Writers who don’t write, what’s really going on?

discipline Apr 19, 2023

Writers lack discipline. How do I know? They tell me. But what do they really mean by it?

I teach and mentor a great many writers, and one of the first things I ask them is this:

What’s the number one thing holding you back?

Again and again, the answer is:


Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. The stubborn lack of it is the bane of the would-be writer’s existence, or so they tell me. 

And yet I wonder. Can it be true that all these passionate, smart, sensitive, longing-to-write humans are just too lazy to bother doing the thing they say they most want to do?

So this word discipline interests me. What do these writers mean by it? 

The first definition of discipline, according to Merriam-Webster, is:

a) control gained by enforcing obedience or order

b) orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior

c)  self-control

Kind of rigid-sounding, don’t you think? And the second definition of definition is punishment. Ouch!

What does all this control, prescription, order, and punishment have to do with our creative work as writers? 

Isn't storytelling about discovery, invention, beauty, self-expression, communication? 

I mean, aren't we making art, here? Weaving tales full of truth and meaning? Creating ancient magic around the timeless campfire of human connection? 

I hope that's what we're doing, but it's easy to forget when you're trying to find a half an hour to work on your novel while the everyday business of life swirls around you. 

Clearly, there's some disconnection happening between our urge to participate in work of storytelling and the failing to show up to do the work.

And here’s what I think: Discipline is not the problem. 

So what is? That’s the topic of this livestream. Let’s make the idea of discipline sit in the corner facing the wall for a bit, and find out what really keeps us from doing the work.

Good writing is my jam! Put me on the mailing list, please.


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