Discipline in the Bubble: How Writers Stay on Track

By Sherry Isaac

         I decided to conduct a poll. I asked random writers if they had trouble with discipline and what strategies they employed to combat it.

         First, I have to wonder if the lack of a response from a few writers is a yes in disguise: they weren’t disciplined enough to get their answer back to me on time. Only two writers responded with a no. Hate mail may be sent to… Never mind. I digress.

         Others responded almost immediately, one with a resounding “Hell, yes!” which makes me wonder, are these writers so undisciplined they jump at any distraction? Possibly. I can say this because frankly, this is the category to which I belong.

Gloria Richard’s opening lines from a two-page response? Do I struggle with discipline in my writing? Whoosh. My WIP closes. I have a new toy. A survey! How cool is that?

Like magic, Gloria typpie-tip-tapped her way into a feature article in September.

         Some stated that discipline was not the enemy as much as lack of time. For the disciplined, time was the very reason discipline was the ruling force in their writing life. I should have asked how writers make time for writing. I digress again. Fodder for a future poll.

         A no-nonsense response came from critique partner Urve Tamberg: “D’uh,” followed by, “Though I love to write fiction sometimes the grocery list provides more immediate gratification.”

         For one novelist, positive affirmation helps. For another, the use of a list, which helps impose order to her thoughts.

         Lorraine Hough has lost many fights with discipline. She answers the poll while awaiting a rematch. And this is not surprising. There seems to be a contest going on between discipline and procrastination. Life has a tendency to get in the way. There are always phone calls to make, cups of tea to brew. Distractions seem to tie into discipline issues for many writers. A change in scenery can help; Sharon Clare writes long-hand in her garden over summer months. Others respond well to pressure, deadlines are a huge incentive, as is the obligation to their writing group.

         The prize for most original answer goes to Patricia Howard. Secluded in her office, cat on her lap, she gazes into its amber eyes, seeking inspiration in the golden depths. Inspiration rarely comes since the process freaks out the cat, but it does place Patricia in her office with the door closed—a step in the right direction.

         Several writers are in the process of starting a new remedy they hope will cure their ill. For one, a 90-minute writing session at the start of the day may be the recipe for success she’s been longing for. Another is considering boarding school.

         Advice from one of those fortunate few who doesn’t suffer from discipline depletion: Find a time in advance when you know you can sit and write. Schedule that time and stick to it.

         Is it really that easy?


 While resistant to any one genre, Sherry Isaac novels and short stories share the common thread of everyday life sprinkled with a dash of the unexpected. Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Contest  2009, her work has been published online in Quick Brown Fox and New Mystery Reader

 An excerpt of her novel, Homecoming, was included in the anthology Canadian Voices Volume One (Bookland Press, 2009). She has recently taken the plunge into the children’s market with the publication of The Time Between in the fall issue of Crow Toes Quarterly. 

Storyteller, her first collection of short stories, is due for release in July 2011.

 Sherry lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and family.  Learn more about Sherry at www.sherryisaac.com

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