How to Become a More Disciplined Writer

If only I could be more disciplined.

When I think about the word discipline, my mind instantly conjures up an image of some lanky pimple-faced recruit getting verbally chewed out by his drill sergeant then promptly bending over to receive a righteous dose of boot-up-ass motivation.

Yeah, that’s me…. Militarized! Maybe you’re the same.

Frankly, thinking about discipline isn’t fun. For many (myself included), thinking about discipline means thinking of how lazy you are and how much work you have to do. It’s a recipe to feel overwhelmed – no wonder most people don’t like to think about being more disciplined because let’s be honest… who really wants to do more work?

Which is why we try to avoid the thought of discipline altogether. Whenever we do think about discipline, at best most of us throw it in a magical place called the closet of I’ll-get-around-to-it-ideas forever to gain dust next to the used kitchen appliances your family hawked on you.

We go to the closet from time to time, to browse our thoughts and get a quick high of motivation but frankly, we prefer to leave the whole “discipline” idea there… we don’t want a boot up our ass… that’s uncomfortable.

But I want to shake the sofa. Maybe it’s time we give this discipline idea a try.

What if there is another way to look at discipline and not feel overwhelmed at the thought?

Well, I have predictable news for you… there is.

Below is a guide you can use to improve your thoughts on discipline.

Showing up is Half the Battle

Woody Allen, that witty, weird bastard hit the nail on the head. Maybe he even hit his thumb too. What the Hell do I know? His idea is simple: Showing up is half the battle. Why? Because when you show up to the tasks you need to do, you’re already there, so it’s easy to rationalize you might as well get it done. For me, the two areas in my life that I try to be disciplined in is writing and working out. The moment/hours before I absolutely dread the thought of going to the gym and the thought of writing. However, once I’m at the gym or begun writing for over 10 minutes, I love where I’m at and I’m happy I went there. I truly find that my discomfort is rarely in the activity, it’s in the thought of the activity. That’s why when I show up, I know the hard part is over. So the trick is to simply show up at the activity you are procrastinating. Like Woody said, showing up is half the battle.

Create Before Reading

Oh reading, you are the friendly face procrastination puts on while he stabs you in the back, but with bleeding holes, we come back for more like a fat guy to an all-you-can-eat hot dog stand. Hear me out: I think reading is great, but I don’t think you should be reading when your goal is to write.

Here’s what I mean – I perform comedy and I know that I should be writing jokes to become a better comedian. However, sometimes when I sit down to write jokes, a little thought comes in my head and goes, let’s look up some current events. I need current events to write about. Once I have current events writing will be a breeze. So instead of actually writing, I spend my time doing anything but. Really what I’m doing is mentally masturbating and no work gets done. The kicker is even if I never write, my brain will act like a sympathetic mom. “It’s ok you didn’t write honey, you read and reading is good!” Well, I’m about to play the part of the drunk stepdad telling the kids that Santa Claus isn’t real. What your mom is saying is bullshit.

As writers, we are famous for allowing reading to distract us from writing. I’m here to tell you, don’t do that. It’s ok to read before or after we write but never during. The fact is, if you’re not putting words on paper, you’re not writing. It is that simple. It’s that sober.

Limit Distractions

If you’re anything like me, you have a mini panic attack when you’re not attached to your phone. I’m no doctor, I can tell you, this thought is not healthy and we all probably need help. Candidly stated – your phone is the enemy of discipline. I mean come on, some of you are holding your phone right now! But fortunately, there’s an easy solution to help us.

Do you know what the best way is to cure an addiction? Don’t bring the addiction into the house. That said, when you’re working on the task at hand, make sure your phone is turned off and in another room. Out of sight and out of mind if you will. People have lived thousands of years without a phone, I’m sure we can manage 30 minutes to an hour without ours. In other words Your friend’s Facebook status can wait to be liked.

Adopt an I Get To Do Mentality

Instead of a stubbed toe, slightly annoyed – dammit I have to do____. Try on a humble, I get to do ____. The simple trick of viewing a negative experience as a positive one is some mental gymnastics you can perform to get the job done.

Hold Yourself Accountable

This is like black coffee – sometimes you just have to drink it. You’re in charge of your life. Realize this, hold yourself accountable, and become the CEO of your life. If you need to get your writing done, walk your ass to the chair and get started. You can do this.

But Be Human

Your mom only has one birthday a year, it’s ok if you spend it with her. You haven’t seen your friends in weeks, it’s ok to hang out with them. Your nephew has a baseball game and he wants you to watch him play. Go ahead and do that. Never forget that you’re not a robot and life happens. If something comes up that throws you off your routine, it’s ok, you can get back on the routine later that day or tomorrow.

That’s it folks, being disciplined is mainly a mental battle. This is good because it means you have a say in this, your voice actually matters. If you want to be more disciplined especially with your writing, please know that you’re in the driver seat and you get choose the speed you travel. With that I wish you luck and hope this helped.

– Tony

Please like, comment, share and tell me what you think. What do you do to become more disciplined. If this helped you, please post on your social media in hopes this helps someone else.

32 thoughts on “How to Become a More Disciplined Writer

  1. As long as I keep the pump primed by actually writing every day, the words just start flowing, even if I fear that the well might run dry. Enjoyed the blog!

  2. I loved this article because my self-discipline, about writing or anything else, is approximately at zero. Or, at least, what I think of as self-discipline, which starts with getting right to work, no procrastinating, no finding other things to do to avoid the task, no sitting and staring out the window. It also at one time, and when I’m doubting myself harshly even today, included things like making a list of ideas, making an outline, etc.

    One day I decided to make a different kind of list–of all the things I use to put off sitting down to write. I look at it now as a kind of voodoo doll that ultimately ended in a true epiphany. The list included: cleaning the house; reading as many as three mystery novels a day; catching up on emails; working on photo projects; cleaning the house; cooking elaborate meals that I ate by myself (my particular list doesn’t include socializing). You get the idea.

    And then, the moment of truth. Those aren’t tools for avoiding writing. They are an integral part of my particular writing process. I do all of them every time I have something I need to write. Then I write whatever it is. I always write. Barring catastrophe of some kind, I meet deadlines and keep commitments.

    If I sat right down and tried to force myself to write without this warm-up, I don’t believe I could do it.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! I know a lot of people have a routine too – I always find myself going for a jog or pacing around the house before I write just to get in Motion so to speak – thanks again for commenting on my posts!

  3. I like the perspective shift of ‘I get to do’. I often find myself dreading working on my manuscript, but once I read that point, I’m thinking: “Eh, I get to fully work on my manuscript today. How many other people can do that?”

    Wonderful as always. Thanks for the insight!

  4. Reading is what gets me thrown off track from writing or any of the dozen little tasks I also want to do all at the same time of course. I think I will go write right now since I’m here anyway. Your article made me remember that. Good read.

  5. Thank you for such good advice, Tony! I’ve actually having problems with writing lately. I’ll try to keep these in mind! Great post!

  6. Thanks for the visit! I loved this piece! Your voice is really fun. :)) Also that thing about writing before reading is major major. Things go better for me when I do it that way. 👌🙏😊

  7. Loved this piece, especially now that I’ve just started a new blog after 5 years of not writing anything. I feel quite demotivated since I can’t write creatively as others can but I’ll try to keep this in mind! 🙂

  8. Oh boy did I relate to this sentence
    “Hear me out: I think reading is great, but I don’t think you should be reading when your goal is to write.”
    I feel like I’m cheating if I’m reading, in my head I tell myself that to be a great writer you have to read but it’s just not getting the job done.
    Loved this piece, it’s so relateable.

  9. I love to read what it is that motivates others. A guy interviewed me in a local podcast last week after reading the anthology I published, said that virtually every story he read… (read only a third before the podcast, but hey, I guess I was lucky he opened the book)… seemed to have death at the core of the plot. I stopped and thought about it, realized he’d have to have jumped around, picking stories from the Contents page like a Chinese menu, but hey… he hit on something there. More than a few of those stories are about death, dying, and near death events, escaping death, etc. so… I’m guessing that maybe my personal motivation is… mortality. Knowing there is an expiration date, but not knowing what it is, will motivate a writer to “get ‘er done” while there’s time. I can’t remember having writer’s block, never sit down and ask myself, “What shall I write about?” I just do it… but then I have a lot of history, so hey…
    If self expression is a gas, I’ve got a lot of it.
    Maybe too much sometimes.
    Good stuff here. I’ll be back.

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