the routine of writing

Paul Guyot, aka the Ink Slinger, has an excellent post on the importance of the discipline of writing. He’s right, you’ve got to have a routine, and above all the goal is words on a page.

Tom Schulman (Dead Poets’ Society) said, in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters:

A teacher once said to me, “You have to go to work just like a grocer. You unlock the doors at whatever hour, turn the sign over, walk in, and start working.”

Treat it with the professionalism and dedication of a paying job, and it will become a career (if it isn’t already). Well, that’s my theory. I’ll find out if it works eventually.

I followed up on my post in September and wrote a Credo recently. I allowed ideas and thoughts to flow without any bollocking from the internal sergeant censor. 3,000 words later I was a bit wiser. It’s interesting the patterns that emerge when you try this exercise. I suppose one could view it as self-indulgence, but for me it was instructive, and useful.

The major realisation I came to was that I would never motivate another person the way I motivate myself.

I understand the importance of pointing out the positive and highlighting strengths. With friends I underscore achievements, and stress how they can be built upon. Weaknesses are discussed as opportunities for advancement – once you’re aware of them you can transform them.

When I motivate myself it is often in a negative fashion. I look at what I’m not doing, I berate myself for missing goals, and I flog myself over my writing. I only see what I’m lacking, my weaknesses, and the level of craft I haven’t achieved yet.

I’m amazed I get anything done.

So, that’s going to change. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of mental ass-kicking – I need that sometimes – but you catch more words with honey than vinegar.

Not that I’m going to go easy on myself (I am goal-oriented and ambitious), but I will change the way I encourage myself.

This is one of the benefits of having a routine. You sit down, and you have to write. The quality can always be improved upon. It’s not a hobby, it’s a job.