: control gained by enforcing obedience or order: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
Merriam Webster Dictionary
I am currently 50 pounds overweight. I am the heaviest I’ve ever been, heavier even than during my pregnancies. I’ve never been tiny; I’ve always been muscular, strong, and maybe with a BMI slightly higher than the “healthy” range. But today, I am fat.
I have read a million books and tried most diets throughout my adult life. I know what healthy eating looks like. I know which foods makes me feel good and which make me feel like curling up in a ball and taking a nap.
I am a smart woman. I am an educated, privileged person in our society. I have options for what I put into my body and how much I am able to exercise.
And yet, as I sit here, I am uncomfortable in my skin and my clothes.
Why am I talking about this?
Because I want to talk about the word DISCIPLINE.
This is a word I’ve used to describe my struggle with my weight. If only I had some DISCIPLINE.
In a recent conversation with another writer, I heard that word again. If only I had the DISCIPLINE to write consistently.
As a parent and a teacher, the word “discipline” resonates with me as a tool for managing the behavior of a child. Discipline is about consequences for choices that are not acceptable in our social world.
So when I direct the word “discipline” at myself, it feels loaded. Like some school-marm version of myself is staring down over her glasses at the child version of myself, who is shaking with fear.
If only I could CONTROL myself with some DISCIPLINE.
And I feel bad. Instantly. And when I feel bad, I eat.
I don’t know about you, but also when I feel bad, I don’t write. The floodgates open and every single reason why I should never put pen to paper enters my mind.
If I could only say one thing to you to support and encourage you in your journey as a writer, it would be this:
We cannot DISCIPLINE ourselves into creativity. We have to LOVE ourselves into it.
This is simple intellectually, but difficult in practice, so I want to offer some action steps.
Action steps to create habits with compassion:
- Separate small goals from big dreams. Both are valuable, of course. But our wildest dreams can take a lifetime to reach – if that. We need small accomplishments to celebrate along the way.
- Separate your inner critic from your true voice. That naysaying voice is FEAR. It is not YOU. Don’t fight with your inner critic, because it will win every time. Just don’t let it drive the bus.
- Separate your editor from your creativity. The editor tries to control your ideas before they ever hit the page. Tell her to wait. She gets to have her say in the revision process, but not before. Every single one of your ideas deserves some time in the sun. The editor can decide later what to do with them.
- Separate excuses from the truth. Sometimes things we think are facts are not. I don’t have time. I can’t write because I don’t have an MFA. These are things we are telling ourselves because we are scared.
- Write anyway. Write scared. Write sad. Write tired. Write in love. Write in heartbreak. Just write, and then thank yourself for giving yourself the practice.
- Do all of this with your arms wrapped around that small child within you. Because she does need to learn how to live in this world around her, but she won’t learn if she is scared.
In the end, all we are doing is managing our thinking in the spirit of compassion rather than in the spirit of control.
It is a small distinction, but one worth considering. It has made a world of difference in my writing life. With regards to my weight, it is still a work in progress. But acknowledging it is the first step, and I will love myself back to being muscular and strong. I will not force myself into it.
Don’t force yourself into your writing life. Love yourself into it.
Because you matter, and your stories matter.
Write on, writer.
If I ask you “Why don’t you write that [story you’ve dreamed of writing]?” You will probably answer me with one word:
It never feels like there is enough. That’s why I created this FREE resource. Because there IS enough time. We just have to do the work to find it.