Discipline Medicine

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Most writers suffer from a lack of discipline. The urge to procrastinate is strong as writing is agonizing work because it is done alone without support from colleagues, acquaintances, and friends unlike other occupations that take place in an office, a store, a factory, or some other location where people are present. Thus a strong incentive is needed.

Of course this motivation can take many forms: self-satisfaction, honor, glory, recognition, and money. One, or all of these, can serve as the drive to write, yet self-discipline is difficult to acquire and maintain. Sitting at a typewriter or computer requires conditioning; usually this involves a timetable, a schedule, an agenda, and an objective. The subject matter is the first contingency to be decided, and then the next decision is the format: Will it be an article, an essay, a poem, a short story, or a novel? Next is the time table for the work: Does it require a definite time frame, hours, days, weeks, months, or even years. Once this is decided a schedule needs to be set up, then the daily agenda, and finally the final outcome.

Even this will not eliminate procrastination. But remedies do exist to alleviate this condition. Probably one of the best antidotes is an assignment from an outside source: a newspaper, a magazine, a publisher, an editor, a wife, or a partner. Reporters appear to always meet their deadlines, article writers do most of the time, novelists often do, but writers who are driven by editors, wives, or partners usually do.

If the assignment is followed by a deadline, it can be a great impetus to work. Most people, and that includes writers, seem to require a time limitation to force them to produce, to finish a job. Beginning is easy, but continuing to a finale is burdensome and tends to lead to dallying. Writers can think of more reasons not to act than most other people; gazing off into space waiting for the muse to strike, dreaming of far off exotic places, any reason not to act comes to mind.

Another good motivator is the stack of bills piling up beside the typewriter or computer. If writing is the main source of income, it is a commanding inducement, especially if the wife or partner urges the writer to produce. The need to pay the bills can force one to sit and write, to complete the assignment, and to meet the deadline because the money is needed.

So the greatest remedy for lack of self-discipline is an assignment, a deadline, and a stack of bills. If all three are present, there can be no better reason to get at that writing job and to finish it.

Charles O. Goulet has a BA in history and a BEd in English literature. He has written several novels based on Canadian history that are available from,, Barnes and Noble, and many other bookstores.

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