Writers are supposed to be this erratic, emotional, slightly-unhinged, unpredictable mess. I mean, that’s what popular culture says. But to be successful at writing requires equal parts devotion, dedication, and discipline, and there’s not chaos involved at all!
So, I’m hanging out on Twitter and see a tweet come through from Porter Anderson. If you don’t know who he is, definitely check him out. @Porter_Anderson He’s one of my most trusted sources about publishing. He breaks things down, interprets things – he pulls together a hundred strings and weaves it all together to give readers a big picture look at the issue. Love that. He wrote a post on the Writer Unboxed blog (find it here). This thought really struck me:
“But when you hear talk about the “joyous chaos” in which creative types are supposed to revel, you’re hearing from people who aren’t creative. The discipline reflected in a few “inflexible routines” can anchor dedication and devotion. I’ve seen a lot of chaos. Little of it has been joyous.
I say step over the lines if you need to.
Go through your obsessive litany of preparation. That silliness may turn sacred any time now.”
Porter quotes another piece on that blog titled On Discipline, Dedication, and Devotion. When writing you need all those things – not simply a good dose of one. You need discipline, dedication, and devotion to work together otherwise it’s too easy to walk away, get busy with other things, get discouraged. When one is missing or slacking off, the other two pick you back up.
I don’t know much about this “joyous chaos” people like to attribute to artists (despite what a quick glance at my desk might imply). Writing is just plain hard WORK most of the time. Discipline forces you to show up and devotion keeps you there because you can’t not write — it’s who you are, and dedication pushes you (not just because you have deadlines – though that’s a big motivator) because the idea of only putting half your heart into your work should be offensive.
I know lots of writers have ticks or traditions they must go through before they can write. They have to have their favorite mug, or a pen, or music playing before they can start. They might need a clean desk, no distractions — or be in a busy place for white noise – before they can hunker into that head space and start writing. For me – I get my kids to school and I put butt in chair. That’s the first thing I do every morning. Morning’s aren’t my best thinking time so I tend to do my social media first thing. I must have a window. I can’t think when I feel like I’m sitting in a box or cave. And music – not just any music but music that fosters the tone of whatever I’m writing. Those are my ticks and rituals, and they have a priority and specific order to them. Doesn’t sound like chaos to me.
What about you? Do you have any ticks, traditions or routines you must go through before you can sit down to write? Do you feel like you’ve got equal portions of discipline, dedication and devotion?