If you ever hope to succeed at what you want to do, you need to build up self-discipline.
Photo Credit: Ibai
Why you need discipline
Without being disciplined, success will most likely just stay a dream for you. It is not only true in writing, but with most other activities. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist, an athlete or an entrepreneur, or what it is you want to accomplish, big chang always requires discipline.
Without it you won’t make it through the first week. You will simply start to make excuses, postpone your activities and soon enough you will give up again.
The problem of giving up
I’ve always had big dreams, grand goals and the imagination to see myself at the top. The thing I was missing though, was the discipline to ever achieve any of it. It was especially the case with my writing.
I would do it for a day or a couple of days, before I started to waver. I would still do my work, but I’d already start pushing it off to later during the day and finally the late evening. At the second week I’d already postponed my writing till next week. Often I never picked things up again until a couple weeks or even month later, when I wanted the make the big change again. Talk about discipline.
A world without discipline
I think a really big problem today is that there is no real need for people to build up discipline anymore. You can get through life pretty well without it. I am sure some of you want to point out having a job and getting up in the morning, but I think that the main factor here is not so much discipline, but more a fear of consequences. If you don’t go to work you don’t get paid.
It is just that the need we had in old times, to keep our bodies fit, live by a strict daily regimen and work hard for most of the day, is gone. Instead many of us have grown lax. The need for survival and this though discipline are gone, at least for us in the western world.
As a writer you need exactly this discipline though. You need to developed and work on your skills at writing, you need to do it daily and you need to work hard on it. Without discipline you will end up doing the same that I did for years, give up over and over again. There is no way you will be able to write a novel or even to get better at writing without being disciplined.
Building up discipline
Building up self-discipline again is of course not easy and it can’t happen over time. That is something that I learned the hard way. It can be a long and hard process. Here are a few tips that can help you make things easier:
1. Start now
Many of us wait for the perfect time to start. Next week, next month or even next year. In reality there is never any better time than now. It takes long enough, so stop wasting time.
2. A routine
The best way to build up discipline and to make habits stick is to create a routine. There is no way around it. If you don’t have a fixed time every day at which you are going to start writing, you won’t do it. Telling yourself that you’ll write in the evening is not enough. You will most likely end up push it off till it is too late.
3. Prioritize writing
If you want to build up self-discipline you need to give your writing priority over other activities. If you just tell yourself you do it late in the evening than chances are you won’t do it. Instead put at the top spot on your daily to do list. The best thing is to do it first thing in the morning or right after you get home from work.
4. Stop making excuses
When we start doing things that are hard and take effort, we will often start to make excuses. We are looking for an easy way out. Read yesterday’s post to find out how to stop making excuses.
5. Remove distraction
If you plan on building up the discipline to start writing you need to remove any and all disciplines form your writing area. Turn of the TV, disconnect the computer from the internet and put your phone on mute. Tell friends or family to stay away during this time as well.
Try to stay focused on your writing at all time. Being disciplined means staying focused. So whenever you find your mind wandering off or you start thinking about other things, make it an effort to focus on your writing again.
7. Start small
You won’t be able to build up discipline if you tire yourself out within the first days. As I said it is a long process that takes hard work. You have to start small and once you start to get used you have to raise the bar to constantly challenge yourself.
8. Accept failure
Failure is not the end of the world. Things happen. If you end up not writing one day, accept that you failed, but don’t linger on it. Instead tell yourself you are going to do better tomorrow and keep on working on yourself. Giving up because you failed once is taking the easy way out.
9. Enough sleep and a healthy diet
This should be a no-brainer. Building up discipline takes a lot of energy. So you need to get enough sleep and eat healthy. You should generally try to sleep for about eight hours per night. I won’t get deeper into the topic of eating healthy, because a simply search on the internet should give you all the nutrition advice you need. It is a good start to cut any substances such as alcohol or tobacco from your diet and limit your coffee intake.
10. Reward yourself
Whenever you were able to put in the effort to do your daily writing, reward yourself and be proud of yourself for doing it. After your first week of continuous writing you can for example treat yourself to a nice meal or simply go and have fun.
Building up discipline will most likely not be easy. For me it was a long process of trial and error, but following the above points helped me to finally build up the self-discipline I needed.