Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Whenever Shannon helps me clean my office, she tries to convince me to get rid of the M&M dispenser.

"You never put M&M's in it," she says.

It's true. I've never filled the globe with M&M's. Years ago, the dispenser was given to me by a school who knew I had a penchant for the little candies. Like some other writers I know, I call them brain food. The fact of the matter is I don't trust myself. To me, eating one M&M leads to eating another M&M, until every piece is gone. I lack the discipline. But today I'm going to test that discipline. I'm going to fill up that globe with plain M&M's. We'll see how it goes.

When folks ask me about writing, they rarely inquire about discipline. And that's a shame because it's an important part of writing. Someone can have all the talent in the world, but if they don't routinely sit down in a chair and put words on a page, they will never be a writer. Time and time, again, I witness talented people with brilliant ideas who think about writing, but approach it with a careless attitude.

Before I was published, I enrolled in some writing courses. I was in awe of the talent in those rooms. After listening to some of them read their work, I remember dreading my turn. My writing paled next to theirs. But every week, I brought something to read. Something I'd worked on since the last class. And that's where we parted company. Many of those talented writers didn't bring something to every class. They wrote on a whim. I've been writing for fourteen years now and I can tell you with certainty that whims don't come along very often.

The act of putting words on a page when I don't feel inspired is hard. But I want to be a professional writer and sometimes being a professional means doing what I know needs to be done even when I don't feel like doing it. It takes discipline. The reward is that even when I've had a day of writing awful prose or moving the story forward by only a scene instead of a chapter, I'm happy. The discipline of showing up allowed me to call myself a writer for one more day.

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