I often come across posts – and have had numerous conversations – about the need for discipline as a writer. Just write. It doesn’t matter what you write, but get into the habit of writing, set a routine, decide (exhort yourself, write it in blood) that you’re going to write x thousand words per day, or a scene per day of your Work in Progress. Keep the ‘progress’ in progress. And that will turn you, almost magically, into a writer.
Then there’s the passion camp. Write from the heart. Write what you’re most passionate about. Let it pour out onto the page (screen) and it will set its own pace, its own rhythm. Let the wild plotting, the characters that you lose sleep over, the story that shimmers like a star-studded carrot in front of you, pull you along with its own momentum.
Or there’s the balance of the two; passion and discipline meet in a blaze of glory, and a novel is born with seemingly little effort…although this last, I tend to see as passion dictating writing hours. Daily, because you, the writer, can’t get enough of it.
I decided that I definitely felt at home on the passion side of the balance. Before taking to writing a few years ago, I was a weaver, and a pretty obsessive one. Well, tapestry weaving is an obsessive and exacting profession, and does indeed call for passion if you’re going to spend nine-to-five hours for months (or even years) on a single piece of work. In a commercial studio, turning out large scale weavings equates to a high level of discipline and routine as a matter of course. As a solo artist-weaver, nothing other than passion could possibly drive anyone to sit down for days, weeks, months on end, to produce a single artwork.
The repetitive physical nature of that passion finally led to degenerated facet joints in my back, which was painful and could certainly have become a source of gloom. Instead, the writing muse which had meandered quietly in the background since childhood, seldom getting the prime focus of my creative energy, got its chance to step into the light…and has never looked back. What I learnt in this process was that passion is a drive, and the fulfillment of that drive can be unbelievably satisfying. But it’s not necessarily the same thing as happiness.
And focusing on happiness has changed the way I relate to both passion and discipline. A reader of my short stories sagely commented that they’re all about ‘finding a third way’. And for me as a writer, that ‘third way’ has crystallized as happiness. Not the pursuit of happiness, which is potentially endless and can have passion and discipline dragging along at its tail, but allowing happiness…and knowing my writing as its form. What I’ve noticed is how this has changed my relationship to both passion and discipline. I’ve relaxed about them ~ there’s no pressure any more on either of them to have to run the show, and suddenly they’re both so much friendlier. Discipline isn’t a necessary focus, because it’s innate to do what creates feelings of happiness. I can trust the pattern to set itself. Passion can no longer push me like a craving for sweets that has little regard for the body (or other areas of life) whose protests go unheard by the ‘drive’. And it’s sooo much more delicious, and fun!
This is what is currently working for me, and I love it. Do you feel the need to ‘situate’ your writing, or other creative talents, and if so, what works for you?