On page 19 of Room to Write, Bonni Goldberg pauses to reflect on the importance of discipline in writing. Her personal mantra when the going gets difficult is:
“Writers write, writers write…”
It all goes back to her emphasis on “showing up on the page” and curbing our tendencies to procrastinate or wait for inspiration to hit us.
In light of the above, Goldberg asks us to write about discipline in one of 3 ways:
1. Begin a poem or essay on what understanding you’ve reached on what it means to be disciplined, what you accept about it or what you reject;
2. Track one of your existing characters as he/she copes with some element of discipline; or,
3. Relate a past event that involved discipline in your life.
Going with Door #1 today…
dedication and details
a dreaded dungeon
of dankness that congests my chest and blurs my eyes
like trying to run along the ocean floor.
But discipline is also
of decadent delicacy
embedding structure within passion
to convert it to a sugared treat.
Reading the results
the rejuvenating reward;
idling for inspiration
the idiocy that is
waiting for words to come to you
rather than working to walk amongst them again.
The daily dollop, then,
the routine regimen,
the waking willingness
to expend effort and enjoy the effervescent energy
I can’t say I had any deliberate reason for the particular consonants and vowels I repeated in this other than they were the ones that started a lot of the words that were coming to mind with regard to the topic . And I actually think I automatically latched onto to alliteration as a device to give me discipline, to set boundaries in which I could creatively explore.
Ironically, I’m not disciplined enough right now to spend more time on this or even take a second pass on what I just dashed off to revise or expand. Ah well. In truth, I think even just that brief time reflecting on it was validating, as that’s the point–if we perceive our goals as laborious tasks immense in proportion, of course we’re going to hit a psychological road-block; we’re just setting ourselves up for it. The approach that seems widely recommended across writers is to chisel bit by bit off that boulder. It may not feel like much at the time, but the aggregate results over the span of days will be noticeable if we discipline ourselves to set and accomplish reasonable daily goals. If I’ve learned anything from my professional experience, it’s that goal-setting needs to focus on feasible, measurable results.
For me lately, on days when I’m not writing for my project, I’m making sure I’m at least writing a new blog post to stay warmed up. And as for when I am working on my extended piece, sometimes I just roll with it, but other times I might set a word count–in yesterday’s case, 2,000. It started out slow, requiring much discipline, but once I got into it, I tapped into a torrent of new ideas and ways that they could tie back to the old, and before I knew it, I had written almost 2,500 words by the time I reached a good time to stop for a break. And even if I can at least add a few sentences of maybe a 100 or so words, I can feel the same level of satisfaction, even if I end up deleting it the next day. Simply because I know I tried. I worked at it, and I showed up on the page today.