Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #13

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #13. Discipline leads to strength

People often equate discipline with punishment, so it’s gotten a bad rap, but discipline—particularly self-discipline, which is what I’m talking about in this lesson—is crucial to success. Discipline is simply the ability to do things even if you don’t particularly feel like doing them.

This can sometimes be a problem for writers because we sometimes believe that we need to be inspired to do our work, or to wait for the muse to strike, or to be in flow. If we don’t feel the urge to write, it’s easy to find something else to do, and then the writing doesn’t get done.

If writing is a hobby for you then of course it’s fine to do it only when the mood strikes. But if you’re hoping to share your work with others, or to build a career as a writer, then relying on inspiration is a sure path to disaster. What you need is discipline, and for a writer, what that means in butt-in-chair time.

For me, the most important element of discipline is making it nonnegotiable. I know that waiting for inspiration is for amateurs, and I’m not an amateur. So, discipline is a must. It’s not something I have to decide each morning. It’s a given. I’m going to write every day, period. So each day I have my writing goals clearly lined out, with time for exploration as well as execution. Some people count words, some people count time; the important thing is to do the writing every day.

I also work hard to remove obstacles that get in the way of discipline. It’s easier for me to be disciplined in the morning than at night, so I do the important work in the morning. It’s easier to do the work if I have plenty of my favorite pens and notebooks and a good laptop. I invest in those tools. I like to work at a coffee shop, so I make sure my budget includes money for mochas.

What are some things you do that help you stay disciplined?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available!
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #12

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #12 – A warrior masters many techniques.

As a martial artist, you quickly learn that if you rely on the same old techniques time and again, your opponent will learn to anticipate what you’re going to do and will defeat you.

The “same old, same old” problem plays out for writers in the obvious ways—if you rely on the same old clients, when one of them goes away, you’re in trouble. If you rely on the same old approach to every story, your writing gets stale.

But the most damaging problem with “same old, same old” is what it does to your enthusiasm for your work. If every article feels like a retread of the previous one, and every new story is the last one just with different names, pretty soon you’ll be wondering if WalMart is hiring.

Have you ever read an article or a novel where you felt like the writer was phoning it in? If you’re bored, so is your reader.

Constantly stretching yourself is a way to keep you interest in your work high. That means you’re more likely to stick with it, to find success, to please your audience. It’s scary, sure, but it keeps you engaged.

Each year, I try to find at least a few new opportunities to try something new. What do you do to keep from falling into the trap of “same old, same old”?

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Travels with Jessica and For Jessica now in print and in ebook! I’ve had so many readers ask for these books that I’m pleased to say I finally published them! I hope you enjoy.

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #10

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #10 – Perseverance brings rewards

This is my “eat your spinach” lesson. You have to do the hard work to get the results you want. This is true of everything in life, whether it’s losing ten pounds or paying off a debt or getting into grad school. It’s true of writing.

“Perseverance brings rewards” is simple in the sense that the concept isn’t hard to grasp. “Keep trying” is fairly self-explanatory. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy—that it’s effortless to sit there day after day, year after year, writing words that maybe no one ever reads. It gets harder if you don’t get some validation—a story published, a good review, a letter from a fan.

And while other factors play a role in your success as a writer—luck, talent, the ability not to piss off everyone you meet—perseverance is the one thing that you can control. You can decide not to give up. You can keep on writing no matter what.

That’s not to say that you should keep doing the same thing year after year even if it doesn’t get you anywhere. That’s the definition of insanity, not the definition of perseverance. But most people give up too soon (after five rejection letters or a month of hard effort). They don’t work hard enough for long enough to succeed.

I find that exploring new ways of doing things helps me keep persevering. Earlier this year I went on a creative retreat with a visual artist to explore the possibility of learning to illustrate some of what I write. I came back energized for a new project (which, interestingly enough, had nothing to do with drawing).

What are some things you do or say if you feel your motivation starting to flag?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available!
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

And don’t forget classes for writers—and more on writing at BeYourOwnBookDoctor.com

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #9

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #9 – No knowledge is useless

This lesson sometimes seems a bit counter-intuitive, especially given how much information overload most of us are suffering from. So I’m not going to suggest that you value every piece of information exactly the same or that you should spend all your time reading blogs. But I do want to encourage people not to assume that they know what’s going to be relevant to their lives (and work) and what’s not. You have to be open.

In other words, don’t just read blogs about writing and publishing. Read blogs about plumbing and squirrels and witchcraft. Having knowledge about something outside the process of putting sentences together gives your work a richness if can otherwise never achieve.

Equally important is not to assume that you don’t already possess a lot of knowledge that will be helpful in your writing. Maybe you don’t know everything there is to know about publishing, but you may know a lot about raising children, or getting along with squabbling family members, or devising a profit-and-loss statement. All of that is knowledge that can be put to use in your work.

I always bring up the example of my martial arts training when I talk about this topic. I never thought I’d turn into the queen of martial arts writing, but the knowledge was there, and once I became intentional about using it, I had a lot of success in my writing. What are some things you may have thought weren’t particularly relevant to your writing career but which have turned out to be crucial?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available! Check out the special low price ($2.99 for the Kindle Edition) for the Nanowrimo month of November only!
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

And don’t forget classes for writers—and more on writing at BeYourOwnBookDoctor.com

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #8

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #8. Keep the beginner’s mind.

This week’s lesson is about the beginner’s mind—the attitude that allows you to learn because you don’t have all the answers already. As you master the craft, of course you become more expert and you know better how to do things. But often feeling as if you know what you’re doing gets in the way of your getting better at doing it!

One of my friends likes to say, “Joe doesn’t have five years’ experience; he has one year’s experience five times.” This is what happens when you don’t get better. It’s what happens when you’re stuck at a certain level of competence. And sometimes you get stuck there because you think you know what you’re doing and so you cut off avenues for growth.

Going back to the beginner’s mind is hard and scary. But it’s the place where growth can happen. One of my favorite ways to go back to the beginner’s mind is to take on something I’ve never done before. For example, publishing Dojo Wisdom for Writers as the first book from Lawler and Daughter Publishing made me feel like a beginner all over again. I knew how to write, but I didn’t know how to publish! It felt awkward and strange, but it also made me think about what people really need from a book in a world that has changed a lot since Dojo Wisdom for Writers first came out.

By the same token, I have a work-in-progress that’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Maybe I’ll crash and burn. Probably I’ll crash and burn. But the beauty of the process is that I can feel my beginner’s mind. I don’t know all the answers already. It opens me up to doing the unexpected.

What’s something you do to keep the beginner’s mind?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available! Check out the special low price ($2.99 for the Kindle Edition) for the Nanowrimo month of November only!
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

And don’t forget classes for writers—and more on writing at BeYourOwnBookDoctor.com

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #7

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #7: Respect your opponent

In this lesson, I talk about how writers can see many of the people involved in publishing as “opponents” — other writers who get deals you only dream about, agents and editors who keep the gates closed to you, critics who fail to grasp your brilliance. And I talk about why it’s important not to dismiss or shortchange these opponents (who can actually be your allies if you change your perspective just a bit.)

It’s easy to fall into a trap of making bad decisions if you disrespect others. If you’re making a choice based on “I’ll show them!” it’s probably not a clearly thought-out strategy that will lead to success. “I’m going to ignore them, what do they know?” is also a non-starter. Sure, sometimes you need to disregard a particular piece of advice or dismiss an obviously wrongheaded critic, but more often than not, and more often than most of us would like, we can learn something if we listen. And that requires respecting that the other person has something of value to contribute, and being open-minded enough to hear it.

If we look at others as potential partners and colleagues rather than as adversaries, we’ll save ourselves a lot of angst–and we’ll derive something useful from the exchange.

One of my personal rules for Life as a Writer is to never ever ever under any conditions respond to feedback at the moment I hear it. Because my response to anything other than a gushing, “OMG! This is WONDERFUL!” is “You’re an idiot who obviously got your job by sleeping with the boss,” and that’s not a particularly useful mindset. I know I’m going to have that reaction, I even plan for having that reaction, and then I remind myself that even if it feels like someone is punching me in the face, that is not actually what they are doing. I take a breath and ask what I can learn.

Sometimes the answer is nothing. But more often than not, it’s something.

What are your tips for turning opponents into allies? Share in the comments!

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available! Check out the special low price ($2.99 for the Kindle Edition) for the Nanowrimo month of November only!
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

And don’t forget classes for writers—and more on writing at BeYourOwnBookDoctor.com