The need to be disciplined often conjures up a life of deprivation, austerity and glumness. But there’s a different way to frame it and that’s to embrace self-discipline as a way to get what you really want. If you want to be successful at freelance writing, the discipline of writing regularly is your path. And you get to design the path you take.
What your discipline looks like
How you define the discipline of writing regularly is up to you. Some of the choices include:
- Writing every day at a particular time for a specific stretch of time. You might love getting up early and writing for an hour; maybe your best time to write is late at night for two hours.
- Writing x number of words a day. This can work well if you’re working on a book or other larger writing project.
- You can discipline your self to write and send x number of queries per week or month if writing for magazines is your target.
- Blog writers often set the number of posts per day or per week and schedule them in their calendar.
The trick is to look at what you want to accomplish, then chunk it down in to manageable bits or mini-goals. If you’re new to setting up this kind of writing schedule, take a pass at it. Work at practicing the new schedule/goals for a week or two and see how it goes.
If you’re keeping to your schedule, great, keep it up. If, however, you find you’re not meeting your timetable, don’t give up. Instead, revisit the plan and see what needs to be changed, and try it again.
Persistence doesn’t mean forcing yourself to do something you don’t like, or that isn’t working. There’s no percentage in that. Persistence means keeping on but with flexibility.
When it comes to the discipline of writing, persistence looks like practicing and practicing and practicing. Here’s what I mean.
Suppose you want to get a book written. You initially decide you’ll write 500 words a day, five days a week. The first day goes well, the second goes reasonably well, but by the end of the week, you realize you haven’t written for three days.
Instead of beating yourself up, look at why you didn’t write. Be kind and gentle with yourself, as well as honest. Give yourself credit for the two days you did succeed and figure out what needs to be adjusted. Maybe it’s the number of words, or the time you write, or some combination.
Remember, you’re in charge, and if you really want to get a book written, you’ll have to figure out how to get the 50,000 or so words actually written. But there’s no one “best” way to do that.
Design you ideal day
Every now and again, I take a hard look at what I think my ideal day would be. I start with a blank page and fill in my ideal. I include writing time of course, but I also include things like naps, long baths, and meeting with friends… whatever I think will please me as well as move me toward my goals.
Right now my ideal day includes 15 minutes picking up my studio apartment as well as blocks of time for writing. It also includes reading the forum, blogging, some exercise, etc.
I use my ideal day as a basis for planning the week… it’s a guide, not set in stone, because life is what happens when we’re making plans. But my ideal day provides a frame for my planning and a reminder of what’s important to me.
With self-discipline, whatever that looks like to you, and persistence, your success as a freelance writer is almost guaranteed.
What’s your writing discipline?
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