When my next Writing Habit class starts on March 12th, about half the students will say they’re taking the class because they need more discipline or will power. Most of them will be relieved when I’ll tell them that we aren’t going to focus on discipline and will power in this class.
“I’m not big on discipline,” I usually say. “Discipline and will power have failed me too many times; I don’t trust them. As anyone who’s ever been on a diet knows, you can hold off chocolate with discipline for only so long before your will power is exhausted.
“That’s why I rely on habits. Once you have a habit, it won’t let you down. Habits are more effective, more fun and a lot easier than discipline.”
What Is Discipline Anyway?
I always wonder what students mean when they say they “need discipline.” I don’t want to put anyone on the spot in the first half hour of our first class, so I refrain from asking “What would it look like if you were a disciplined writer?”
What does discipline mean to you in relation to your writing? Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Why or why not? I really hope some of you will comment because I’m not sure if my perspective is skewed or typical.
To me, discipline usually means forcing someone to do something, demanding that the person “buckle down and get things done,” threatening “or else” and delivering that “or else.” Self-discipline is doing those mean things to yourself.
It seems to me that discipline is code for punishment. And punishment is hugely ineffective.
My next post will explain why punishment so rarely works, how it can actually drive you away from your writing and reveal the surprising aspect of discipline that writers really do need.