Wednesday, January 13, 2010

8 (More) Ways to Discipline Yourself to Write Every Single Day – Even When You’re Not in the Mood

Probably the most frequently asked question I get about writing and creativity is the issue of discipline.

How do you become disciplined? How do you STAY disciplined?

Since it comes up so often, I've be addressing this topic in a variety of posts lately.

For now, this should get you started:

1. Shift your attitude toward writing. Your discipline will begin to kick in the moment you embrace the following truism: Writing is the basis of all wealth. Please go back and read that last sentence again.

It’s the single most important idea every write needs to embrace. It’s not an activity. It’s a practice. A way of life. A mode of creative transportation. What value do you place on writing?

2. Rearrange your definition of “writing.” Writing isn’t what you think. It’s a process I define as, “Sitting down, slicing open a vein and bleeding your truth all over the page.”

This approach changes the way you write because it preventing you from self-editing and writing “for” anyone or anything other than yourself. You just tell the truth. Simple, but not easy. What’s your definition of writing?

3. Pick your best medium. I write on the floor with colored note cards. One idea per card. I also spend a lot of time in my customized Content Management System, evaluating and stringing together old ideas from various categories.

Lastly, I make lists. Lots of lists. Best way to begin writing anything. I even wrote a list about how to write with lists. But that’s me. You, on the other hand, might be a flip chart person. Or a mindmapper. Or a write-by-hand kind of girl. Awesome.

Whatever works for your creative style – do it. The secret is to find your medium and go with it. Writing is writing, no matter what kind of pen you’re using – as long as the ink is blood. When you write, what does that look like?

4. Eradicate your belief in Writer’s Block. It doesn’t exist. Writing is an extension of thinking. You don’t have Writer’s Block; you have Thinker’s Block. Stop blaming your lack of creativity and productivity on some evil, external force of resistance over which you have zero control.

It’s you. It’s always you. The problem is you’re not reading enough. You’re not listening enough. You’re not asking enough questions. You’re not taking daily time to think. You’re not maintaining constant curiosity. You’re not viewing the world through her unique lens.

Suggestion: Create a constant stream of ideas and collect them in an organized idea library. Perpetually hunt for insight. Your melon will be motivated from every possible angle. Are you a writer or a thinker?

5. Stop trying to “find” the time. Because you might not find it. After all, people always have time for what’s not important to them. Instead, you need to MAKE the time. I suggest you identify your best writing time, then make a pledge to be “due at the page” at the same time each day.

Even if it’s only fifteen minutes. Even if that means taking on an accountability partner that you call every morning at six just to say, “Hey Sandy, it’s Scott. Just wanted you to know that I’m sitting down to write for the next three hours. I’ll call you at nine.” What other creative professional could help you MAKE the time to write?

6. Avoid creative compartmentalization. I don’t expect you to write seven hours a day like I do. I am a freak of nature. An alien. A cyborg. Don’t you be like me. What I’d like you to consider instead is the concept of writing whenever and wherever you can, in addition to your normal schedule.

For example, I write every morning from four or five to nine or ten. That’s four or five hours. The remaining 180 minutes are accumulated throughout the day from lunches, conversations, random thoughts and small creative windows. The difference is, I write everything down. Everything.

Even if it’s just a random thought I had after yoga class. I write it down. And that’s writing. That contributes to that seven-hour practice. You can do the same as long as you remember, “Easy does it.” Ain’t not thing but a chicken wing. Stop making writing such a big deal. Relax. Are you over-compartmentalizing your writing practice?

7. Begin writing Morning Pages. This is the single greatest writing tool known to man. Sort of an expanded Bathtubbing ritual. Coined by my hero, Julia Cameron, here’s how they work: You sit down, first thing in the morning, and just PUKE … for three pages.

It’s a form of meditation. It’s a check-in with yourself. A psychological holding environment that becomes a gateway to your inner and higher selves, Cameron says. And these “gripe sessions” where you work out your grudges, become moments of free associate and celebration. You get out the shanks and bring forth the silver. I’ve been doing Morning Pages EVERY morning for several years now.

Here’s why they’re so effective: They awaken your intuition. They train your sensor and inner editor to stand aside. They get you current. They help you catch up on yourself and pinpoint precisely what you are feeling and thinking. How often are you partaking in stream-of-consciousness writing?

8. Remember the Circle of Write. At this point, you might think, “Scott, these suggestions are great, but I don’t really LIKE writing.” That’s cool. I still suggest you get started. And here’s why.

The more you write, the more you will like writing. The more you like writing, the more you will want to write. The more you want to write, the more thought, time and effort you will put into your writing. The more thought, time and effort you put into your writing, the better your writing will become. The better your writing becomes, the more confidence you will have. The more confidence you have, the more you will write and want to write.

And then the pattern repeats itself. Forever.

This is called “The Circle of Write.” Creativity guru Mihály Csíkszentmihályi refers to this type of process as a Feedback Loop of Mutual Causation and Reinforcement. This means, as he explains in Finding Flow, “If you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. And if you are interested in something, you will focus on it.”

The effect becomes the cause. And the cause becomes the effect. It’s a circular, self-feeding process. Which means the key to writing is to addict yourself to it. Are you following the Circle of Write?

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What awaits you in the refining fire of discipline?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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