One of the defining characteristics of a solid indie author is the ability to produce words. Words that gather together to create books. Books that get released relatively frequently. From what I’ve been reading on Kboards, it sounds like “relatively frequently” equals about two months, and every month is even better.
Amusingly (to me, anyway), this is the schedule I originally laid out for the Chronicles of the 13 Colonies. 13 novellas interspersing novels at regular intervals. Always producing something new, if somewhat short in nature. Real life chucked that out the window, and it’s now been over nine months since I published One For All.
That’s not what I would call “relatively” frequently, let alone how it’s defined by the indie market.
What seems to be the defining mode of producing indie words? Discipline. (It’s also, by the by, an important part of success in most endeavors. Especially if one wants to repeat that success. There are other routes, certainly, but this is the most common.)
Discipline is the ability to sit down and write, day in and day out. It’s the thing that got my friend out to run a mile every day for a year. It’s what that whole “wax on, wax off” business was about.
Personally, I define discipline simply: It’s the ability to show up and consistently do what you don’t want to do.
Showing up when you want to be there? Easy. Lots of motivation there, whether it’s the enjoyment of the thing or the company or whatever makes it a desirable condition. My favorite two jobs, while both menial labor and often very physically demanding, never made me not want to show up. I was excited to go to work. Even on bad or off days, the worst I could say was that it took a little longer to get there. They required no effort on my part to show up, and I never dreamed of taking a sick day just to stay home.
Same was true of the two novels I finished. I loved them. They were easy-peasy. I showed up to the keys excited to be there (minus the awful middle/one-third point that always kills me). It took no effort to write them. Routine, yes. But discipline? Nah.
Discipline is the thing that gets you to work when you really don’t want to be there. Or to college classes you hate. It’s the thing that achieves consistency in your day that builds to months and then years of effort and achievement.
I have no discipline. I blame it on a lot of things – getting mentally bored (which I do comparatively quickly); never being taught; being lazy; having more important things to do; having too many demands on too little time; and more. While all of those factors are true and real, leaning on them doesn’t get me any closer to developing discipline.
I’m having a difficult time with this problem right now. I got a day job that I LOVE – it’s fun, exciting, and uses my creative skills perfectly – and yet I still balk when I sit down to work. It’s work-from-home, which means all the usual distractions are there with none of the required discipline involved in having a job. I WANT to do the work for all the reasons I loved those other two jobs…and yet I can’t seem to make myself sit and work.
People who have discipline don’t understand people who don’t. Especially if they were born with it or were taught at a young age so it’s been a natural part of their lives for a long, long time. None of them can teach it (just like I can’t teach scenery description or character creation; they’re just things I do), which means the only viable way of learning is to teach myself.
This is proving difficult, largely because there are multiple types of discipline. The kind that’s attached to making responsible decisions? I’ve got that leaking out my pores. The kind that lends itself to self-comportment, manners, and behavior? That was drilled into me by my grandmother at a young age. I’ve even got some of those leadership types (though I don’t use them often). The only thing I have a problem with is showing up to do something that seems trivial, boring, or too much investment for not enough return. Many articles and self-help programs treat them all the same. Like it’s a matter of willpower. And it’s not. At all. At least not for me.
So, on my own, I’ve been tracking my habits. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. I work best when I’m interested.
2. I work best at night, roughly about the time I should be going to bed.
3. Little beginning rituals help – setting the scene (pulling back the shades to let in the sunlight, establishing a clean workspace, etc.) or “going to work” (getting dressed, doing hair, etc. – these are especially important if one does not actually *go* to work).
4. I will distract myself if I don’t want to do something, and do it with consummate grace and legitimacy (“trading” work for work-related activities, like reading industry blogs, for example).
5. Not allowing myself to do something until I hit a goal doesn’t work. EVER. (Which is the difference between willpower and discipline, and the different areas of discipline – I have ridiculous amounts of discipline to be able to go without whatever I want.)
6. Rewards don’t work for me (they have to be pretty spectacular and $$$ to matter to me, but they have to fit in my $/3 budget…which they can’t, by definition).
7. Taking breaks are good for my body, but not for my brain.
8. An awake and excited creative brain does not (necessarily) equal a productive session.
9. Competition is a surefire way to make me quit.
10. Cooperative sessions (“word wars,” brainstorming collectives, sharing work, etc.) make me excited to be there.
11. Food (and worrying about it) alters my productivity.
12. A happy, healthy body makes me more likely to work.
13. A bored, sad, or pained body is my #1 reason not to work.
14. Lack of certainty is #2 (this is both a lack of confidence in my ability to do what needs doing, and a lack of info/plot/etc.).
15.I will not work, at all, if I’m worried about money or anything attached to it.
16. Setting productivity goals depresses me.
17. Setting time goals makes it difficult to focus.
18. Setting self-imposed deadlines doesn’t work.
19. Externally imposed deadlines do, but only if there’s a real, scary consequence for failing to meet them.
20. Being in the moment (setting aside worry, planning, all external-to-right-here-right-now concerns) is extremely important to achieving productivity.
With this list, I intend to put together a Disciplinary Program for myself. I may post it. I may post the challenge I set for myself. I may pretend it doesn’t exist at all, and let my subconscious work on it. But I will definitely update with the end result!
Do you have discipline tricks? Advice to the all-over-the-place writers?