Discipline vs. Creativity

I’m not a big believer in disciplined writers.  What does discipline mean?  The writer who forces himself to sit down and write for seven hours every day might be wasting those seven hours if he’s not in the mood and doesn’t feel the juice.  I don’t think discipline equals creativity.”


Regular readers have seen this quote before, usually right after someone tells me that “real” writers write a certain number of words or pages every day.  But now I have a different reason.  There is, glittering in the haze off on the far horizon, the distant possibility of a book deal for which I would be tasked, legally, by contract, to produce a series of novellas.  On the one hand, I have approached agents and publishers more times than I’d care to admit in the distant past, and have nothing to show for that period of my life but enough rejection slips to wallpaper a small bedroom.  The takeaway from that is that this is  not going to happen.  On the other hand, the editor there read my submission sample and asked to see the whole work.  That’s never happened before, and makes me think that maybe this will go forward.  If it does, that will bring me nose-to-nose with something I’ve never had to deal with before:  Deadlines.

We all face challenges every day, large and small, and an emotional disturbance can have a devastating effect on other aspects of our lives.  High on that list is creativity.  A couple of weeks ago, I had to renew my driver’s license.  Here in California, applicants age 70 and up, which is what I will become on my birthday, have to take written and vision tests, and an actual behind-the-wheel proficiency test if they’ve had tickets (not me!).  I didn’t know how I would do on the vision test (I passed fine), and fretting over that one tiny thing stifled my creativity for a good two weeks.  And that’s just one thing.  Now my concern is what happens if I get locked into a deadline, and the juice just isn’t there?  What if I want to write something else?  What if something I haven’t thought of rises up to interfere?

Of course, as always, I’m probably worrying over nothing.  The most likely outcomes, in order, are 1) I won’t be offered a contract, and 2) if I am, it won’t be anything like I’m imagining.  None of that prevents worry over this from interfering with my creativity now.  Catch-22 at work.

And there’s one more issue.  The story I offered to this horror publisher is Possession of Blood, a story some of you may have read while it was publicly available on this site.  It was a tale of “thin spots” between dimensions causing “monsters” of various description to leak into our world, and a team of people who deal with them as their profession.  It was set in the 1920s, and was dead-serious in tone.  Since writing that story, I had refined the concept into a modern-day interdimensional leakage and gave it a strong comedic tone.  That’s the story I want to write, but I had Possession finished when the call for submissions came in, so that’s what I sent.  Just as well, as they didn’t ask for comedy in the submission guide, but I’m going to miss the updated version.

Before I continue, a word to my overenthusiastic friends on the commercial side of the house:  If you want to advertise on this blog, contact me, and we’ll talk about compensation.  All you will accomplish by dropping an ad in my comment section is to get yourself marked as a spammer, which will automatically block anything you try to post here in the future.

And with that cleared up, let’s move on . . .

Other Voices . . .

The Midnight Ember is a literary blog by Natalie Swift, who states in her bio that she prides herself on her ability to blur the lines between poetry and prose, intensity and elegance, and describes her work with the enigmatic descriptor, “never lying, nothing true.”  Here in the age of instant publishing, many writers talk about their “special skills” without ever once demonstrating any.  Not the case with Ms. Swift.  To see a practical demonstration of those proclaimed skills, you need look no further than I Was Here.

C.W. Hawes returns with his ongoing feature, Good Books You Probably Never Heard Of with Ernestine Marsh’s AgonisingWritten as a series of dueling advice columns between two fictional Dear Abbys, C.W. goes so far as to suggest that this work channels Voltaire. so fans of the thinly-veiled social commentary should check this out forthwith.

Tara Sparling is an award-winning Irish satirist who I’ve enjoyed reading since I first encountered her a couple of years back.  She focuses on various aspects of writing, which is what makes her especially attractive to me, and in this week’s post she goes into depth on what makes a book or film especially engaging, why it joins the ranks of those rare productions that achieve the coveted “I couldn’t put it down” status.  Most times she’s very tongue-in-cheek, seeking to entertain rather than educate, but I believe she’s really hit on something profound this time.  Definitely worth a look, and especially of you’re a writer of fiction.

Long-time friend Karen Finch blogs about her ongoing war with Rheumatoid Arthritis at The Original Dragon Mother, a blog that started life about her ongoing war with her contrary young adult sons.  She is a member of an RA organization of bloggers, and for her last post was given the word “Mindfulness” to blog about as it relates to the disease.  Her initial take was “No damned pack of new-age hippies is going to replace my pain meds with some glorified form of navel-gazing!”  Her journey to a different understanding is an incredible read worthy of the finest fictional works of self-discovery . . . and every word is true!

A name you see frequently around here is Richard Schulte, whose blog Cool San Diego Sights I promote often.  Richard is a gifted photographer who works on one of the most photogenic canvasses an artist can have, but his first love is of writing, and he has announced that he will be shifting a lot of his focus to that going forward.  He specializes in the short-short story, waxing profound in a couple of hundred words, a rare gift that he possesses in abundance.  His stories are little slices of life, vignettes about a ride on the bus or a sandwich at a diner, that say so much more below the surface.  He deserves a wide readership, and I plan to promote his work heavily, so if you enjoy that sort of story, rejoice, and prepare for some brilliant wordsmithing.  This is not just a buddy-act, he can really write.  Just wait and see!

And finally, my home town of San Diego, CA will once again be celebrating my birthday in fine style by hosting the most excellent Gaslight Steampunk Expo!  This year’s guests include James P. Blaylock, a pioneer author from the beginning of the genre, builders Scott Brodeen and John Harrington, and cosplayers to the rafters.  Be alert, and you may even spot the famous Poppy Appleton and her tall other half, Cog Bane.  There will be tea dueling, teapot racing, and the full slate of workshops and demos, presentations and panels, vendors, and all the other bits of flavor and atmosphere that have made this one of the premiere steampunk events across the nation.  The Town & Country Hotel is a class venue with ample parking, so if you’re a steampunk, and you’ll be in the area next weekend, this is a must-attend event!


And that’s 30 for this issue.  Be safe, have fun, and if you figure out how to combine those two activities, I want to hear about it.  Have a great week!

13 thoughts on “Discipline vs. Creativity

  1. First off, here’s hoping you get that contract! Also, thanks for giving Gaslight Expo a shout out! I’ll be there I’m on two panels and I’m giving a presentation. Should be a blast!

    As for the problem of writing on a deadline, the Clockwork Legion novels were written under contract and I had to face deadlines. I had a looser deadline with The Astronomer’s Crypt — no formal deadline, but I did have a “handshake” agreement that the book would be turned in by a certain date. I think a lot of the people who say “real writers must generate something each day” are leaving out part of the equation. You have to find out what it is that gets you into a headspace to generate that content each day and make it part of your writing ritual.

    I’m an outliner and my “ritual” is to catch up my email over morning coffee and breakfast, so I’m minimally distracted. Then I look at my outline and see what I need to write for the day to stay on target. Then I go for a walk. My walks often take about an hour. I use that time to daydream about the scene and think about how it plays out without a keyboard in front of me and nothing to take notes on. That latter part scares a lot of writers, but for me, it’s critical. If I take notes, I might remember something, but I’ll also lose the energy of needing to get what I’m thinking about down into the computer. I then come back in and I’m virtually aching to get the images in my mind into the computer. At that point, I can often get my word count into the computer with no problem.

    The challenge here, and I’m sure you’re well aware, is the “ritual” is different for different people. What works for me, won’t necessarily work for you. For some people music helps. (It has helped me in certain settings, but it doesn’t work as consistently as the walk). For some people, it’s playing a game. For some people it’s just reading the morning paper. Also, sometimes the ritual changes because the muse is a tricky beast. Some people write best in the morning, some in the middle of the day. Some at night after everyone has gone to bed.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David, thank you for sharing these insights. I’m sure they’ll be very helpful to me, should the publisher make an offer. Like you say, different strokes. My rituals include floral incense, hazelnut coffee, and a large helping of silence. I, too, am an outliner, detailing my plots to the point that I’m considered an outlier by other outliners. I’ve always believed that that protected me from writer’s block until this recent bout that lasted an entire year. Still, we’ll see what happens, won’t we? Step 1 is getting a contract, then we’ll see what happens from there.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share. You’re a good friend, and I’m honored to know you. Have fun at the Gaslight!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Break a leg on the offer (is that the correct form?), but be sure to mention you have a more recent version with a different tone, and tell them you can write it either way. Then they can choose – and feel as if they’ve made a decision. People like to feel that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Break a pen? Yeah, that’s an idea I’ve toyed with. The problem is the first “old” story is done now, and they want a submission now. The modern version exists in concept notes, but is weeks/months away in terms of completion. You’ve convinced me, though. I’ll tell them what I’ve got, and they can decide what they want. Thank you much for sparking this.


    1. My pleasure, Tara. I try to send folks your way at least every few weeks; I love your “voice!” And thanks for the good wishes. Whatever happens, I’ll be keeping everyone up right here. Don’t be a stranger.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Lynda! Welcome back. It is exciting, made more so by the fact that I just had a conversation with the editor. He is still excited, and definitely wants the old version, so I can stop worrying about that, and concentrate on prepping some additional material. It will be ready if he wants it, and if he decides against, well, I can put it on the website, and you can read it for free.

      See how easy this is when you don’t look for problems? Driver’s license was a breeze. The written is multiple choice, and I missed one. It had to do with the penalty for running from the cops. I told them that was a good one for me to miss, as my running from the cops days have been over for a long time. On the vision test, I don’t have a prescription. I used to be very nearsighted, and needed glasses for distance. As you get older, your vision will change, and my good fortune is that it has changed to where I only need glasses to read, and I can get those at the 99c Store. I didn’t know what they were going to ask me to do, but it was a chart like at the eye doctor’s, and I could read it as soon as I walked in the door. Smoothest anything’s gone all year!

      Well, as luck would have it, next Sunday’s post falls on my birthday. Be sure to check in to see what I’m getting up to for that special occasion!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like there’s a-gonna be some excitement next week! You know I’ll be back.

        And isn’t it funny how we don’t find problems when we don’t look for them? Not many, anyway.

        As for the story, YAHOO! Glad to hear the editor is pleased with what he’s seeing. I’m so excited for you!

        Liked by 1 person

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