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May 30, 2018
By Betty Kelly Sargent
Editor Betty Kelly Sargent answers writing questions submitted by readers. This month, she takes a look at the importance of writerly disciple.

Dear Editor:

How important is discipline for a writer? —Harry R.

Discipline is as essential to a writer as training is to an athlete. A plaque in Danielle Steel’s office reads, “There are no miracles. There is only discipline.”

“It’s all about discipline,” Steel says. “If you don’t have it, you can’t write.” I agree.

But first, ask yourself how important it is for you to become a writer. Are you passionate about it? Do you read a lot and have a clear idea about why some stories are better than others? Are you willing to devote a certain number of hours every day to perfecting your craft? If your answer to each question is yes, then go for it. Create a regular writing schedule and stick to it.

Jeffrey Archer writes every day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (with two-hour breaks) when he’s working on a new novel.

Salmon Rushdie told the New York Times, “A novel is a marathon.... Do it like a job.”

John Searles, author of Help for the Haunted, tells me, “It is essential to carve out a regular, quiet time to clear your mind and get words down on paper every day.” That’s the key.

Remember, discipline is not a bad word. It is a tool, your best friend and ally. It’s what enables you to become the writer you want to be.

“You need three things to become a novelist: talent, luck, and discipline,” Michael Chabon famously said. “Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control.”

So control it. Take charge. Make the commitment to your writing and, soon, inspiration will follow.

If you have a question for the editor, please email Betty Sargent.

Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.

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