Saturday, 16 July 2011

Masochist: "Whip Me!" Sadist: "No!"

In case it's not obvious from the title, this blog is about Discipline. I regularly catch writers out at my seminars. They have fantastic 'plans', but not nearly enough writing is actually going on. Lots of thinking, not a lot of doing.
"Let me guess," I say. "You're planning a year out, right? And you're going to use it to write a complete work."
The year out is the top answer, or a carefully planned overseas retreat somewhere sunny, or a five-year plan to a career change that will allow them to turn pro... They are surprised that I know their plans, but are also genuinely yearning for the year to come when they can go full-time, act like a professional and really immerse themselves in their novel.

Well, if you are in this space, awaiting some perfect world in which you will write soulfully and immersively and professionally, I have news for you...

9 out of 10 of the people who work like this won't ever get that year out. The 1 in 10 who do will be hugely shocked to find that, when given the time to write full-time, they actually can't manage more than around 4 hours a day anyway. The fact is, you can't deliver effectively for more than this; not every day. Most pro writers deliver an average of around 2000 words a day, and guess what... you can do that now in your daily life. Make time - today - and tomorrow - and the next day - and just do it. Don't wait for the mythical year off. Don't wait for the retreat. Don't dream it. Do it. Now.

When I had an office job, I used to get up at 5.30am and write for 1.5 hours. Then another half-hour on the train and another at lunchtime, and still did right by my employer (sort of...) and by my family in the evening. Steven King said this: 'Talent is as cheap as table salt. The difference between the talented and the successful is the work they are prepared to put in.' Do you want to be successful - or are you merely talented?

Whatever it takes, if you're serious, you must write every day. 2000 words a day can bring you a substantial book - 100,000 words - in 50 days. Let's say you can do half that - no, half it again - 500 words a day. You do 500 words every day - that's a single page of A4 every day - you'll have a 100,000 word book in under 7 months. Polish it and edit it and rewrite it - that's a book a year, no problem at all...

Discipline, folks. If you have talent, productivity is the secret of success.