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    Home Articles

    Discipline is *NOT* a Four Letter Word

    What is the ONE MOST IMPORTANT TRAIT that a writer needs in order to establish and maintain a success freelance career?

    We must have discipline.

    Repeat after me: When it comes to freelance writing, the single most important character trait needed for success is discipline.

    Bummer, isn't it? The word "discipline" hardly sends one dashing to the keyboard or searching for one's pen in a heady, heated burst of inspiration. Wouldn't it have been great, even romantic, if I had said that successful writers possess a golden, rare gene with which only a select few are graced (and that you and I are among the fortunate chosen ones)? Or that, in order to succeed, we need to tap into our personal Muse? Follow our calling? Develop the God-given gift that is our birthright?

    Okay, maybe not. Maybe you thought I was going to say "talent," "skill," "power of observation," "imagination" or even "self-confidence." After all, talent certainly helps, and the ability to write clearly, powerfully, creatively and/or concisely is important. Even in the wake of rejection, or especially then, we need to believe in ourselves enough to try again and again. And the best writers not only observe, but seem to *absorb* the world around them, then set these observations free in articles, stories, scripts and poems.

    But without discipline, all the talent, confidence, creativity and ability in the world won't get you published.

    I can almost hear you say, "Okay, Mom, I get your point" (followed by a roll of the eyes and an expression that says, "Now get off my back, okay?!"). And maybe that's how the word discipline got its bad reputation in the first place--from Mom, or other authority figures in our lives. After all, "discipline" has a somewhat negative ring to it, doesn't it? It reminds us of being sent to our rooms when we were children, or of school detention, or getting a warning from our bosses at work. And yes, that happens to be one definition of discipline--"treatment that corrects or punishes"--but in my trusty Webster's New World Dictionary, that is not the primary definition. In fact, it's listed at number five!

    Discipline means, first and foremost, "training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement." Isn't that what we writers really want, to develop the habit of writing daily, submitting regularly, and pursuing our writing dream consistently? To constantly hone our skills and increase our successes? In that regard, discipline is our ally, not our enemy. While our imagination may send us into idle daydreams, and our observations may distract, dismay or entertain us, our discipline is the one characteristic that will assist us in turning our daydreams into goals, and our observations into finished pieces of writing.

    And the marvelous thing about discipline is, we don't have to be born with it. Each and every one of us has the ability to develop this powerful trait within ourselves. How?

    1. By starting small. I am a big proponent of the "15 minutes a day" school of thought, which states that no matter how hectic our lives are, we should be able to devote at least 15 minutes every single day to our writing.

    2. By having a clear objective. When we start a diet or exercise regime, we know what we want to accomplish, right? The same must hold true of our writing careers. If we don't know where we want to go, we'll never get there.

    3. By celebrating milestones along the way. Although having goals and dreams is important to one's success, we sometimes forget to enjoy the process. Pat yourself on the back for finishing a first draft, sending a query letter, or getting in your 15 minutes a day for a week straight. Do something nice for yourself after each accomplishment. You can set up these rewards in advance, e.g., "after I finish the first chapter, I'll treat myself to ice cream," or use whatever form of compensation or acknowledgment you feel your effort deserves.

    No, discipline is (obviously!) not a four-letter word...it is, in fact, the friend who wants to see us succeed. Cultivate that friendship,and your freelance dreams will begin to produce tangible results.

    Copyright © Mary Anne Hahn

    Mary Anne Hahn is publisher of WriteSuccess, a free biweekly ezine of ideas, information and inspiration for writers. To subscribe or review back issues, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/writesuccess.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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