THE WRITER’S DISCIPLINE

May 18, 2012

With all the questions that spring up in the Q&A section of book talks, there is always that one question: “What is your writing discipline?” Then getting right down to it: “When do you do your writing?”

It is astonishing that people are so curious about the habits of writers – as if to unlock some magic key into the private world of the writers, and perhaps find a clue that will work for them so that they, too, can go ahead and materialize their own secret desire to write that book.

Then too, there is a mysterious allure to peaking over the shoulder of the writer sitting quietly at desk, with lamplight encompassing head and hands absorbed in another world.

In most cases, writers are on task in the morning hours. Why? Because we are brighter in the morning.  The earlier, the brighter. With strong coffee, brighter still. A four-hour stretch of writing, then exhaustion.  Writing is a very intense activity. High energy is called for such concentration. The worst time to write is in the late afternoon when the sugar dips low.

At night, there is a burst of adrenaline, but to the sacrifice of good sleep.  After 8 o’clock in the evening, this writer has learned to stop.

I myself am in a state of awe at those struggling writers who are employment for dollars during the day and must do their writing at night. Imagine how well they could write if they could avail themselves of morning hours?

This curiosity expressed during the Q&A is followed with: do you discipline yourself? When you get right down to this question, it means, do you force yourself to sit down and write?

Answer: not at all, once the novel is underway. Between novels, the writer recognizes contemplative periods devoted to working out ideas. The starts and stops become fascinating testing grounds for all kinds of possibilities. Elmore Leonard said that he creates characters and lets them speak. If they have nothing to say, he tosses them out. Similarly, we test ideas than can run the distance or into walls.

Of course, throughout the actual writing, there is the constant working out of ideas and people. People appear from out of nowhere, as do ideas. This is the intuitive mind playing. Who would want to miss all this fun. No, we do not “force” ourselves.