I’ve always had trouble with discipline. When I was a kid, this took the form of my temper. I’d fly off the handle at the smallest perceived slights. Then my father enrolled me in martial arts and I calmed down. But that was more akin to learning patience than discipline.
So my lack of discipline turned to my work. I’ve always said I want to be a writer, but I was cocky and inexperienced and thought that art could only be created when in a certain mood. This took various forms, usually something melodramatic and emo. But this wasn’t discipline. In fact, it was the opposite of discipline. Undiscipline? Indiscipline? If there is a word, I won’t be looking it up.
I’ve always bounced around between jobs a lot the past few years. This has led to long stretches of unemployment where I would have to occupy myself. That’s why, recently, I’ve begun to write schedules that plan out my day.
If I am lucky enough to be working a 40-hour week, the logic goes like this: There are 24 hours in a day. Say you’re one of those people lucky enough to get eight full hours of sleep per night, that leaves 16 hours per day. Take two hours of that for breakfast/lunch/dinner. 14 hours left. Commute to and from work? Say another hour. 13 hours left. Have to shower and get ready? It takes me a half hour, but some people might need a full hour. 12 hours left. Work eight hours per day? You’ve still got four hours. I know that if I’m focused, I can hit my word count goals daily in an hour. Another hour of preparation to make sure I can hit my word count goals the next day and there are still two hours left in a day for me to do whatever.
Of course, I’m not working. So my day is a bit different. Personally, I tend to burn out quickly when pursuing creative endeavors, so I’m really not all that productive past two or three hours of work. I don’t have it down to a science, yet, but I’m now trying to frontload my schedule with creative stuff (as I get distracted and tired as the day goes on). Today, after breakfast, I scheduled a two-hour block to work on my latest script and do some editing of my last script, Peripheral. After that I worked out and ate lunch. Then the afternoon was dedicated to boring administrative tasks. Searching for real jobs. Completing work for a non-profit I volunteer with. Searching for agent/manager contact information. Writing this blog is the most creative endeavor I’ll allow myself.
That’s not to say inspiration doesn’t come into play. If I’m really itching to finish a scene I’ll run over time, or go back to it. But sometimes it’s better to let that scene simmer and come back to it the next day. Ease into the daily grind with something you’re excited to write instead of fighting to begin. That’s how Hemingway did it.
Writing out a schedule in hour blocks has done wonders for my productivity. If anyone out there that reads this (Mom, maybe?) needs to instill some discipline, try it out.