Defining Disciplined: When You Realize You’re Doing It Wrong
I'm trying little mug, I really am. Photo via Pexels
“You’re so disciplined.” People say this to me a lot, and it’s not entirely surprising. In my group of friends, both in the bookish world and not, I’m known for not sleeping, writing in cafes half the week, and being the first one at my coworking space, hunched over my laptop before the lights are even turned on. I’m your writer friend that’s on Google Chat when you wake up, and I'm still there when you’re about to go to sleep. During my undergrad, one of my favorite professors used to say that a lot of writing was just “showing up to do the work” and that “you really have to want it.” It was advice that stuck with me for a really long time and had a pretty profound effect on how I treated my time once I started pursuing writing books. I had to be disciplined. I had to find the time to show up. But lately, I’ve been rethinking what being disciplined really means, and if I can even call myself that. Over the past few years, in my wild push for my career in books, there have been a lot of sacrifices in the name of discipline. And that’s part of being disciplined, right? Control. Sacrifice. Staying up late instead of relaxing. Ignoring dozens of Facebook invites so you can get that last chapter written. Going to the bar for happy hour? I can spend an hour happily editing, thank you very much. And the result of this, is that I’ve been lucky. My new novel publishes next year, and I’ve got another book following it in 2021. But lately, the words just aren’t coming. I have an option book that I need to write. And I’m stuck. Because I’m terribly unhappy. When we talk about discipline, we tend to talk about sacrifice. What we give up pursuing our art. But something that gets left out of that conversation in a really big way, is the discipline for self-care that nurtures that art. That sustains our drive to create. That pushes us to go out and find ourselves surrounded by what inspires us to write in the first place. I’ve been sitting back and thinking about this a lot lately. The events I’ve skipped. The backyard barbeques I’ve missed. The date night I’ve postponed or the trip to see hometown friends I’ve put off. Moments with the people that bring the light that makes me want to tell stories. Who I playfully name characters after, or leave inside jokes for. Where is the discussion about discipline that says you should set aside time to log off, watch bad movies, eat good food, party with friends, and enjoy quiet moments that belong to you and no one else? So, I’m sorry if I’m not there on Google Chat as often anymore. And that I’m canceling that writing day at the local café. I need to go drink a beer, and shout about wanting more Bruce Springsteen on the jukebox. I need to go on a hike along the Schuylkill. I need to go to your BBQ and comment on what you’re making on the grill without actually helping. I need to go to a concert. I need bad pizza with my childhood friends and good wine with my wife. I want to write. But I need all of you more. I think true discipline when you’re an author, is making time for the things in life that inspire you. That drive you to create in the first place. I'm off to rediscover that.