Discipline: Where Can I Get Some?

When I imagine the life of the writer, I picture her rising at dawn when the world is still at rest. A cup of warm coffee in her hand, she slowly moves (always with grace) to her desk and begins setting words on the beautiful, blank (and expensive) thick ivory page. I wonder where she lives because it's not in my house. Much as I want to be a morning writer, a disciplined writer, a prolific writer, I am not.

Instead of the early morning air (gorgeous sunrise, chic bathrobe) I'm usually just getting started about now. It's 1:11 pm (a good time, why not) and there is a cat biting her nails against my back, a dishwasher in the background, and piles of clutter everywhere I look. I know this is not ideal, but it is often me. Are there benefits to the messy, undisciplined life? Yes, I think so.

One example is that although I wrote that I'm just getting started, I've actually worked on a poem a good part of the morning -- walking away for a few moments and then heading back to the draft. I trick myself into writing by doing it in small bits. And in fact, this week's New York Times article, Forget What You Know About Study Habits explores how students learn. New studies (!) fly in the face of what most of us believe. My style of never writing at the same time of day, writing in small intervals rather than a sealed block, all go along with the new findings. Even when I make it out to my writing studio, I need to go out to the garden and prune rose bushes and weed flower beds in order to keep my mind supple. Turns out I'm not alone.

So although I want to be the writer that does her three hours of writing from 5 am to 8 am (I laugh even theorizing about this!) my guess is this will have to wait for my next lifetime. For now, my way is the only way I know. As long as I (or you) are writing does it matter if it's at midnight or afternoon? Would I feel more like a real writer if I had a writing schedule? Maybe it's something to experiment with -- like the August when I wrote a poem everyday and sent it off on a postcard to another writer. Perhaps the real message is to try new approaches. I'd love to learn how you, dear reader, set time aside -- or don't.


  1. Thanks for the glimpses of your writing life. If and when I'm up at dawn I'm usually too jumpy to write. For prose I have to close myself in for a while, but I always need a window, an actual window. Writing poetry is different--ideas, images come when I'm waking, walking, driving, working at something other than writing--jotting. Then more in notebook, on to computer. Most of the work: revision. And for that, I have to set aside a block of time, but happily get up, roam, drink tea, return. No kids to look after now, but many other things that could distract me. I try to keep them at bay. Went to work outside the house for many years so I had to get organized in order to write. As you know, there's more than one way . . .

  2. I love writers, poetry, words. I can't seem to find the time to do this in any organized way. I write haikus and use them as my facebook status...I try to cleanup all my piles of articles to read and scraps of paper with book titles to read someday and find personal journals that I started, food journals. but it's not organized in any way and i seem to be afraid that someday someone will find my thoughts and read them...


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