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Discipline and Persistence = Freelance Writing Success

Discipline and PersistenceYou simply must words on paper (or the screen if you prefer) if you want freelance writing success. That means you have to write regularly, with discipline and persistence.

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 and persistence 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 yourself 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 into 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.

Discipline and persistence pays

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 30 minutes of morning meditation, 10 minutes picking up my 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?




Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Gordon Glave

    I do not want to be picky but let us apply some sound advice here, “Read It Aloud” you stated.
    In your opening sentence, “You simply must words on paper “, the word ‘put’ would be very welcomed.
    Happens to everyone ‘eye’ guess.

    • funny, that’s been up for ages and you’re the first to report it… I’ll fix it shortly. Reading out loud does work, no matter how you spell it 😉 thanks

  • Purple Song (Vanessa)

    Anne, I enjoyed your post. I find nearly every time I sit down to write and the second writers block sets in I google articles and blog posts about writers discipline.
    Besides writing a novel (my 2007 nanowrimo experiment) I also write songs. I feel as if I am forever chasing the muse! On top of all that, my work schedule varies week to week so it is incredibly important to find self discipline.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • A true recipe for success. Thanks for reminiding me that I’m trying to do the right things. — Ahlam

  • Such great advice, Anne. I’ve discovered that being productive takes tremendous self-discipline and tweaking. I’ve changed my routine so often. I think I’m finally starting to realize that as a work-at-home mom, I really have to be flexible, but I also have to use every opportunity I have wisely. I’m getting there.
    .-= Mary@Adventures In Freelancig´s last blog ..Emotions of Setting Your Freelance Rates =-.

  • Anne,

    I have had to do this very thing since I’ve started writing freelance at home. So many things distract me. My family has finally recognized that when I’m on the computer or doing research I’m working. I try to tell them to think of that time as when I used to leave the house and answer to an actual boss. They couldn’t call me or just stop in and chat whenever they wanted to then, and when I’m at work here at home the same goes.

    Thanks for the tips, I’m going to put them into affect and I’m sure it will help me plan my days better.
    .-= Kathryn Pless´s last blog ..I’ve been hired! =-.

    • Anne

      I know one person who would put on a special do-not-disturb-me hat to signal to her family she shouldn’t be interrupted. Now, if only MzTiz my tabby would honor such a thing.

  • admin

    You all are more than welcome.

    Edna, we can help you pretend it isn’t really a whole novel if that would help. 😉

  • Hi Anne.. Thanks a lot for this info.. Very helpful..

    cyramiles’s last blog post..Priorities

  • Edna

    Thanks for the post, Anne. I’m getting much more disciplined about the non-fiction writing projects I do on a regular basis. Its the word count for the Young Adult novel or novella that I’m overwhelmed with. I was thinking short story but my mentor has morphed it into a novella which was OK but now its grown into 45,000 words which isn’t a novella at all. It’s the N word I’ve always shied away from –novel– because its way too overwhelming.
    I really haven’t come up with a good way to get it done, other then write every day. I go a critique class year round so that helps to keep me on task. My big goal at the moment is just to get a first draft done. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks again.

  • Amanda de la garza

    Thanks, Anne, for the wonderful service, and for this fantastic post! With my intense work ethic I often feel guilty doing nonwork-related stuff during the day and then I miss out on the freedom that was the very reason I chosen freelance writing as a career. So I really appreciate this great reminder to schedule in not only writing time, but the things I love to do as well!

  • admin

    Jennifer, I find I have to take a couple of days off from much writing, if any, to stay fresh at all… love the differences ‘tween folks.

  • admin

    Nicole, martial arts is a great way to learn self-discipline.
    Devon, thanks! Appreciate it.
    Yeah, Lou, I’m not very good at being rigid.

  • I have found that writing everyday, no matter what it is has helped to keep me on track. On top of my blog that I post to daily, I have an old fashion journal that I write in.

    You have some great ideas to stay on track with discipline. Thank you for your tips.

    Jennifer’s last blog post..Should You Quit Your Day Job?

  • Lou

    So true! We all like to imagine the project will get done in a sudden mad burst of creativity, but alas!

    I’m especially glad that you’ve pointed out several methods to keep on track. There are lots of ways to make that happen — the important thing is that it happens.

  • Great stuff, Anne. I’m going to feature this article and link back to it in tomorrow’s Ink in My Coffee post.

    Devon Ellington’s last blog post..Friday, January 30, 2009

  • Self-discipline is wonderful. I get a lot of mine from martial arts. I take what I learn there everywhere I go! It’s a matter of doing what needs to be done even when no one is looking. 🙂

    Nicole LaMarco’s last blog post..Must Have Book for Moms: A Mother’s Legacy

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