It is a cool, slightly overcast morning.  I’d like to be in my garden, planting more of the bedding plants I have waiting, puttering, pruning and plucking weeds.  It has beenhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/courosa/7532999776/sizes/z/in/photostream/ a very long wait for spring this year, and every fiber of my being is screaming to get outside, play in the dirt, create this year’s painting from the canvas of bare earth waiting for me.

But I have to work.

I could make the case that days like this one are rare this time of year, when the sun starts to blaze here at 7200 feet.  It’s cool enough I could be out there all day.  I’d get so much done.

But I have to work.

I have to work. The way I do that is by taking myself up to my office, turning off the Internet, and opening the WIP.  Then I begin to put words on the page.

Last month, I talked about the need to fill the well, but this is the flip side of that. To write for a living, or write in any meaningful way, you have to put in the time.  You have to do it when you don’t feel like it, when the garden is sprawling like a naked siren across the yard, when you haven’t had time enough to exercise and really ought to get to the gym in the off-hours before the place is packed. Not all the time, but during those times you say you will work, you do so.

Every successful writer creates rules about time and is very disciplined about those rules.  Mine are simple: Monday through Friday, I write in the mornings, usually starting after breakfast and going through until about noon or a little later.  Sometimes, if I’m racing a deadline, I’ll go back into my office after lunch and a little nap and write for another hour or so.   When I’m being very disciplined and productive, I get up at 4:30, as I’ve discussed before.

That means nothing happens in the morning, five days a week.  I don’t make appointments for that time, I don’t go to the gym, or meet friends for coffee.  I allow myself ten minutes to wander around the garden with my second cup of coffee. I admire a new sprout and pluck a couple of weeds, then I take myself upstairs and start working.  If I get behind, the rule is that I have to make it up on Saturday, which I resent very much because that’s the day I go into the garden or hike with friends or putter around the house doing pleasant little chores.  I never work Sundays unless things are dire; that’s the bargain I’ve made with the Girls in the Basement.

My rules might look nothing like your rules. I know a lot of writers who don’t start working until everyone in the house has gone to sleep.  That’s fine.  It doesn’t matter what your rules are, just so long as you make them and follow them.  When are you going to put your bum in the chair and do your work?

What gets in your way ? Where does your discipline falter? What are your best writing times? 

About Barbara O'Neal

Barbara O'Neal has written a number of highly acclaimed novels, including 2012 RITA winner, How To Bake A Perfect Life, which landed her in the Hall of Fame. Her latest novel, The All You Can Dream Buffet has just been released by Bantam Books in March. A complete backlist is available here.