Keep Doggedly at It – Writing That Is!


 Isaac Asimov at work                                         


Samuel Johnson, the 18th Century Englishman who penned the first dictionary of the English language said this of writing.

“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”

There is a lot of wisdom in this statement. I believe the main thing which separates successful writers from would-be is that most people who think they can write don’t have the stomach for it. Just like any other enterprise of worth it involves hours and hours of hard work.

On the radio this week I heard the story of two 12-year-olds, swimming hopefuls both of them outstanding athletes. The young boy said it was his dream to swim for Great Britain in the Olympics in 2012. The young girl said she had the same dream. The boy talked a lot about winning a gold medal. The girl got stuck into training. Five years later the young girl, now 17, has been picked for the GB team and she has a good chance of getting a medal. What about the boy? Well he’s still talking about winning, but he hasn’t even got a spectator ticket for the event. He dropped out of training long ago.

Here’s a quote from the Novelist Doris Lessing, “I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.”

“The only difference between a writer and someone who wants to be a writer is discipline” Ayelet Waldman.

Bah humbug! Discipline, the bane of all who want to be a success overnight, can’t I just have it all without the discipline, the work, and the misery?

We all know the answer to that question. Lee Iaccoca said “The discipline of writing something down is the first step towards making it happen.”

Ernest Hemingway used to get up at dawn and write until lunch time then enjoyed his afternoons not writing. CS Lewis had a daily schedule which he kept to and that meant writing 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon. Jean Plaidy wrote 5000 words before lunch. Graham Greene did only 500 words a day, but look at the output. Isaac Asimov awoke each morning at 6 AM and worked well into the night, sometimes churning out entire books in a matter of days, amazing, but not for me.

Whatever your plan is just keep to it, doggedly, and then one day you’ll walk past a book shop with your own creation smiling proudly in the window.

I love this from Harlan Ellison “People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing. That you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones about and come down in the morning with a story. But it isn’t like that. You sit in the back with a typewriter and you work. That’s all there is to it.”

I leave you with this quote from your own John Adams, which is good advice to any writer.

“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.”

How do you maintain discipline in your writing life?

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About authorfredhurr

Best-selling Waterstones Author Fred Hurr found the inspiration for his supernatural spiritual warfare thriller Light of The Wicked, the first novel in The Light Trilogy, while living in Conwy, North Wales. Now living with his wife Linda in England, the book has received excellent reviews from all over the world. The second book in the Trilogy, Light of the Holy, is nearly complete and promises to be better than the first. In addition to a writing career, Fred Hurr is a bible scholar, philosopher, art historian, and leading health and safety consultant and civil engineer in the UK, with several prestigious construction projects in his portfolio.

26 thoughts on “Keep Doggedly at It – Writing That Is!

  1. Wow. This is a great post, and as real as it gets. Reminds me of fighting. There are those who crave the muscles, the girls, and the feeling of having others fear you.

    And then there are those who seem to honest to God love to fight. They don’t care how they look. They don’t care about the muscles. They enjoy the war, even when they’re getting the shit beat out of them.

    And when you see them crawl to their feet after taking a hell of a beating, with blood streaming down their face and a couple fingers turned the wrong way or a wrist swelling up like water balloon, and they have this sick grin on their face and they’re smiling and laughing a bit, that’s when you know you’ve met your match. That you better just run because you have crossed paths with a warrior.

    And let me tell you, it’s great when I’ve put in 16 or 18 hours at my company and I go home and still throw some words into my next book. And there’s nothing like the look you get from family members or friends when they find out how sick in the head you are. And how they have these dreams they want to chase, too, but they just don’t have the “get-back-up” in them that I described above. (And unfortunately, I don’t do what I just described as much as I like, but I definitely get meaner and tougher with every passing day…)

    At any rate, this post helps me remember just how much sicker in the head I need to get…

    • Stan, very good commentary I like it especially ‘swelling up like a water balloon’ saw the image straight away! regards, Fred Hurr

  2. As for me, I try to keep even my most mundane days a little interesting. Learn something new, do something different, have different experiences, and I write about a 1000 words a day (two short stories) and read a lot from different things although I admit I have no schedule as long as I do it in between 12:00 am and 11:59 pm of the same day.

  3. Great post! I love the quotes. I’ve diligently been writing daily from 9 a.m. to noon, except weekends, I have to squeeze in what I can. Sometimes, whole sections of time have vanished though, and when I look at the clock again it’s 3 p.m. I love the blank page, the sacrifice of personal time and even the struggle. It’s hard for sure, but it isn’t work to me. It’s a labor of love.

  4. “Whatever your plan is just keep to it, doggedly, and then one day you’ll walk past a book shop with your own creation smiling proudly in the window.”

    Thanks for the great advice. The book won’t get into the bookstore until someone writes it.

  5. I’m still trying to figure out how writing fits into my life — and I’m satisfied with ten minute increments, as many as I can get in. I finished my first book last year (after five years) and just knowing that I’ve done it once, helps me realize I can do it again. Every little bit counts. Something is better than nothing.

    • Katharine, someone once asked Winston Churchill how during WW2 with all his responsibilities did he manage to write ‘The History of the English Speaking Peoples’ ? He replied “ten minutes here, ten minutes there” sounds like you have the same kind of 10 minutes! Well done. Fred Hurr

  6. This is my most productive writing year ever. FINALLY I’ve gotten into the habit of daily writing, no matter how few words. What a world of difference finally achieving discipline makes. Still, it’s a hard slog trying to find time amidst all the trials of life. The big challenge in my hectic life is making sure I give myself “play time” too, because my endless “nose to the grindstone” days of life tend to cause burnout frequently. Play time is ok too (I’m just repeating that for myself. LOL!)

    • My wife reads ‘playtime’ as sitting down quietly eating chocolates! It works for her but not for me. Fred

  7. I loved that you compared writing to training. I’m sure that girl was a good swimmer at twelve. She received coaching, maybe even read books, took criticism, and applied it. Then she probably did it all over again, incrementally improving. The same is true in writing. It’s with hours of practice, sometimes harsh criticism and honing our craft that make us better.

    • You know it was really sad listening to the 17 year old because he spent his time on air complaining and criticising others for his own failures. Fred

  8. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Thanks for giving writers a realistic view into the life of an author. Whatever the regimen, no matter how much you love the work, writing still takes discipline and keeping the prize always before you.

    • Barbara, Thanks and it helps (me) to have a loving supporter, Linda my wife, my first book would not have been written without her encouragement, support, love and cups of coffee. XXX Fred

  9. I have really severe ADD, so I am unable to write on a schedule. However, I have been setting a weekly goal and actually doubling my expected number of words. For me, writing is a need. I “need” to do it. It is like breathing and I become a devil when I have not had enough time that week. I think the great writers are driven to always succeed and improve. Motivation and passion are essential for this field.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If you keep writing, I will keep reading.

    • No… I thank you – I have a friend who has cerebral palsy and she has just got over breast cancer and yet she never complains! I pray that you overcome your difficulties and are able to continue doing what you love… and you are right about great writers being driven to write…Raymond Chandler hated the actual writing activity but wrote some amazing stuff and his fansand me are grateful he didn’t throw the towel in. Stay in touch. God Bless, Fred

  10. In terms of writing, I’m focusing mostly on the blog, right now. With all that is going on in my life, one post a week is about all I can manage consistently. So, I consistently post once a week…

  11. Thank you for sharing all of these great quotes! There’s enough here to plaster around the house on post-its, so that this writer will stay encouraged. My disciplinary problem is that I overwork myself. I lose all sense of time when I’m writing and editing, and I can’t sleep when I’m in the middle of a project. I’m too dogged. My body and my mind grow weary, and then I get discouraged. Knowing when to push away and walk outside to breathe the air is a good discipline for me. A weary body and a fried brain cannot produce good content.

      • rebecca, I like that. All things that are in our direct control we can’t moan about it after things go wrong! I suffer with diabetes but my health is contiunally in my hands – all I have to do is say no to all the culinary things I love! Fred

  12. Pingback: Read this for a swift kick in the pants | Stan R. Mitchell

  13. I’m terrible with disciplined writing, except when I am pushing a deadline, and then I’ll write for 8 hours straight. I blame it on my journalistic training, which was always about a deadline. I cringe when people ask me about my discipline of writing, since it’s virtually non-existent. I am in awe and envy of all those who have left the dark side behind and become disciplined writers.

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