Last week, I talked about the first trait of the successful author, discernment. I deliberately addressed discernment first because discernment keeps us in balance. No amount of “success” is worth our peace, our health or our relationships.
Also, we’ll need discernment to manage the second trait of the successful author—self-discipline. Why? Because even self-discipline needs to be disciplined. Sometimes we need to re-prioritize.
For instance, last week, my mom went in for emergency surgery. She’s fine and home now and THANK YOU for all your love, prayers and well-wishes. I also had a niece graduating from high school. I took off a few days because I was exhausted from edits, anxiety over my mom and racing across town from hospital to graduation. Self-discipline can easily become like a religious legalism, and we need to guard against that to be healthy and successful long-term.
But we still have to be self-disciplined if we want to be successful authors (or anything else).
I confess. For a long time I was lazy. I was blessed with a sharp mind, so I’d gotten through school writing papers the night before, sliding by, and dazzling with BS and glitter. I thought I had to “feel” like doing something to do it. I needed to be “in the mood” to clean, write, study, do dishes, etc. I let emotions drive my decisions and actions.
And emotions cannot drive. Seriously. Emotions text and look at Facebook when they drive.
I have a saying, “Small truths reveal larger truths.” If we can’t take control over a pile of laundry, how can we take control of our writing futures? Back then, I thought everything had to be BIG. I wrote the ten-page paper in ONE day. Cleaned the ENTIRE house in ONE afternoon. Planted ALL the flowers in the ENTIRE yard in ONE morning.
…and half-killed myself in the process only to have shoddy, short-term success.
I didn’t understand that there are five keys to being self-disciplined.
1. Baby Steps are Steps
Small decisions/actions add up over time. Yes, this blog has a large, active and amazing following, but that didn’t happen overnight. I had to blog even when it seemed I was only talking to the ether and the male-enhancement products. Every novel is written one word at a time, one page at a time, one day at a time. Trust that consistent action eventually adds up and that eventually you’ll break past The Dip.
2. Excellence Begets Greater Excellence
Making our bed is a start. Really. Good habits have a way of birthing more good habits. Plant a seed and watch it grow. When we get in a writing routine, soon we find that we will write more words for longer stretches. We need practice to be masters of our craft. Focus on positive goals.
3. Be Careful Who You Befriend
If you want to be a professional, careful hanging out with too many amateurs. When I say amateur, I don’t mean unpublished (pre-published) writers. I mean writers who are hobbyists. If you’re in a writing group, and it might as well be a coffee klatshe? Find another group or create one on WANATribe.
This is why conferences are vital. Meet authors who are at that professional level and soak up some pro-mojo. Join a local chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America) even if you don’t write romance. Those folks are SERIOUS when it comes to writing, and will crack the whip and whip you into pro form.
4. Don’t Let Emotions Vote
Emotions LIE. Don’t listen to them. Emotions are self-centered and don’t understand why you can’t pay attention to them 24/7. Expect them to throw a fit and want to live on candy and pizza. Ignore them and eventually they will stop kicking their feet and go watch cartoons.
5. Just Do It
Yep. Says it all. Butt in seat. It writes the words or it gets the hose *pets fluffy white dog*
What stumbling blocks do you guys face? What challenges? Any tips or tricks to share? Great books to read about self-discipline? What is your success story? I want to hear! Are you a reformed slacker, too? Do you try to do too much all at one time?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!