The Journal: Discipline, Study, Keep Coming Back

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Discipline, Study, Keep Coming Back
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

“Not everything warrants description—only details that matter to the character.” Joe Ponepinto

“There are no shortcuts to success on the field or in life.” Tom Brady, in his retirement message

Topic: Discipline, Study, Keep Coming Back

Some writing lessons today from James Scott Bell over at the Kill Zone blog, taken from how the now-retired quarterback Tom Brady lived his professional life. I’m directly quoting Mr. Bell, taking brief excerpts from his post. If you want to read the whole post, click

“Discipline is the foundation. Are you willing to do what it takes to produce the words, day after day? Inherent talent is obviously a plus, but … dedication will take whatever talent you have to its fullest expression.”

Sigh. My ellipsis replaces the words “hard work and” in the quote. I tried to leave it in, but I just can’t. Anyone who honestly believes writing is “hard work” has led an extremely charmed life.

“Study is an X factor. Are you taking positive steps to grow in the craft? …. Do you ever crack a craft book?

“You can always come back when you’re down. …. Are you able to shrug off disappointments and criticism, and keep on writing?”

All three points are good advice, no doubt, and they deserve the attention of any writer who wants to achieve his or her personal best. But I would add a caution: these are excellent guidelines to apply to yourself and your craft, but not to the individual story or novel.

Remember, what’s important is THAT you write, not WHAT you write. Let’s look at that for a moment.

The instant you begin to focus (conscious, critical mind) on making an individual story “better” (hear the critical voice?), you’re dead in the water. Write to the best of your current ability (you’ll do this automatically), then submit or publish.

After you do that, move on to either study the craft in one way or another or Practice, by which I mean Write Another Story or Novel. Practice doesn’t mean hovering over the story you just finished, revising and rewriting and polishing. Practice means writing a new story, putting new words on the page.

The individual story or novel doesn’t matter at all. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about quality, as critics of those of us who Write Into the Dark would have you believe. As I wrote earlier, if you’re a writer, you’ll automatically turn out the best possible work you can at your current skill level. Duh.

And I’ll just go ahead and say it: Anyone who tells you to write “bad” intentionally so you can go back and fix it later doesn’t know what s/he’s talking about. Or else s/he’s a masochist with dreams of inflicting the illness on others. Misery loves company, and it longs for validation.

So to get better as a writer, Decide to be disciplined, or as Roberta Jean Bryant put it, “Write Anyway.” Decide to not let anything that isn’t life-threatening distract you from your writing routine.

Second, Study the craft, whether by reading a craft book from someone who actually writes fiction (and using only what makes sense to you), or by taking a lecture or workshop or mentorship, or by reading the work of an advanced Stage 4 or Stage 5 writer and trying to figure out how s/he achieved a particular effect or made you feel a particular way.

And third, Don’t read reviews and Don’t listen to criticism (including your own critical mind). And for goodness’ sake, DON’T actively SEEK criticism from others! That’s just begging to be slapped around.

Then, shut off you conscious, critical mind, engage your creative mind, and have some fun. Pull on your old jeans, tennie go-fasters and a t-shirt and roll off into the trenches of the story. You might even exchange a grin with your characters in eager anticipation of what’s about to happen. Then you only have to try to keep up as they and you race away through the story.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “All the Art” at

See “First One Room, Then Another” at Linked because of his detailed editing process. I’d shoot myself, but whatever works for you.

See “Relationship Thesaurus Entry: Mentor and Protégé” at A great list of short story writing prompts. Stories revolve around conflict, and “conflict” is another way to say “relationship dynamics.”

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

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