Anyone who really knows me would readily say that Kristen and discipline do not usually go hand in hand. My house is tidy, in the sense that things are put in their place –or near their place. But look under my couch and you will see dust bunnies. My sink is often full, and empty glasses occupy many a side table around the house. And for the love of God, do NOT open one of my closets, or risk being swept away by a tsunami of laundry. So a disciplined person? Not so much. A disciplined writer? Well, yeah, a bit.
My neighbor was correct: it does take discipline and commitment to write an entire novel, edit it, sell it to an agent, revise it for an editor, then start all over again. We’re talking about potentially years of work and thousands of hours with your butt in the chair. If you don’t love doing it, you’ll probably sputter out and stall. And that’s okay. It isn’t for everyone.
But why am I disciplined in this where I am not in any other avenue of my life? Simple answer: because it’s my thing.
When I was sixteen, I took flying lessons. Every Saturday, I’d get in my car, my driver’s license so new it still smelled of laminate, and drive an hour to a country airfield with a tiny strip of runway (for the record, my parents were way braver than me, because the thought of my child doing the same gives me the willies). For one hour, I’d take a little Cessna 152 up in the sky and fly. I loved flying. Soaring into the sky sent a thrill through me every time. But when my dad no longer paid for lessons, I stopped, thinking, eh, I’ll find a way to get back to it eventually. That day never came.
I love interior decorating. At one point, I must have had 200 decorating magazines crammed into my bookshelf. Sitting down to peruse them, decorating my own house, heck, designing my own furniture, is satisfying and a joy. It never occurred to me to enroll in design school.
There are many things that give me joy, little hobbies that I like to do, but they aren’t my true passion. That is reserved for writing. Because not once, since I first sat down and hit the keys, did it occur to me to give up. Not once.
When I write, I fit within my skin. Everything clicks into place and I feel right.
Often, the question arises, why do you write? Some will answer, because it is what I am. Others will counter with: writing is something I do, not who I am.
I’ll admit here that when I read that latter statement, I think, “Ah, I see, then writing isn’t your true thing.”
Now, I play many roles wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. On Sunday mornings, my kids pile into my bed to cuddle with my husband and me and laugh at inane jokes. This is the good stuff. Life works like that, good times and bad. And while my loved ones fill my soul with joy, they do not feed my soul. In writing, I find my true self. It is what makes my soul sing, satisfies my need to create, and fulfills my sense of accomplishment. I am a writer. It isn’t my job. It is my expression. Without it, I become less of me.
Surely, my view point will seem obsessive to many of you. For some, writing is something to do that brings them joy, but at the end of the day, they may well move on to another thing and not feel it’s loss. This is totally okay. However, there is a caveat to that. If your aim is to get published, you have to understand the commitment involved. If writing isn’t in your blood, isn’t something you will never give up on, and you somehow find yourself under contract, it is going to be a slog. Because you will be expected to commit, put in the blood, sweat, and tears.
Often times we keep our eyes on the prize and ignore the process. Writing is about the process, not the prize. Any art done on a professional level is about the process. It will be what you do, not what you dream about. And, really, isn’t that the point?