Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Must Have Discipline

The other day I decided to comment on a blog post written by David Cranmer. It wasn't much of a post, as it was basically a nifty little update on what he was doing for writing projects, followed by the every popular question of, "So, what are you working on?"

I decided to chime in with one of my uniquely strange comments before continuing on with the rest of my blog reading journey. I came back the next day to see what kind of response David had left and although it was a thoughtful and pleasant comment, unbeknownst to David, it managed to strike a small nerve.

I want to make it clear to everyone that I hold David 100% blameless for what I'm about to write for a post. He is a fantastic person that I have the absolute respect for, and more often than not, he can get you to think and look at a particular issue in completely different light than what you're used to.

Anyways, his response struck a nerve (I have a bad tendency to read deeper into things than I should) and really got me to thinking about why I write more than 85% of my fiction/blog posts by hand before transferring to the computer. I have previously mentioned that I write my stuff by hand because I have a medical condition that has (and continues to) wreck havoc on my hands. I make no bones about this and sometimes I come off super aggressive (or anal, your choice) when I state this preference. And I'm sure that when I make that reiteration, people roll their eyes and say to themselves, "Not again."

So after turning this question over in my head for about a week and looking at it from all possible directions, I figured out the other reason as to why I write the bulk of my stuff by hand first before slapping it on the computer.


Writing by hand forces me to concentrate, to focus, to take my time, to make sure that what I'm saying actually makes sense. For those of you who probably don't know this (which is probably everyone), I was diagnosed many decades ago as being "hyperactive" (read: ADD). And just like with today's unimaginative and unmotivated medical community, I was drugged out in order to conform to the norms of the times.

I won't bother with giving you my opinion on the various side effects of unchecked ADD, but I will state that as an adult, I have learned to develop tunnel vision as it applies to certain things in my life.

Like writing.

Early on in my writing career, I had a knack of doing multiple projects at the same time, mostly for a need to stay busy. However, being a jack of all trades in writing usually means being a master of none. So I spent the last few years being the master of a few in my own unique way. Which meant focusing on one story at a time and one blog post at a time.

Even when I was going through that punishing phase in 2009 writing 45+ pieces of short fiction in the span of six month, I concentrated on one story at a time, no matter how long a story took to write.

Which is why I'm loathe to start a story, of any kind, before I finish whatever current piece of prose I'm writing. My slush pile is littered with all kinds of incomplete stories simply because I allowed myself to be sidetracked from one project to another.

So writing stuff by hand allows me both the freedom to be extremely creative and tightly focused at the same time. I'll round out this post by giving you an example of this philosophy in action.

I became stuck for about a couple of weeks on my latest project simply because I had no idea on where I wanted (or needed) to go. I would open up a blank document and literally vapor lock while thinking.

So one part of the solution to that problem was to take my current project and separate the chapters according to the two official plot lines being written. This allowed me to easily focus on each plot line without either losing sight of the overall picture or getting lost in the process.

The other part of the solution was to write the rough draft by hand. Which meant moving my ass outside to write. Outdoors allows me the freedom to let my mind wander all over the place until it latches onto an idea worth pursuing. In this case, I took the idea and I'm currently running all over the manuscript with it.

It has allowed me not only to move forward with the book, but it has allowed me the flexibility to use the same idea and custom design it for each plot line.


We all need it for whatever our chosen endeavor may be.

Some of us just happen to apply it in ways that make people who witness it sadly shake their head as they walk away mumbling under their breath.


  1. I do all my drawings digitally. I was doing a caricature and couldn't get it right. So after being frustrated I printed off several pictures, grabbed some scrap paper and a pen and went outside.

    Within two tries I got what I needed.

  2. Bearman: That sounds cool.

    I have found that for better or worse, writing by hand often helps me fix troublesome spots with my stories. Did about 20% of my last novel by hand and for a few scenes it helped me become unstuck quite well.

  3. I say whatever works for you. Typing is easier for me, oddly, because my hands cramp when I write things out on paper. Plus no one can read my handwriting.

  4. M: To tell you the honest truth, the only thing that I can truly and properly write is my signature. Everything else is printed.

    When my hands started going truly south in 2008, not only did I have to relearn how to sign my name, I also had to re-learn how to print on a larger scale than what I was already doing at the time, which was simply printing out the dollar amounts to my checks because my handwriting was becoming like a doctor's.

  5. Nerve damage prevents me from writing by hand, but before I had that, I liked the process. But, no matter the format or how the story gets written, the important thing is that it does get written and definitely discipline is a huge part of that...and a healthy dose of inspiration doesn't hurt either :)

  6. I've always been amazed by the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote the entire Harry Potter series longhand... that last book was 700+ pages... I would've had such a case of writer's cramp... :)

    I actually have great respect for anyone who writes longhand. My own handwriting is so bad that I can't even read it half the time... so while it may make perfect sense as I'm writing, if I go back later on to re-read it, it takes me a while to decipher. I have to translate my own writing back into English. :)

  7. Talon: This very true. I have forced myself over the years to really concentrate on doing certain things that I like, because in the olden days, whenever I didn't pick up on something the first time around and not have it come out perfect (yeah, I was just that bad), I would get discouraged and not do it anymore.

    And inspiration is a definite plus. Especially in the Spring and Summer.

    Lisa: I have a similar problem with my own handwriting, and because of that, I started printing everything out, especially my checks (had a few oil companies make errors in my favor because they misread my handwriting).

    As for my last book, about 25% of it, both original and rewrite/edit, was done by longhand (thank you for the word, I was racking my brain trying to remember that particular word).

  8. This post was very, very cool. Discipline. Hm..

  9. Eeshie: Thanks for stopping by today.

    Some people might think I need a little bit of that now and then, but who am I to say otherwise.


Go on, give me your best shot. I can take it. If I couldn't, I wouldn't have created this wonderful little blog that you decided to grace with your presence today.

About that comment moderation thingy: While yes, it does say up above I can take it, I only use it to prevent the occasional miscreant from leaving thoughtless and/or clueless comments.

So remember, all of your comments are greatly appreciated and all answers will be given that personal touch that you come to expect and enjoy.

G. B. Miller

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