...which is normally translated as austere discipline.
No one pays you for a first novel that doesn't exist yet. Likewise short stories for paying markets. (Being independently wealthy might help, but I'm not even sure about that - it doesn't totally preclude driving ambition, but it surely can't encourage it. In any case, it doesn't apply to most of us.) Therefore you're forced to squeeze it into your normal working day/week, somehow.
Roger Zelazny (back to him) once prefaced advice to new writers with what he called extra-literary considerations before getting to the actual art and practice of writing. He justified the preface by writing: "...if it causes even one beginning writer to think ahead to what it may be like to sell a book first and deliver it by a certain date, to wonder what it will be like to write on days when one doesn't feel like writing... then I am vindicated in prefacing my more general remarks with reference to the non-writing side of writing."
And by extension, forging the self-discipline to write regularly amid other pressures (I really want to say daily, and in expressing that thought I might have just quoted Stephen King verbatim) is a foundation for dealing with the even greater pressures of The Second Book and beyond. You're likely to be writing at least five books before you can contemplate writing full-time, only now you're writing to deadlines.
So, like the grit in the oyster, treasure the toughness of working under pressure, cos it ain't going to go away.
Every year's edition of the Writers and Artists Yearbook begins with a preface by a notable writer. Some years back it was our very own Sir Terry Pratchett, and he wrote about what it takes to become a boxer: training hard every day, going to see good boxers do their stuff in the ring, committing to the long term... and ended with something like: "Writing is just like that, without the boxing."
As a martial artist, I can relate to that metaphor particularly strongly, and embellish it. For example, most people have some idea about a pro boxer's training routine, even if it's based entirely on having seen Rocky. An amateur boxer does the same thing, except that she has to fit it in around her job. And that's tough.
Likewise fitness in general. To get fit make the time and do it every day. Or choose not to. (It's your life.) The point is, no one has spare time, not in our culture. You make time by, for example, foregoing the four hours of TV watching that the average Brit practices daily. (In fact, "get fit" is a poor way to think of it, because it's not a short-term finite process - to attain and maintain the state involves a lifelong daily process, like brushing your teeth and showering.) And so it is with writing.
The less time you have, the more important it is to train yourself to drop into the "writing state" to schedule. Call for Dr Pavlov...
From this viewpoint, the most important thing about your chosen writing method - pen and notebook, laptop etc. - is that you are comfortable with it; and I suggest that you use it only for writing. Clearly that's not mandatory for every writer - diversity is the one consistent theme I've got going here - but something has to have such a strong unconscious association to the writing state that its presence acts as a trigger.
It's no coincidence that writers who use pens or pencils usually have a favourite brand of writing implement and notebook. Listening to a particular type of music works well for most people. (I can write an entire draft listening to the same album over and over, but that's just me.) Write in a coffee shop or in your private study or (because you have to) on the train - wherever works best for the daily discipline. Stephen King wrote his early books in a laundry room, as I recall.
I'm guessing that most people will use their own laptop. Here's some advice: have a virtual writing environment that looks totally different from your "normal" working environment. Try using a different colour scheme.
I'm writing this using Open Office, with menu bars visible at the top of the screen, using black text on a white background. If I were writing code (which is rare these days) I'd use Eclipse or Visual Studio or whatever with normal default settings.
My fiction, I would only write on this laptop if I really, really, really had to. Instead, I use a totally different machine (the oldest I possess), write in Word with full-screen view and not even the "Close full screen" icon visible, with very different colours.
Contrariwise, I know several writers well enough to have seen their computers and where they write. Of my friends and acquaintances, the ones who make no distinction between other work and fiction writing in their setups have this in common: after having several novels published, their ability to write every day became more and more tenuous, and their careers have crashed and burned.
If you're self-employed in your day job, and particularly if your work is not at a client site or other distinct location, this is vital to know.
The acid test is whether you actually do the writing every day. If you can do it year and year out with some kind of internal mental trigger alone - maybe with some ritual that suspends all other modes of thought and tells you it's time to write - clearly that's fine.
Back to the athletic metaphor: some days it's hard for me to drag myself out to train - even though my personal dojo/gym is in the back garden, and these days I work at home. (It was easier when I commuted for 4.5 hours minimum daily - I deeply engrained a fixed route home to take me past a gym - the journey home was via my workout. Or globetrotting: in some anonymous hotel room, my daily training was the "home" I carried with me.)
I visualize myself working out (to the strains of Rocky...). Not raising my hands because I've achieved some goal, but visualizing the process itself, and associating strong positive emotions to it.
If you're read Richard Wiseman's 59 Seconds you'll know what I mean. It's about applied psychology backed up by empirical research. One experiment on visualization was conducted on college students preparing for exams: the control group did no visualizing, the others were led through a visualization of having successfully passed their exams.
The result: the visualizing students reported an overwhelming reduction in pre-exam stress. They also screwed up their exams, scoring far worse than the control group. Visualization made a huge difference - just not the one the testers had, er, visualized.
Sports psychologists are subject to Darwinian selection - if their particular techniques don't work, they don't get hired by budget- and result-conscious coaches - so there's a lot of information on how make visualization useful. The visualization content is most usefully focused on active process.
Motivation and triggering the actual writing process on cue are different things, although related.
I might add that if talk of visualization leaves you cold, substitute internal mental dialogue. We all have voices in our heads - and that includes conversations among your characters - so work with the content and manner of yours. An encouraging tone letting you know how well you can do it - as opposed to the nagging, critical voice someone hypnotically installed in your head when you were young. Yeah, that's the one. Turn down the volume on that one, and crank up something more useful.
If you're a coder, you can mentally insert a close-curly-brace (curly parenthesis) here, as we return to our outer block (from the previous post) relating to variation in writing methods, which we left as I'd begun to ponder whether writers who use a pen produce books that appeal to different readers than if they'd written differently.
I don't know the answer for sure, and we'd need to send out questionnaires or interview a whole bunch of writers to zero in on the answer. However, there are particular neurological components to writing and reading that make this is a potentially legitimate enquiry. According to Robert Ornstein's The Right Mind, it's no coincidence that written alphabets containing vowels are written left-to-right, whereas alphabets lacking vowels (like Hebrew and Arabic) are written right-to-left, while ideographic languages are written vertically... independently of how closely the languages are related.
One particular aspect is that reading Arabic or Hebrew requires more right-brain processing than left-to-right alphabets (to distinguish otherwise-identical words based on context).
Having posed a question I can't immediately answer, here's something I do know about: the impact of software on editing and rewriting first drafts. A friend of mine was horrified to receive this advice from Chris Priest: "Once you've completed the first draft, print it off and then destroy all electronic copies of the book."
And my friend was totally appalled when I said: "That's terrific advice. Do it."
[Pause to listen for thuds of fainting bodies striking floors.]
More in the next post....