Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Discipline- the abcedaria of a writer

Discipline - I've talked about discipline before on this blog. It is one of the paramitas, or virtues, that we contemplate in Buddhism. Here is what I wrote then and believe now.

Discipline is one of the six paramitas - called Siila (pronounced Shila). There is joy in discipline and I know it and there is resistance to discipline and I know that too. Discipline is like the fence surrounding a corner lot backyard in a busy corner of town. It allows the children in us to run free like hooligans while remaining contained and safe. The point being that we have more freedom with the habit of discipline than we do without it. Therefore more joy.

I am a flower child. I marched on the Parliament Buildings with signs that urged Peace. I sang we shall, we shall, we shall not be moved, just like the tree that stands beside the riiiiiiiiver, we shalllll not be moved. I brought my babies to L'Hibou to hear folk singers like Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs. I went to dances in the honey house at 'The Farm' and fought for universal daycare. What I never wanted was anyone telling me that I had to do something today and every other day (except for the pill - that made sense!), not even me! Now I know that freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose and I embrace discipline and order and ritual and even, Buddha help me, organizing. Though, come to think of it - that was a pretty hip word too when it came to unions.
What is discipline like in your world? Scary? Or do you embrace it? Dance it to the edge of time? Discipline for me means that I remember that I chose to be a writer and writers write. It means that I know if I sit long enough at my desk - I will write and if I write long enough something good will happen. It means if I sit at my cushion and meditate something good will happen. It might not seem like the funnest thing to do but in its way it is. It is.


mooderino said...

i find that initial push to do the thing I know I should be doing to be very hard, but once I get going I can focus fine. Any advice how to get over that hump?


Francine Howarth said...


Discipline for moi means getting on with my WIP, but it's an enjoyable D. When D becomes a chore, as has participating in A-Z then I begin to reason priorities! Hence A-Z is getting the chop! I've commented galore on new blogs, followed those of interest, and seen few responses in kind. So, my writing, my garden, and more regular blogging buddies are getting due attention! ;)


Niamh said...

wise words Jan - "we have more freedom with the habit of discipline than we do without it. Therefore more joy." - and very inspiring. (Apt quote from Me and Johnny Magee, I love Joplins version.)
I'll be reminding myself of what you said, I need a push to be disciplined, being more of a meanderer!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I'm so glad to hear you say that--I have a lot of discipline but worried that meant I was less spontaneous/creative.

sue said...

Thankyou for your comment this morning, I agree. It's good for me to connect with people who make me think, and I'm grateful for that in you.
I'm not sure about discipline, I don't think I'm so good at that. Responsibility was the word given to me many years ago, and it seems to be both my joy and millstone. Can they overlap?

Jan Morrison said...

urggh - I just answered everyone and the computer ate it. Dang. Again then...
Mood - once you've made up your mind to do something, like write every day for an hour, then don't wait around for the mood to hit, or feel like you can't do it unless you're enthusiastic. Just do it - bring all yourself - tired, grumpy, lazy, scared - to your writing and it will be fine.
You don't have to make up your mind EVERYDAY. Get it?
Francine - I get you totally! I'm at a different stage with my wip - it is being gone over with a fine-tooth comb by an editor so it can go out all shiny and good to find a home. That puts me in a restless stage of having to do paperwork, a query, a synopsis, etc... so this is a welcome break in my days of that!
Niamh - how are you? how is spring in gorgeous Ireland? Meandering is good - give yourself a big back yard of discipline so you can meander big. Meander might be my M word!
Elizabeth - you are one of my gurus of discipline! I think creativity is discipline's sidekick.
Sue - Responsibility has more of a critical parent wagging his finger at me than I like but that is just my neurosis. I do think they overlap and it is my joy and millstone both too! I LIKE YOU!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I found disciline hard many years ago but after getting back the confidence I so badly lacked I find my life is well disciplined,

Thanks for a wonderful post,


Bish Denham said...

There is a certain amount of discipline in my life, but there is also a certain amount of chaos. Somehow the two balance each other out and I am left standing in the middle.

AlexOngNYC said...

I choose to be a writer and writers write.

I need that on a t-shirt and a magnet to remind myself of that.

Alex from Breakfast Every Hour was here.

Hart Johnson said...

I like discipline but seem only able to keep it in one domain at a time. I am a tunnel vision girl and can focus like crazy. on. one. thing. For a long time now, that has been the writing, and I adore it, but I could really benefit from some balance...

RosieC said...

Oh, unfortunately my word is in chaos at the moment as I try to extricate myself from grad school, my husband looks for a job, and I need to figure out where I'm going and how I'm going to get there. Given other commitments, I find having discipline with my writing difficult right now, but I know that I will find it again. It's just a matter of waiting out the storm until I can.

Great post, Jan :)

East for Green Eyes

Rae said...

Sadly to say, I do lack "constructive" discipline.
I'm disciplined to blog, eat, and do laundry everyday. But, I really need to discipline myself to keep a balanced budget, write a book, and stay on my diet.
I am better off when I have someone tell me what to do- then it's sure to get done. But, to be my own motivator- well, sometimes I just need a giant kick in the pants!

lesleylsmith said...

Good topic, Jan. :)
Discipline is my friend. In fact, I'm sure some of my friends would say I'm too disciplined. Oh well, we all have to follow our own path.

Plain Jane said...

Discipline is my goal. I struggle with it each day. My husband is my example of discipline, my constant reminder that it is achievable.

Sarah Allan said...

Great post, Jan! I am slowly developing the discipline to get in the habit of writing every day, which is a good start. The problem is when regular life seeps in, and throws me off.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I try to embrace discipline, though there are days when I feel like I've got to cut loose and let myself have some fun too.

Great D post!

Dafeenah said...

Somedays I am extremely disciplined. Others not so much. I think somehow the two sort of balance each other out. I accomplish what needs to be done on those days I am so when I am feeling a bit lazy and don't really want to work I don't have to. For me it is that feeling of "deadline" that pushes me. If I have ten days to write, I will wait to the last minute not because I procrastinate but because I need that sense of "deadline" to write well. I wish I could write without having to need that though.

LTM said...

it's funny, I seemed to have far more discipline before I became a writer. Now this writerly passion has almost consumed everything and the discipline is controlling it and getting *other* things done/keeping myself focused. :D Good stuff here, Jan~

fredamans said...

Great post!
Discipline is a part of my daily existence. I set goals for myself every morning, and it is due to my self-discipline that I obtain those each day. Ironically I feel better too!


E. M. Jenkinson said...

Amazing post! I need to practice more discipline. Unfortunately, like many other things, I'm a bit lazy when it comes to that department. It's taking a lot of discipline for me to even do this challenge -- which, might I add, is very fun!

MM the Queen of English said...

Discipline Anyone who creates must have the self-discipline to continue the task even when there's no one to cheer you on.

Yes, I agree with Alex -- I choose to be a writer and writers write -- is a great line and motivator.
I'll buy a coffee mug with that one it.

Thanks for speaking so highly of my posts. I've never been called guru before. You made my day, Jan.

MM the Queen of English

Siv Maria said...

Discinpline is something that was forced ever so well on me during my childhood. It reminds me of a belt and I hate the word, it makes me tence and shiver at the same time. Word association is a powerful thing. I prefer thinking that a habit of hard work is good for the soul.

umbrellalady said...

I like the analogy you used with the fenced yard - that epitomizes the essence of discipline exactly...I's like a gift you give to yourself.