Beth Hautala

Children's Author


Discipline and The Writing Life

So, newsflash:

Writing is hard.

Rephrase. Writing well is hard. It takes so much stinking practice! 

I play the piano. Not well, but I play.—The result of seven years of lessons, and endless scales, and hours of practice that seem to stretch into the eternity of my childhood past.


I didn't like the practice and I hated the scales. But I continued taking lessons for seven years because I love to play. And I wanted to play well. I am sure we could argue the definition of "well," and the entire world would have an opinion on the matter, but for me, the success of the thing is defined whenever I sit down to play and find that I love it.

It was Aristotle who said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

The same is true for the writing life.

It takes work. It is incredibly hard. It is riddled with disappointment and self-doubt and rejection. If you choose a writing life, you will have to not choose other things. You will redefine success and come to grips with the fact that people assume you have some sort of personality disorder—what with all those unwritten characters living in your head.

But here's the thing: It is totally worth it.

You know that feeling of waking up in the middle of the night (or not being able to sleep at all) because the most amazing scene just unraveled itself inside of you? Or when a character seems so alive, that you weep as you write his/her struggles and failures across your page? Or how about when one of your critique partners/beta readers/friends reads your work and weeps/laughs in all of the right places? —It is for reasons like this that writers discipline themselves and press on.

It takes discipline to make progress.

For a long time I never wrote anything save when inspiration struck. And in the midst of my crazy life with toddlers, running an ad agency, and yaknow, trying to sleep once in awhile, those moment were few and far between. I rarely finished a project and I'd never written anything longer than eight-thousand words.


Then I stumbled upon NaNoWriMo, and I began writing regularly—even when I didn't feel like it. And I wrote fifty-thousand words in thirty days. They were not all good words, certainly, but I finished something, and perhaps more importantly, I proved to myself that with a little discipline, I could write consistently.

Self-discipline is hard. Sometimes it feels impossible. But the end results are always worth it—whether it's an ability to play a sonata or finish a book. So you tell me, how do you discipline yourself to write? Do you have a designated place? A designated time? Do you set word goals for yourself and have people around you to keep you accountable? Are you part of a writer's group? How do you eliminate distraction? Tell your tale and share your tips! I would love to hear your story.

Something to ponder this week: How are you being disciplined in your writing life?