Today is the first day in over a week where I’ve actually sat down at my normal time to write my daily blog post. For the last week and a half I’ve been moving and unpacking and setting my life back up here in Austin where I’m now living.
Yes, I gave myself permission to take that time off. It was intentional. It was a decision I made–to put unpacking and getting my life back to normal a priority over everything else. And I’m OK with that.
But it also brought up a lot of Resistance. And procrastination. And doubt. And fear.
Because when you’re in flow, when you’re showing up every day around the same time and putting words on the page; when you’re actually doing the work that’s required to bring your dreams to life, you’re actually doing yourself a major disservice to stop getting your writing done. Even temporarily.
For months now I’ve had serious discipline and habit around doing my writing every day–my Daily Think Different blog post, as well as working on my fiction and nonfiction projects.
But then I took the week off. Intentionally.
And now here I am, trying to get back into my usual writing habits and finding it INSANELY hard to have the discipline I had before.
My original plan was to get into my new routine on August 8, and then when that day came, I just kept giving myself permission to not do my writing. To just keep unpacking and setting my life back up, because that was what I felt like doing.
And I’m glad I did it, because in one week I was able to totally unpack, get everything set back up in my apartment and get the hang of living in a new city.
But it also set me back quite a bit.
Not only because I didn’t do my writing for the week–which is ALWAYS a set back–but also because I’m now having a hard time getting back into the flow that I was in just the week prior.
That’s why taking time off isn’t really a good idea.
Yes, in theory it sounds like a good idea. It even feels like a good idea while you’re doing it (although to be honest, all I did every day last week was think about my writing and worry about all the ideas I was losing by not sitting down and just letting the words out).
But it was THAT MUCH harder for me to get back into flow after a week of doing nothing related to my writing.
All last week while I didn’t do my writing I kept thinking that maybe I shouldn’t write a blog post every day. Maybe I didn’t have anything that was worth saying anymore. Maybe I was just totally out of ideas.
The fear, the doubt, the worry that I couldn’t or shouldn’t jump right back into writing every day again.
All those annoyances that actually GO AWAY when you just shut up and make time for your writing every day.
And that’s why, even when it seems like a good idea to take a break from your writing, you really shouldn’t. At least not for more than a day or two.
Taking a week off can set you back for MONTHS if you’re not careful. Because you’ll just keep telling yourself every day that you’ll get back to it tomorrow. And then tomorrow will come and you’ll tell yourself that you’ll get back into it tomorrow.
And then tomorrow will come and you’ll tell yourself that you’ll get back into it tomorrow.
And then tomorrow will come and you’ll tell yourself that you’ll get back into it tomorrow.
And then tomorrow will come…
Are you sensing a pattern here? Because that’s exactly what happens.
When you pull yourself out of flow, out of habit, out of having the discipline that you once had, it becomes damn-near impossible to jump back in.
Suddenly you have all these excuses you didn’t have before. Suddenly you have all these “legitimate” reasons why you don’t have time or you’re out of ideas or it’s just not the right moment to jump back in.
That was me for the last few days. I finished setting our new apartment up on Friday. All that was left was hanging a few pictures and then we were officially done (minus the few things left that we still need to buy, like a DVD player and a rug).
And yet I still couldn’t get back into my writing.
I procrastinated ALL weekend. And then yesterday I was supposed to get back to it for real (’cause I usually start my new habits on a Monday) and yet all these things got in the way–my dog had to go to the vet for an appointment, I had to go to the chiropractor, and then I had an interview for the Author Success Summit, etc.
And I let all that stuff be a reason–an excuse–for not doing my writing. For taking yet another day off. For not getting back to the habits and discipline I usually have around doing the things that matter to me.
Most writers call this their life. They talk about writing and they think about writing and they even make attempts to write here and there.
But they don’t have discipline or habit around doing their writing every day. And that’s really the thing getting in the way for them.
As creative people, we often believe that having habits and discipline makes us less creative. We’ve somehow bought into the belief that creativity requires chaos and so any attempt to bring order and consistency into the picture is met with extreme Resistance.
But the truth is, discipline and habit are the ONLY way to create consistency. And consistency is required if you want to actually get somewhere in your writing life.
For months now I’ve sat down every morning–before I do anything else in my day–and I’ve written my blog post and worked on my books. And then I take a week off and it almost all falls apart.
I could’ve just continued my do-nothing streak. Most writers would. Most writers would totally fall off track and not get back on. Because that’s the easy thing to do.
And no one would’ve given me a hard time about it. After all, I did just move TWICE in the last three months, and I did just relocate to a totally NEW city, and I did have A WHOLE LOT of unpacking and resettling to do.
No one would’ve blamed me for continuing to take time off and not doing the things I usually do.
Except for one very important thing. Without discipline, you don’t have freedom.
And freedom is my most important value in life.
Sounds a bit strange. Maybe even a bit counterintuitive. How can being disciplined create freedom?
Discipline. Habit. Those words, by definition, are the opposite of freedom. Or so it seems.
But the truth is, having habits and discipline are the only real way to create freedom. Because freedom is a MINDSET.
Freedom is a way of thinking and being.
And when you’re not doing the things you want to be doing; when you’re not making space every day for your writing, your mind will constantly be cluttered with stories and ideas and unwritten words. Your head will spin all day long and you’ll guilt trip yourself for not doing the writing. And then you’ll get angry and resentful of all the other things you have to and need to do in your day.
Guilt trips. Resentment. Anger. There’s no freedom in that.
It’s only in having the habit and the discipline to sit down and do your writing and spend time every single day–even for a few minutes–doing the things you really want to be doing, that creates freedom.
Because now your mind is clear. You’ve got discipline and habit, so you sit down every morning and put words on the page. And then you can go about your day.
Already feeling accomplished. Already feeling like you did everything you really needed to do today.
Because your writing got done. That is always–and forever will be–the most important thing you can spend time on each day.
And it’s the habit and discipline you create around doing your writing every day that gives you the freedom–mentally and in the rest of your day.
Anytime I don’t do my writing, I spend my day feeling totally out of control and like time is flying by and nothing is getting done. I go to bed feeling like I accomplished nothing and berating myself for not doing what really matters.
That’s not freedom.
Freedom is me sitting here right now, in the business center at my new apartment complex, typing this blog post out. Putting the words on the page. The words that have wanted to come out for a week now.
I can already feel the sweet release that comes with doing your writing. I can aleady feel that sense of, YES!!! I got my writing done!! And anything else that I accomplish today is a BONUS on top of that. Knowing that my mindspace is clear and I still have more than half a day left to do whatever else I feel like doing or need to do.
On the days I don’t do my writing, time zooms by and I feel like I’m living without a purpose and just drifting along, wasting away.
Putting words on the page is the only thing that gives me the freedom I so love having in my life. And that freedom always, always, always starts with habit and discipline.
Dream life or bust,
3 Replies to “Discipline Creates Freedom And Here’s Why”
I’ve always liked the saying “Discipline is simply doing what you want most– instead of what you want right now.” And since daily life is made up of want-nows and annoying-nows, discipline is the only thing that can free our real selves from them.
I wish more people understood the one-two power of knowing what they wanted most and having an every-day rule of committing to it. (Or nearly every day, to give life some leeway, but it ought to be close to that.) Important, creating work isn’t easy, but everyone needs to hear the difference it makes to have this kind of momentum for living on your own terms… because anything else is inertia toward not living.
Love that quote!
I love your sign-off, “Dream life or bust” — currently reading Align Your Writing Habits to Success. Thank you for all the ideas!