseley said that when writing becomes a daily practice, the writer completes
projects and his subconscious begins to assist him even when he’s not writing
because the constancy of the task has become so strong. (Why does his concept
make me think I hear, “May the force be with you,” echoing in my head?)

Rodriguez has written some inspiring recent messages about becoming motivated to write
and making the decision to be a writer. Both feature excerpts from her recent
book, Plotting the Character Driven Novel,
which is terrific.

If youre still contemplating New Years resolutions, here are a few books
that have recommendations to help you develop a daily writing schedule:

Divine Guide to Creating a Daily Writing Practice
by Pernille
Norregaard. This inspirational text includes many quotations from established
authors (like Walter Moseley
s theory above) and emphasizes how to effectively build a habit.

Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to
Writing Every Day

by Chris Fox. By illustrating how he changed his entire life through developing
consistent practices, Fox shows the path to more effective writing and offers
exercises to achieve that goal.

The Eight-Minute Writing Habit: Create a
Consistent Writing Habit That Works With Your Busy Lifestyle
by Monica Leonelle.
This guide offers a modified Pomodoro Method of timed writing. By limiting the
writing period to eight minutes, Leonelle contends it creates a habit that is
easy to incorporate into any lifestyle and capable of ensuring at least 250 per
day, which could lead to 90,000 words in a year.

How Bad Do You Want It?

By Cathy Perkins
We’ve been
chatting about fitness at The Stiletto Gang this month, which inevitably has
led to discussions about discipline. Or the lack of it. On my other group blog,
several people have debated whether they’ve lost their creative spark and burnt
out, or if they’ve simply lost their
discipline. Oh vey, my friend Toby
says. Discipline…

When I admired
what another friend had accomplished—her discipline in sticking to her schedule—she
bluntly upended that notion.

It’s not that I’m disciplined, it’s that
I’m committed to having the result
You don’t
need discipline when you’re committed to the outcome, because the result tells
you what choices you need to make. If you want X, then you do A, B and C.
Period. End of sentence.
I mulled that
concept over for a few days, wondering if it was a yet another platitude or a
different—better—way to look at the question. The song, How Bad Do You Want It? kept cycling through my head. If you’re
committed to a goal—be it losing that ten pounds or finishing your first,
second or tenth novel, or eating the broccoli you finally remembered to
buy—then taking the actions to make it happen follow logically and naturally.
The next set
of questions churning in my head weren’t as nice. Basically, I had to rethink everything
I thought I was committed to. It made me question the goals I’m willing to do
the work for.
None of these
things make for sound sleep at 3AM by the way.
Who wants to admit—even
to themselves—that maybe they’re not as committed as they thought they were?
Then again,
maybe it’s a chance to reassess what you really want and break it down into the
little pieces and determine what you really care about and what you can die without
having accomplished and not be the least bit bothered by it.
If you want
to write your novel (or lose that blasted ten pounds), are you committed enough
to that result, that goal, that you’re doing the work day in and day out? The
harsh truth is, if you’re not, maybe you’re not as committed to that result as
you thought you were.
And that’s
what I’m wrestling with right now.
To have what
you want, you have to be committed.
If you’ve got
goals or dreams in your head that really truly aren’t your goals—maybe it’s something you think you ought to want, or you’ve been told you should want, but you don’t really care about it, or if you didn’t
make it happen you wouldn’t lose sleep, then give yourself permission to drop those
“goals”. Don’t waste time and energy or even think about them.
Instead, refocus
on what you do want to pursue.
That’s what
alignment—commitment—is about. It’s about knowing what you want deep down.
Knowing and being willing to let go of the other stuff.
My friend continued: You’re going to lose your
focus sometimes. You’re going to fall off the wagon and be unproductive. It
happens to all of us. Checking in with yourself on a daily basis is a great way
to stay aligned with what you want and where you’re going, and also to
pick yourself back up faster when you do lose focus.
So stop
forcing yourself into dreams and goals that have other people’s names on them.
If you know you
truly want something and wouldn’t be able to live with yourself if you didn’t
get it, maybe it’s time to focus and define that goal and then commit to it. No
discipline needed.
Challenge for
the week, the month, however long it takes: Dig deep and really question your
goals and dreams. If you’ve been after something for a while and you’re still
coming up short, maybe deep-down you don’t want to do it and it’s time to let
that goal go. Or, maybe you’ll find you want it more than anything and now it’s
time to step up your commitment to the result.
one result you’re so committed to you don’t need “discipline” to take


Cathy Perkins is questioning her commitment to releasing a new novella next month, Malbec Mayhem, a spinoff related to So About the Money. She has lists–lots of lists–and may survive the day to day activities needed to make it happen. 

Fit to Write

by J.M. Phillippe

In 1988, a group of advertising execs created possibly the greatest, most influential fitness campaign slogan ever: 

An entire generation, MY generation, has been living by these words of wisdom ever since. Or, at least aspiring to. Want to get good grades in school? Just do it. Want to learn to play guitar? Just do it. Want to see if you can eat an entire bag of cookies in one go? Just do it. Whatever it is you want to do, just go on out and do it.

Do an internet search on writing, and you’ll find much the same advice:

Writer’s write. The end. Want to be a writer? Write. Want to become good writer? Write more. Want to become the greatest writer that ever lived? Write, write more, and then write some more after that.

The doing makes you the thing. Runners run. Swimmers swim. Competitive food champions eat lots of food in really short amounts of time. Writers write.

If only it actually were that easy. 

What the ad execs were getting at (in an attempt to sell shoes and other various fitness apparel) is that there really should be no excuses between you and the thing you are setting out to do. “Just do it” cuts through any possible block you could put up. “I don’t have time” becomes “make time.” “I don’t have the right equipment” becomes “get the right equipment.” “I don’t know what to say” becomes “say anything, keep saying anything until it becomes something, and then say more about that.”

There is — or there should be — nothing that keeps writers from writing. Like running, swimming, and sure, probably competitive eating, daily practice is the key. Just do the thing. Just write. 

People obviously underestimate just how creative writers can be in coming up with excuses why they can’t, in fact, just write. 

I have had some of the best naps of my life starting about 20 minutes after I sat down to write, because something about the process suddenly makes me super tired. The amount of resistance I have to the actual doing of writing is tremendous, so much so that it often takes a Herculean effort to even sit in front of my computer for ten minutes. It’s as if I am a beginner runner trying to convince myself I can make it through this one lap, or this next minute, without stopping (or actually dying from an acute inability to breathe). In fact, I have gotten in better running shape with more ease than I have gotten through certain sections of a book — and I am not in any way, shape, or form, someone who has ever actually enjoyed running; running, like writing, is something I have only ever enjoyed have had done. 

I have never been a particularly disciplined writer, relying on the sheer terror that a looming deadline evokes in me to get me through that giant cloud of resistance so that I can actually write. I don’t have great writing discipline, or, really, any writing discipline, and it frankly shocks me every time I actually finish any piece of writing. It’s almost as though I finally force myself into a fugue state, after which I have something I can maybe sort of push and prod into something else that I feel mostly okay having other people read. At some point, despite all my best efforts not to, I finally do in fact, just do it. I write. 

This is less than ideal. I would love a daily writing practice. I would love to get to the point where I can sit down in front of my computer and get to work without a certain tightening of my chest, a sudden thirst or hunger, or a desperate need to just rest my eyes, just for a few minutes, and then I’ll totally knock out some pages. It’s not like I don’t know what I have to do. Nike has been telling me what to do for the past almost 30 years. Just do it. Just. Do. It. 

And I’m totally going to. 

Starting tomorrow.


J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City.  She worked as a freelance journalist before earning a masters’ in social work.  She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.