Embracing Discipline and Accountability

deadlineThis is Father’s Day weekend, and I am a stay-at-home dad with three young sons and a daughter who will be born sometime next week.

My Father’s Day commitment to them is my pledge, right now, to no longer let them, and the stress they cause me, keep me from writing.

It’s time to embrace discipline.

In practice.

Even when I’m a little on edge.

About two weeks ago I did the unthinkable and missed a writing deadline for a short story contest.  The story is one I was excited about, a mix of old mythology and Doctor Who, with the working title A Gnome in His Home.  The challenge was to do something fun with a cliché setting, for which I chose a big chasm called the World Scar.  Here is a brief synopsis of the story I wanted to write:

Whenever Tonté, the tiny gnome, closes the door to his home underneath an olive tree, time outside rushes by, allowing him to watch a small village grow into a city at war, until he is forced to make a choice, and a judgment, which destroys the City of Valehaven and leaves a scar upon the world.

This is a story I am excited about.  The tension, and the awesome, are both easy to find. For instance, where are the other gnomes?  They’re scattered in their own time-travelling homes and plan to meet up when the human race dies out. So Tonté frequently plays fun-to-write pranks on the humans whenever they try to summon him, and he dreams the city will burn down around him whenever he shuts his door. His view of humanity turns from bemusement to rage to sorrow over the course of the story while he waits to see his fellow gnomes again. To me that’s a concept dripping with tension and opportunity.

And I didn’t write it. I didn’t share it. I didn’t create the awesome that was right in front of me. The muse was there, and I was not.

I can’t enjoy writing if I never do it.

So discipline, my demanding mistress, it is time.

I am a storyteller before I am a reader, even before I am a writer. Stories are incredible. They burst from me with excitement that I yearn to share. And I’ve let that abundance cloud my judgement. I need to rededicate to the medium of writing.

The basic premise here is easy enough. We all know the steps:

  • Write every day, for which I try to set aside my children’s nap time, between 12 and 2 p.m., with additional time some nights.
  • Track your progress, which I do by marking an X on my small desk calendar for each day I write enough words.
  • Let yourself write poorly, just to keep moving through the droughts, which is something that I struggle with but can work on.

Sometime this week, I’m going to have a baby. Sometime next week, the grandparents and the rest of the family will leave. For those two weeks, I will begin writing daily with what’s known in some circles as a micro goal:  The goal is to start, and write at least two sentences, as often as I can, just to train the nerves into getting started. After that , 12 – 2 p.m. will become a dedicated writing time.

But just typing this won’t resolve the big issues and make things happen. Deadlines motivate me. Deadlines make a person accountable. But deadlines in writing, when you’re on your own, are often few, far between, arbitrary, and easy to mess up.

I must find another way to hold myself accountable.

I need to apply more pressure to write until the habit of writing sticks.

I want to tell my stories. I want Tonté the tiny gnome to have his chance. So beginning next weekend, and continuing on a weekly basis, I will be updating my signature on the Mythic Scribes forums with a statement of my writing goals for the week and how well I was able to meet them. I will be transparent and accountable to a community I support, and hopefully encourage others to improve their own writing habits.

Would you join me in doing likewise?

What are some of the ways in which you develop your own writing habits?

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Kendall O
Kendall O
5 years ago

Well congrats on your new baby! With the stress that brings along, I am sure writing daily is tough for you. But it just goes to show that we can all commit to a goal and keep it with little “micro goals”, I find those very helpful.

Anne Marie Gazzolo
5 years ago

Great article, Brian! I am in desperate need of discipline and accountability myself. I have so many books inside of me, but the trouble is getting them out with a full-time job, a sick father (please pray for him, thanks) and an addiction to Pinterest. But you and I will conquer nonetheless! And that story about the gnome will find another home I am sure.

God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

Ryan Crown
5 years ago

I am right there with you in that I feel I am more of a storyteller than a writer, and sometimes I do feel like the stories themselves can get in the way of the work that is putting them into words on paper. My head is filled with ideas, but typing out the words and sentences and paragraphs that make these ideas into actual stories that people may want to read can be a struggle.

But I am with you in trying to make myself write every day. Eventually I may even try to set a daily word count, but for now I feel like what’s important is just writing something, even if it’s only a couple of paragraphs.

And it is a shame that the story of Tonté the tiny gnome didn’t get written — sounds like it would have been a fun story to compete against! 🙂

Margaret Reeves
Margaret Reeves
5 years ago

I too am an aspiring author who has a hard time finding the time to write. Between work and family, there is not much time left in my day. I’ve written a novel, and started on the second book of the series, but have no idea on how to go about getting published. I live in Ontario, so I am open to suggestions for Canadian publishers.

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