In search of discipline

By Jeffrey Ricker

In just about every aspect of life these days, I’ve been pretty much the equivalent of a juvenile delinquent.

My eating habits have devolved to something slightly above those of a college student. A glass of wine becomes “well the bottle’s open we might as well finish it off.” A recent little accident led to a pulled muscle, which meant I didn’t get to the gym for almost three weeks. Now, if I’d been disciplined, I’d have reined in my eating habits to compensate. But, no.

On top of all that, my writing output has slowed to a trickle because I’m working on revising a story that’s become complicated and a bit murky, and I’m perpetually procrastinating on starting the second draft of book number two. A day’s worth of good intentions go out the browser window when I sit down to look something up online and—ooh, shiny!

Note that by loss of discipline I don’t mean lack of inspiration. Personally, I don’t believe in waiting until inspiration strikes in order to write, and I don’t know any serious writers who do either. To me, that’s like saying, “I don’t think I’ll go to the office and work until I really feel inspired.” That’s a surefire way to get fired.

In other words, if I had to punch a clock on my writing lately, I’d have been out on my ass some time ago.

On the suggestion of my friend Scott, I’ve decided to carve out a tiny island of discipline in this month, at least. I’ve signed up for 100 Words, which basically only has one rule: write 100 words a day, every day, for a month. It can be about anything. The entries don’t have to be individual stories; they don’t have to add up to be a complete story by the end of the month (though I suppose they could, which is an interesting idea, now that I think of it). It’s a little less (OK, a lot less) daunting than NaNoWriMo, and in my case, I hope it helps springboard me into further writing for the rest of the day.

I’m on day five now, and it hasn’t really done that, but at least I’ve got five vignettes that I didn’t have at the beginning of the month.

I’d love to hear how others tackle this situation, so tell me: what do you do when you’ve lost your discipline?

(Excerpt from “Lifeblood,” published in Blood Sacraments from Bold Strokes Books)

Let’s get one thing straight: I never bit Darren. I never drank from him. I never tried to turn him into one of us. I didn’t even think about it until the end. If I’d offered, though, he would have said no, of course. I could have begged, but I think I’ve forgotten how to do that. I would have done anything Darren wanted. I would have walked right out into broad daylight if he’d asked me to.

6 Responses to “In search of discipline”

  1. 1 djacksonleigh January 5, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    When I’ve been neglecting to write, I take a day or an entire weekend to immerse myself and do nothing but write. That’s usually gets me back on track. It reminds me why I loved my characters enough to start the story, and renews that need to again spend time with them daily.


    • 2 jeffreyricker January 5, 2011 at 6:33 PM

      I need to do that again too. I have a friend with whom I periodically schedule a Day of Writing: we hole up in a local gelato shop and do nothing but write… and eat gelato. Because really, if you spend all day working on your craft, you deserve a desserty treat. Right?


  2. 3 Rad January 5, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    I set a weekly word count and put it on the calendar every Sunday from Day One until the book is due to finish and if I don’t write that amount in a given week, I punish myself severely. It’s a wonder I ever write! Seriously though, I judge my writing time by that word count and as the week progresses, I back-burner other tasks until the writing is done. Sometimes I sit down with nothing in my head and remember what one of my writing heroes said: “You can’t fix a blank page,” and I dictate something, even if it’s crap. Then more boring, horrible, pedestrian sentences come out along with trite dialogue and cliched sex scenes and finally, thank god, I can stop. And then I edit and am often surprised at the not so bad stuff under the junk. Your mind really really wants to tell that story — you just have to get out of the way.


  3. 4 Nathan Burgoine January 5, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    I adore 100 words.

    I’ve done it two or three times successfully, and not-so-successfully a few more times than that. I did find that if I just did it myself, without posting about it, that I didn’t hold to it as well as when I posted them one by one. Lesson there, perhaps.

    Also – the times I’ve been successful have been when I was writing a linked story. One I actually posted there to the site, but I found their site kept crashing on the next attempt, so I never went back and just did it on LJ after that.

    I haven’t tried it as 100 micro-entries that weren’t related. Worth a try…

    For The Novel, I’ve been posting a word count on the fridge like a child displaying finger-paintings. It seems to help – I get twitchy if it stays the same too long.

    For short stories, I don’t usually need more discipline – it’s actually the opposite – if I’m not careful, I’ll work solely on short stories and “get to the novel later.”


  4. 5 Carol P. January 5, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    Thank you for your honest reflection on what is probably a common struggle.
    I have rejoined Weight Watchers for the third time with great hopes of reaching my target weight, yet again.
    Yeah, discipline is an issue!
    I find your 100 words-a-day interesting. I have done 150 words and that seemed to have helped me get going. I’m used to writing short stories so it makes for a nice challenge to try to complete something worthwhile in 150 words. I like the idea of stringing them together. Thanks for the tip.
    For the most part, I find freewriting to be the real kick-start for me. If I sit down and time myself for half an hour and just let it all go, I find within a few days I’m putting together a viable story.

    Carol P.


  1. 1 In search of discipline « Jeffrey Ricker Trackback on January 5, 2011 at 6:36 PM

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