The Thrill of Self-Discipline?

What grabs you and won't let go?

Posted Aug 22, 2018

Writer at Work/Bonnie Seaburn
Source: Writer at Work/Bonnie Seaburn

Writers are often asked for advice about how to become a writer. The most common answers they give are, “put your butt in the chair,” and “write.” I have never heard a writer say, “Wait until you are inspired!” or “Wait until you have a great idea and feel moved to put pen to paper!” Their advice is much simpler than that, much less romantic; in fact, the advice is, well, uninspiring. But it is true. More than anything else, writing is about self-discipline.

I have been writing novels for eighteen years. I have written six and am working on my seventh. I started writing fiction several years before I retired and have continued the work ever since. I do not have a New York agent. I have a small, indie publisher. I have never been on a book tour. Terry Gross has never interviewed me for Fresh Air. I have never been profiled in the New York Review of Books. I have a few awards to show for my efforts, but I have never been on any best seller list (although I am fairly certain that I have sold more books than anyone in my neighborhood). My readership is small but loyal. Truth be told, if I never wrote another novel, there would be no uproar in the literary world; no one (outside my family and a small circle of friends) would take notice.

Nevertheless, I put my butt in the chair and I write. That’s self-discipline. Don’t get me wrong, inspiration is weaved into the process from beginning to end, but it’s self-discipline that gets the job done.

But here’s the cool part about self-discipline. It helps you recognize and understand what you’re most passionate about. If you are willing to do something all on your own, unbidden by anyone else, motivated only by the need to do it, then you have found your passion. You have found that ‘something’ that gives your life meaning. And you have also found the thrill of self-discipline.

David B. Seaburn is a writer. His most recent novel is Parrot Talk. He is also a retired marriage and family therapist, psychologist and minister.