From Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life by Elizabeth George, the New York Times bestselling author of twenty novels and counting:
“Here’s what I tell my students on the first day when I teach one of my creative writing courses: You will be published if you possess three qualities – talent, passion, and discipline….
“Some of us are blessed with self-discipline, and I admit myself to be one who is. It’s something I inherited from my mother: that ability and willingness to do what needs to be done first and then to play later. A lot of writing is simply showing up. A lot of writing is being able to put the work first simply because it is the work. A lot of writing is being able to delay gratification.
“Lots of people want to have written; they don’t want to write. In other words, they want to see their name on the front cover of a book and their grinning piacture on the back. But this is what comes at the end of the job, not at the beginning. To reach that end, you have to be willing just to set it aside, knowing that it may never happen at all but not much caring because it is the writing that matters to you; it’s the mystery and the magic of putting words on paper that are truly important. If you don’t feel this way, then you want to be an author, not a writer.”
The mystery and magic of putting words on paper” – what a wonderful description of writing! And what tough, honest words about what it takes to be a writer – passion, talent, and discipline. And to Elizabeth’s mind, discipline is the most important ingredient, the one without which, the other two aren’t enough.
Here’s how my Webster’s dictionary defines “discipline” – “To train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self control;” also, “to impose order.” In short, discipline is really all about improving our craft: being willing to put in the time and energy to get better at what we want to do. And to put aside the distractions and focus on results that get in the way of our improving and growing as writers.
Bravo, Elizabeth! She may have inherited her self-discipline, but it’s a quality we can all expand and nourish within ourselves through attitude and effort. Write on!
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