Discipline and Development

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Several years ago I ran across an article by Carey Wallace on the discipline of writing. I've read SO MANY interviews and articles and blog posts and lists on how to be a writer, mostly because they're usually entertaining, but also because I hope to find some wisdom, some secret--an entry into that life. When I read "On Discipline," I found it. Discipline. ("Its elements are so simple they can seem mocking," Wallace writes.) And with this I found a pattern: prayer for an hour every day, writing for two hours every day. I need patterns, examples to follow, and I appreciated that this was a pattern set and followed by Wallace herself. It's a short, thoughtful article, and one well worth reading and considering.

After reading Carey Wallace's article, I started doing it: writing for two hours every day (and praying for one). It was hard to start. I felt like I was wasting time. I felt bored. I was embarrassed about what I was writing. But when I look back over what I've written, I see a rhythm developing. A long warm up period, and a warm up period for each day too, but then I wrote, coherently, about the things I want to write about. (I keep two documents for each month: one a fifteen-minute warm up, about anything, then a 2hrs doc with more focused work.) I hit a wall, eventually, when I just felt like I was writing with no purpose. Just churning out words without any kind of guidance or meaning or plan.

Last month Brain Pickings had a post on the debunking of the 10,000 rule (which is basically the idea that 10,000 hours in something = success in that thing). Apparently you need more than just 10,000 hours--you need 10,000 hours of getting better, by, among other things, pushing limits, allowing for errors as you push those limits, and getting feedback.

There's a time for holding back, focusing, drawing in. And there's a time for writing query letters, asking for mentors, and risking rejection. Phase two.



P.S. The hard drive on my computer is damaged, apparently, so for the moment I'm limited to the photos I'd already uploaded to Blogger. Consider this a friendly (panicked) reminder to back up your important stuff. I'd just updated all of my documents on Dropbox, so years of writing is safe, whew. I've never had a backup plan for my photos, though, and I might end up losing several thousand possibilities for telling stories without words. I'm holding out hope that I can still recover them, but if not, well, here's to the future.

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© The Attic at Anderwood Maira Gall.