DISCIPLINE

BY ELLIS FREEMAN

As history has progressed, mankind has become increasingly ingenious at inventing ways for getting distracted.

At the same time, our ability to withstand these distractions doesn’t seem to be keeping up. Somehow it’s easier to waste our days than to put ourselves on the line and commit something to the page.

What must it have been like for Flaubert or Dostoyevski? They lived a slower life, one where people wrote letters, delivered by horses? No one expected them to be answered straight away. There was time for reflection. Hell, nowadays it’s even difficult to find time to read a book, let alone write one.

Most writers need to spend time on their own, something frowned up in our socially orientated world. What kind of weirdo wants to be alone? A writer for one. Alone we get our energy; alone we pierce through small talk – hopefully to move on to big talk. Alone we tune in on our quietest thoughts, the ones that we often ignore –at our peril.

The most important discipline is to protect fiercely our creative working time and to focus on the task in hand. Turn off the internet, disconnect, leave your phone at home, find that uninterrupted time to build your house of cards. For me, building a routine is my way to battle the chaos.

A routine is something that you regularly do without question. With a routine, we can begin work without worrying about whether we should, a chance to go deep and perhaps escape the cares and worries of the world. With a regular practice, we remember how we like creating, despite its fears and trepidations.

Routine pushes us through the times when you’re not being successful or paid or applauded or even understood. Our private agendas, our routines are the stability we can hold onto in this time. You can change your routine but it’s always good to have one.

If you can master other disciplines, I believe that same willpower can be applied directly to writing or creating. I practice the piano and I also swim. When I train at those, I learn endurance, I learn not to give up. Doing something regularly makes it so much easier. I get the strength to set my own deadlines and do my darndest to hit them.

Writing is a discipline like a martial art and. if that way of life chooses you, stay in training. Stay devoted to improving your skills and learning about the world – it keeps you awake and alive. As Michelangelo said aged, 87, ‘I’m still learning’.

The moment you think you know it all, you’re finished.