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Discipline in Writing

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 28 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Discipline; Editor; Editors; Deadline;

Some days, it's tough to find the motivation to write.

Staring at a blank page or working on assignments that barely keep you awake can be dull and wholly uninspiring. At these moments, you need to dig deep and plug away, knowing that to become a better writer, you need to maintain a certain amount of personal discipline.

Below are some favourite ways to turn the process of writing from a once-in-a-while hobby into a serious endeavor.

  1. Schedule Time to Write

    Some writers scoff at this technique, protesting, "I can only write when my muse calls!" However, if your muse went on holiday and you have a deadline approaching, you need to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

    By carving out specific "writing only" time periods during your day, you'll find that you're actually able to be creative on cue. Rather than having to wait until inspiration strikes, you'll be able to uncover wellsprings of innovation any time.

    Start by setting aside an hour each day to write. Then gradually up the amount of time you allot to your writing. It doesn't have to be one large chunk of time, either; you could devote an hour in the morning, an hour at lunch, and an hour in the evening and accomplish plenty during that time period.

  2. Meet all Your Deadlines

    If you have a habit of waiting until the last minute to start on a writing project and then wind up begging your editors for extensions (or, worse yet, just turning in writings after they're due without giving any notice), stop. Make a commitment to turning in all assignments ahead of time, rather than making editors wait for you.

    True, it's common for editors to "build in" a few extra days when they ask for a project. If they say an article is due the 1st of the month, they might not intend upon looking at it until the 5th. But that doesn't mean you should delay in submitting your text.

    When you sign a contract or agree on a date, treat it seriously. Start the assignment immediately and plan to have it finished 1-2 days before it's due. You'll get a reputation for being a professional writer who respects his or her editors.

  3. Learn to Say "no"

    If you can't complete an assignment, don't accept it (if you're a freelancer and can pick and choose your work, that is.) It takes self-discipline to turn down work, especially if the mortgage or rent is due; however, if you find yourself consistently unable to turn in quality, acceptable work, you may have overextended yourself.

    Even if the assignment is "juicy" or a "once in a lifetime" opportunity, you may have to decline. Certainly, doing so might be terribly difficult; you might even feel remorseful for a while. However, unless you're certain you can complete the work and turn in a high quality draft to your editor, it's best to allow another author to tackle the assignment. There will be more; there always are.

  4. Don't Dwell on Rejections

    You worked for weeks on an assignment and put your heart and soul into the text. When you sent it to the editor, you knew it was going to be a hit with readers. Then, you got it back… with a "thanks, but no thanks" note.

    Yes, you got a rejection.

    At this point, you need to let it go. Find a creative way to "recycle" your rejection letters (they make great cat litter box liners…) and move on. If you sink into a depression because someone turned you down, you're only hurting yourself. Instead, allow yourself a very short time to grieve and either start on a new assignment or try to resell the article to another publication.

  5. Act Like a Professional

    If you want to be known as a professional writer, you need to operate with some business savvy. Keep detailed logs of your income and expenses, make sure you have a calendar with all your assignments, and maintained organised files for assignments, interviews, and leads. Have a system for invoicing and don't forget to send those invoices on time.

    For those writers who want to up the ante further, open a checking account devoted specifically to the profits from your writing career. That way, all writing income and expenses will be easier to track.

In the end, it's your writing that will benefit from some structure. Do what makes you happy, but make sure to add more than a smidgen of discipline to your schedule as an author to become even more prolific, professional, and proficient.

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