Discipline vs Inspiration: How Habit Keeps Me Going


Writers, and other creative types, all rely on inspiration for ideas, but over the decades I’ve been writing, I’ve learned that inspiration can only take you so far.  Discipline and habit are needed to get you the rest of the way.

These days, I see writing from two different angles.  There’s the idea creation side of things that encompasses world building, character creation, and plotting (whatever that looks like), and then there’s the physical act of writing, which involves dedicating the time and energy to do the work (be that drafting, revision, copy editing, research, or anything else you need to do to finish the project).  In my early days of writing, I think I bought into the inspiration leads to writing idea a lot more.  I hadn’t learned yet that habit and putting in the time, can get me there even when I’m not feeling inspired.

Take this month as an example.

I started playing with an ide for a new character and world to help meet my April Camp NaNoWriMo goal of writing for at least twenty minutes every day.  I haven’t felt very inspired and some mornings it’s been excruciating trying to make myself write.  But somehow, I’ve done it.  My NaNoWriMo region has been doing early morning sprints together online for a few years now, and it’s become a part of my morning routine.  Even with writing slower and not writing much outside those morning sprints and my one weekly write-in, I have over 25,000 words on this new idea.  It’s a jumbled mess of random scenes, world building notes, and character descriptions, but it’s a lot more than I would have expected given how unmotivated and uninspired I’ve felt all month.

As one of my fellow morning sprinters put it recently “Discipline >> motivation any day.”  The habit I’ve built of writing every day (I’ve only missed two days in April so far) has carried me through when I was struggling to feel creative.

This is part of why I love NaNoWriMo.  While the challenge is ostensibly about writing 50,000 words in a month on a brand-new novel, in spirit, it’s much more about building a daily writing habit.  The ethos of celebrating all new words (or progress of any kind), no matter how few, and every successful effort toward more words, even if the 50k goal is out of reach, is something that I really like.  As a very fast typist who doesn’t usually struggle to get words out, the 50,000 words isn’t the hard part of NaNoWriMo for me personally.  The daily writing habit is my true goal for the challenge these days.  Writing every single day, even over the holidays and busy work times that always come in November, is something I’m really passionate about.

From talking with friends, both local and around the world, I’m not the only one struggling with inspiration these days.  It seemed appropriate to share with the world (or whoever reads this at least) the technique I’ve found to get me through when the inspiration might not be there.  Dedication can get you pretty far all on its own, and it’s more than worth developing good habits of dedication to your writing, or any other creative pursuits.

With that in mind, here’s what’s been working for me:

  1. Dedicate a time every single day to your writing.  This could be as little as five or ten minutes.  Consistency is the key here.  It’s about building up a mental habit which helps with getting into the writing headspace.
  2. If the words aren’t flowing, trying just one sentence.  If that goes well, try for a paragraph.  The physical act of writing (long hand or typing) can help your brain get into the right gear for writing.
  3. If it’s really not working, try changing something.  This could be switching to a different project, moving between drafting, revision, or copyediting, or trying out a different POV.
  4. Don’t berate yourself for working slowly.  Some days it will take 20 minutes to write as little as 200 words.  Some days you might manage two or three times that in 20 minutes.  You should be just as proud of those 200 words as you would be of 600 words.  It’s forward progress.
  5. Remember that revision and copy editing are still writing work.  Just because it might look a little different doesn’t mean you aren’t writing.



As I gear up for NaNoWriMo (yes it’s only September, see last week’s post for why that’s not early) I’ve begun thinking about ideas I could work on for this year.  I haven’t settled on anything yet, but I’ve been looking back through things that inspire me as I think through ideas, and I just wanted to share a few of them today. Continue reading

How my Reading Gets into My Writing


I’ve been reading a very interesting book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel, about infidelity, fidelity, relationships, and our constructs of love and monogamy.  I’ve found it incredibly thought provoking.

While I have no experience with affairs, I am married, and we’ve been together for a long time.  This book has given me a new lens to think through my own relationship and be thankful about how atypical we are, especially for a pair of high school sweethearts. Continue reading

Total Solar Eclipse August 2017


On August 21, 2017, I had the amazing good fortune to be just outside Simpsonville, SC, right in the path of totality for the solar eclipse that crossed the United States.  This was a rare chance to see something truly amazing, and I wasn’t going to miss it.  When my partner realized his parents lived in the path of totality more than a year ago, we made plans to go down.  I’d requested the day off work more than a year in advance.

Leading up to the eclipse there was plenty of news coverage and lots of warnings about not looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection.  Eclipse glasses were available at eye doctors, libraries, planetariums, and schools all over the country.  Our family ordered them online, and they even had the date of the eclipse printed on them. Continue reading

The Hands that Mold: Mathew


For those new to my blog, the Hands that Mold series of posts is about the people in my life that have helped shape me into the writer I am today.

This post is about Mathew.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you might remember me mentioning Matt before.  He was part of my very first Role Playing Game (RPG) group, which I talked about in a previous The Hand that Mold post.  You might also remember him if you’ve read my book.  This is the Mathew that I mention in the dedications and by the end of this post you’ll have a better idea of why I plan to dedicate each and every book to him. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo: Day 11


It’s day 11 of National Novel Writing Month.  That means we’re into week two.  Momentum is often lost in week two as the initial enthusiasm wears off.

I’m doing okay.

As of midnight on Day 10:

  • My best words per day was 6,178.
  • My overall word count is 36,531.
  • I’ve hosted 3 write-ins.
  • My best sprint time so far was 908 words in 20 minutes.

Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

And there’s so much left of the month.  I have another 20 days of creative literary abandon to enjoy, and plenty more words to write.

*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Blasting Off for a Writing Adventure


It’s the end of October already.  Soon Halloween will have come and gone and November will be upon us.  And for me, November means National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

This year’s NaNoWriMo theme is “Your Novel, Your Universe,” and I love all the artwork associated with it so far.  It’s all about clean lines, sleek old-school rockets, and astronovelists.  But NaNoWriMo also about so much more than just the art.  It’s about writing the novel you always wanted to, or maybe the novel you didn’t realize you had in you. Continue reading

Q is for Quotes


If you stumbled upon me through the A to Z Blog Challenge, welcome. If not, check out the challenge and all those participating at their site.


I find quotes can be very inspiring, so I’ve collected a few of my favorites to share with you today. Here are a few quotes that I think have a bit of spark to them, along with a few images I use to help share them.


“It’s like your batteries get low, and you need to charge them on someone else’s story.”

Margaret Cho


“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t write. But don’t let them tell you what you must write either. It’s art, not a grant application.”

Patrick Ness


“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Thomas Paine


“Look at people for an example, but then make sure to do things your way.”

Queen Latifah


“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Bernard M. Baruch

Be who you are and say what you feel

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

John Steinbeck

Ideas are like rabbits

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Lao Tzu

Being deeply loved

“Nothing livens up a den of iniquity like a potted plant.”

Flora, in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

Nothing livens up a den of iniquity

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”

John Wooden

If you're not making mistakes

“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

Bill Watterson

To invent your own life's meaning

“So much universe and so little time.”

Terry Pratchett

So much universe  TPratchett



Personal Muses


With NaNoWriMo behind me and another novel’s worth of words to edit and revise, I thought it was time to talk a little more about the other side of the equation.

Everyone has things that inspire them. Whether it’s to write, paint, draw, or simply to be a better person. I think of the things that inspire me, especially when they are people, as my personal muses.

My muses can take many forms. Sometimes it’s another writer who is succeeding and selling and sharing their story with the world. Sometimes it’s the friend who pushed so hard to earn the degree they wanted and finally landed that job that was actually in their field. And sometimes it’s my cat, who is far eviler than I and thus makes a great inspiration for villains. Continue reading



I thought I’d start off my blog with a little bit about where I find some of my inspiration.

Almost everything I’ve ever written has started with a character. That’s just the kind of writer I am. Once I’ve started thinking about the character and learning a bit about them, an idea will come along for a situation to put them in that can drive the story, but that character has to be there first.

Sometimes a character will start from someone I see. A particular fashion statement or striking set of features or an interesting combination of hair, eye, and skin colors will get me thinking about what that person might be like and a character is born. Continue reading